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Wild Isles Badgers In Bluebells: Behind The Lens

Updated: Jun 25, 2023


Wild Isles is a new landmark natural history series, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, that reveals a previously unseen wild side of the UK. The series aims to demonstrate why our isles are so important globally for nature.  Not only does the series feature a host of wonderful wildlife, it also features my badgers in Sussex!


A badger amongst bluebells

For over four years, I have worked with a specific clan of animals who live in an ancient woodland, sought after for its beauty, bluebells and bountiful badgers. When I was approached by Silverback Films to share the location with the globe, I was initially hesitant to disclose something so precious to me; but with our British badgers under threat like never before, my input to the series would beneficially explain the challenges our woodland faces today, and what can be done to bring our badger populations and wild isles back to life.


Badgers in Bluebells on Location:

Cameraman, Simon King, was responsible for filming the badgers for the series using my location, my knowledge and my assistance. Together we were able to capture an exquisite sequence, featuring Britain's most iconic mammal amongst its most iconic wildflower.


Rachel Bigsby smiling beside Simon King

Concealed by a make-shift hide of natural materials, we worked together for ten days from mid afternoon until dark. Upon arrival at the sett, we would quickly set up our equipment and let the waiting game begin. Simon was filming the badgers whilst I photographed, and together we formed a strong team, alerting one another to the animal's arrival and desired behaviours. The key to success was my knowledge of the animals and their tolerance levels, as well as remaining still, quiet and downwind of the clan.



Badgers in the book:

Whilst working on the sequence, I was aiming to capture photographs of badgers in bluebells to be used within the Wild Isles book and for the press releases.

A digital copy of Rachel's badger amongst bluebells

A digital copy of Rachel's badger amongst bluebells

Photographing such a quintessential and iconic scene has been my focus for several years, beginning in 2020. My aim was ambitious, as I was hoping for wild animals to appear in the right place, at the right time, in the right conditions, in a very short window of opportunity. My first attempt in 2020 was disappointing as the rain poured all month and the badgers didn't emerge before the light levels dropped too low to work with. However, the following two years were much more fruitful as I began to understand the tolerance and behavioural habits of the badgers, and they began to trust my scent, sound and presence.


My perseverance truly paid off during the bluebell season of 2022. The warm and calm weather enticed the badgers above ground before dusk, and just before sunset, the sows (female badgers) would collect bluebells for use as bedding material for the family's sleeping quarters which as it decayed, would produce heat to keep her cubs warm. The communal sleeping chambers however, encouraged the spread of Paraceras melis (or the badger flea), so much of the badger's time above ground was also spent grooming and scratching!

A badger amongst bluebells

A badger amongst bluebells

A badger amongst bluebells



Sussex on the screen:

Four years of passion and perseverance paid off when Wild Isles aired on our screens in 2023, premiering my badgers on the big screen, putting Sussex on the map.


Rachel's badger in bluebells image on BBC News

During the build up to big night, I was overjoyed to see my images promoting the land-mark series across various BBC News programmes, as well as in Radio Times and BBC Countryfile magazine; but nothing beat the feeling of seeing my name in the credits at the end of the episode.


Rachel's badger in bluebells image at the premier

^ On the screen at the Royal Geographic Society

 

The five-part series will explore and celebrate the UK’s four key habitats – grasslands, woodlands, freshwater, and marine. Filmed over three years, the series uses the very latest technology to showcase dramatic new behaviour and previously unseen wildlife spectacles from across our wild isles – from battling butterflies to hunting sea eagles and killer whales.


Discover more about our wild isles > https://www.wwf.org.uk/wild-isles

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