22nd October 2012: The European Larch was in total darkness as I approached it along the ridge track this evening. My cell phone pinged the arrival of a string of emails. I stopped to read them. My torch beam lit up the track in front of me. I could see Spike searching the undergrowth, in the distance.
I own many torches. The one I used tonight was a two-cell Magnalite, with a super powerful LED bulb fitted. Reminiscent of one of those Star Wars light-sabres when switched on, it cuts through darkness very efficiently and is a really useful and reassuring nighttime essential. It’s an ideal tool for illuminating roosting birds. I think the extra bright white beam stuns them.
When I stop, my Cocker Spaniel field dog, Spike, runs quickly to my side. So it was no great surprise to hear him come running as I read my emails. I was aware that he had stopped a little way in front of me. I knew that he would wait there quietly until I was ready to move on. I didn’t even bother to raise an eye to confirm what I already knew.
I popped my phone back into my pocket, and slowly took-in my surroundings again. A shot of adrenalin coursed through me at the sight of a large badger rocking from side to side, a couple of metres down the track right in front of me, transfixed by my torch beam. It was now my turn to be stunned as my torchlight reflecting from those beady eyes confirmed I was not dreaming, and that it was not some kind of weird apparition. For a couple of seconds, I was at a loss about what to do next. Taking a photograph crossed my mind, but I knew the badger wouldn’t stay long enough for me to try this. I switched my torch off, and the badger escaped quickly down the bank. Spike immediately reacted to the lack of torchlight and galloped along the track towards me. He skidded to a halt and sniffed the ground and air in anticipation. I told him to leave the badger alone.
I have many more encounters with badgers in Hoo Wood than I do on the marsh!