Badger watching

Badger Watching Evenings at Tewin Orchard

Badger © Andrew Parkinson/2020VISION

Update: 17 March 2020 - Badger Hide Closed
We have cancelled all existing badger hide bookings to the end of June and suspended taking any further bookings at this time.

27/4 - Report from Tewin Orchard

Mike Clark is our volunteer reserve warden for Tewin Orchard Nature Reserve.  He has kindly written an update:

Trust has asked for a note for members about how the badgers are getting on in lockdown. Since the nature reserve was closed and we went into hand washing and isolation, kind friends in the village insisted on delivering to the gate where we do an exchange of cash and their good will with the food. They have been absolutely marvellous.  At home all the time, lucky to have a garden, it is like Dig for Victory as Anna has propagated vast trays of vegetables that we are now planting out - mostly winter vegetables - after our little digger has turned over the ground all over the place in the back garden.

But this should be a report on the badgers!  I have twice stayed on for a while after their nightly feed has been left in front of the hide windows. I have only seen the adult badgers and foxes so far, including our oldest resident badger who lives nearby, up in the orchard for easy access at mealtimes.  Meanwhile the colony occupants come up from the various setts in the wood and field below. The hide is locked and all gates padlocked, so I sit to one side of the hide and as I am outdoors with them, easily detected.  I do not want to disturb them too much but I will certainly try a long watch in May to see if cubs were raised again this spring.

It is amazing that we had the wettest February ever recorded, after a very wet winter, and now look as if we are going to have had the driest April ever recorded.  To help maintain natural food for the badgers we have a number of compost areas where we take the poultry bedding after cleaning days and these are a very welcome source of worms.  There are signs of busy diggings each morning and some of the straw appeals also as bedding.  There are trails left back down the hill towards the setts, but their enthusiasm seems to wane before they get to the tunnels!

The orchard trees have had the best blossom for years, first with the pears and now the apples. Honey bees from the orchard apiary are busy pollinating Jester, for example, as I made a point of pausing by the flowers this afternoon.  I found in fact that there were numerous bees to be seen buzzing onto the attractive pink and white petals. Fingers crossed there will not be hail storms that knock off the young fruitlets. 

Anna came up to me this week and said she had just heard the cuckoo as I said back that I had just seen the first cuckoo-flower in bloom! We have always had them in the area and sometimes both bird and flower are to be seen regularly for a while here. Wild garlic is in full flower and makes the badger sett in the wood smell like a French restaurant.

There is a lot of excavation of the tunnels by the badgers, including a chalk one where cubs were born in both the past two years. During this time their parents excavated a number of flints that look surprisingly like animals!  We consider our badgers to be super little archaeologists.

We do look forward to having visitors enjoying watching the wildlife again before too long. May all of you keep safe and well.                             - Michael Clark

Deep in Tewin Orchard lies a mammal hide facing a sprawling badger sett of more than ten badgers. We are thrilled to offer an evening of badger watching here - a special night you’re sure to remember!  As well as our resident badgers you are also likely to see foxes, owls and a variety of other wildlife in natural surroundings.

2020 Bookings
There are several ways to book the badger hide:

  • Donation-based unescorted badger watching evenings - each available date is released 60 days in advance on a rolling basis, at midnight.  Dates for mid-March 2020 onwards will be available to book in the New Year.
  • Badger Watching for Families events run all through the badger watching season and are escorted group watches, hosted by a volunteer from Herts and Middx Badger Group.  These can be booked online.   
  • Community and corporate groups can book the hide by emailing events@hmwt.org.

 

Badger watching at Tewin Orchard 

It was like our own private Springwatch experience!
Emma
2019
It was an amazing experience. So peaceful and great to be so close to nature
Richard
2019

More information

FAQs

How do I book?
Through the booking calendar on the Trust's website

How much does it cost?
Suggested donation is £10 per adult, £5 per child (maximum capacity is 12). Community groups can book the hide for exclusive use.

How long does the watch last?
It may take an hour or more for animals to emerge so expect to be there for at least a couple of hours. You are welcome to stay as long as you like – please be quiet as you leave so as not to disturb the neighbours.

What time should we get there?
Depending on the time of year, aim for half an hour before dusk so you can find the hide and get settled in quietly before the wildlife comes out to feed.

