I’ve been busy building shelves today so I didn’t have time for badger watching in the evening. However, this did give me the perfect excuse to go out after dark and try out my night vision scope.
Having used it out in the field I’m now in a better position to evaluate it. Like most NV scopes it enhances the natural light, so on a moonlit night it should be pretty effective, and for darker nights (like tonight) it has a built-in infra-red torch which really does make a difference. The manufacturer’s claimed range of 100m seems quite accurate. Actually using it took some getting used to. The image is fairly bright, so although it does allow you to see in the dark it pretty well destroys your night vision at the same time.
I decided to see if I could spot any badgers feeding, so I went up to the pasture field. I know there are badgers here every night, so it seemed a good place to try out the scope. I went to my favourite haunt – the stag-headed oak at the top of the hill. The wind was blowing in my face as I looked towards the wood, so I was well placed to watch any badgers as they came out onto the field.
The church clock was just striking eleven when I saw the first badger. Success! It was in a hurry, and trotted past me quickly. I found out another limitation of the scope, and that is the relatively small field of view. I lost sight of the badger when it went behind the tree, and try as I might I couldn’t find it again.
Standing up, I saw two more badgers by the edge of the wood, but as I watched they went back into the trees. Since the wind was in my favour I decided to get closer so that I could spot them as they came out again. Ten minutes later another badger appeared from the other side of the field. Like the others, this one turned and trotted off almost as soon as I focused on it.
Now I was getting concerned. All the badgers I’d seen had run off pretty quickly. This wasn’t supposed to happen. The idea of having an NV scope wasn’t so I could see in the dark (I’ve got a perfectly good torch for that, and it only cost £10 from Tesco), it was so that I could see in the dark without disturbing the wildlife. So far it seemed that the badgers were fairly disturbed. Can badgers see infra-red light? The IR torch on the scope gives out a dim red visible light, but surely not enough to scare a badger? I’ve shone red torches on them before and they didn’t seem to mind as much.
Perhaps I had committed some basic error of fieldcraft. Perhaps the badgers could see me silhouetted against the paler sky. I returned to the tree so I would be less conspicuous, poured a cup of tea from my flask, and gave the badgers time to settle down again.
Ten minutes later I scanned the field again. There was another badger, and once again it ran off when I focused the scope on it.
I didn’t want to disturb the badgers’ feeding, so I decided to head down to the wheat field and see if I had any more luck. Sure enough, when I got there I saw two more badgers just inside the field. Both scampered off quickly but they were downwind of me, so this is perhaps excusable. I waited a while but they didn’t return.
The church clock rang midnight and I decided to call it a night. I didn’t want to disturb the badgers any further, and besides, even badger watchers need to sleep at some point. I kept the scope on though, and at the bottom of the field I came across yet another badger who promptly disappeared into the corn.
In some ways it was a good night. I’ve seen more badgers away from the sett than ever before. The bad news is that I’ve only seen their backsides as they’ve turned and ran. Rather than opening up a new dimension in my study of badgers, the scope has so far only helped me on my way to becoming an expert on badger tails! It was frustrating to be in a field full of badgers but not to get a good look at them.
So was it the scope, or was it something I did wrong? Can badgers see infra-red, or was it just one of those nights? I need to make a few more trips before I can really answer this.