Are there any toilet facilities at the hide?
Tewin Orchard has a compost toilet. Please do not urinate outside – human wee is very pungent and will scare off the wildlife.

Will there be any Trust personnel available during the evening?
No, you will be alone. Please ensure you have a mobile phone in case of illness or emergency.

Can I take pictures?
Yes but badgers and other wildlife are very sensitive to movement and light – the glare from your mobile phone and your camera’s flash will scare them off.

Please contact us if you have any other questions – email events@hmwt.org or call 01727-858901.

Find out more about badgers

Tewin Orchard and Hopkyns’ Wood Nature Reserve provides a great natural habitat for wildlife. Alongside the apple trees, butterflies and birds, the site is home to a much shyer creature – the badger.  

Badgers are one of the larger members of the mustelid family which includes ferrets, otters and polecats and can grow up to one metre in size. Badgers have hefty reserves of fat that they increase during the autumn ahead of going into winter torpor – a state of decreased physiological activity with a reduced body temperature and metabolic rate. Badgers have a great sense of smell and, as with many mammals, they use scent to mark territory and communicate, having several scent glands which they use for identification. Whilst most nocturnal animals have large eyes to help them see in the dark, badgers’ eyes are fairly small which indicates that vision isn’t as important as their other senses. Badgers’ ears are also small in comparison to their bodies but they communicate using around 16 distinctive calls including growls, clucks, purrs and hisses. Badgers startle easily, suggesting that their hearing is relatively keen. Badgers are omnivores but their food of choice is earthworms – they can eat up to 200 a night. If worms are not so readily available badgers are extremely adaptable and opportunistic, feeding on berries, fruit, nuts, insects, small mammals and even fish.

A tidy home

Badgers use their long, powerful claws to dig underground burrows, called setts, where they live in large family groups or ‘clans’. The boundaries to these setts are marked by latrines which helps to avoid conflict with other badger clans. Setts can be hundreds of years old and are passed down through the generations, developing and growing depending on the needs of the clan at the time. Typically, clans will number around six adults, but can increase to over 10 depending on local resources. Badgers have also been known to share their setts with foxes or rabbits. Much like we tidy our bedrooms and change our bedsheets, badgers will drag out their old bedding – hay, grass and leaves – to prevent disease and lice. This means that they spend a lot of time collecting new bedding to replace the old, dragging material they find into their setts for warmth.

An occupied sett can be recognised by the tidy burrow entrances, marked with piles of used bedding and nearby latrine pits where they leave their droppings.

Mating

Badgers have an amazing reproductive technique called delayed implantation whereby the female badger, or sow, can mate at any time through the year but still keep her birth time to the spring. This means that badgers are able to give birth at the most suitable time of year to ensure the best chance of survival for their offspring.

 

Hibernation

Badgers don’t technically hibernate, however they do put on a lot of weight in the autumn to keep them with good reserves of fat when food is scarcer in the winter months. They also sleep deeper and longer and in very cold weather can stay underground for days at a time.

How the Trust looks after Tewin Orchard

Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust works hard to protect Tewin Orchard Nature Reserve. The majority of habitat management and tree pruning
takes place over the autumn and winter after the fruit has been harvested. The orchard and meadow are mown in late summer to ensure a healthy habitat for wildlife.

Terms and Conditions

1. You agree to respect the wildlife and nature reserve by parking responsibly, being quiet in the hide and leaving quietly so not to disturb nearby residences.

2. You understand the badgers are a wild animal and sightings are not guaranteed. Donations made at the time of booking will not be refunded due
to the no show of badgers.

3. You agree to give as much notice as possible if you need to cancel as most nights in the summer will have a waitlist. We will try to rearrange a date
depending on availability.

4. You are aware there are no toilets in the nature reserve and agree not to urinate in the orchard.

5. We will occasionally need to cancel a badger hide booking due to high winds or heavy rain – we will contact you by email and phone using your details supplied on booking. We will rebook another date dependent on availability.

6. Emergencies – you will be unaccompanied in the badger hide and so please ensure you have a charged mobile phone with you in case of the unlikely event of an emergency. The on-call emergency phone number is 07825-966165. Full instructions are on the wall in the badger hide.

7. Lost and Found – we will attempt to locate and reunite you with any lost items but be aware you are responsible for your belongings at all times.
 

The Audrey Randall hide in Tewin Orchard is run with the kind support of Herts & Middlesex Badger Group.