It’s the Whitsun Bank Holiday weekend, and the weather has been glorious. The village open-air swimming pool opened for the summer today, and it’s been warm enough for Scarlett and me to have a splash around. In fact, it’s the first weekend for ages that it’s been both light enough in the evenings and pleasant enough weather to go out.
I haven’t been out lately, due to family commitments. Badger watching time coincides neatly with bedtime for a three year old, so that’s curtailed things a little. But today was too nice to miss. Mrs BWM wasn’t working, so I asked her to take my parenting duties and headed off to the wood to see if the badgers were still around. After successfully breeding last year I’m less worried about them, but I still wanted to get out. The bluebells are out, cuckoos are calling and it’s generally a nice time to be in the woods.
Having been away from the sett for half a year I didn’t know what to expect. There were signs of active digging at both the east and west ends, but the badgers still surprised me. At 7.30pm five badgers popped out of an unremarkable hole at the south side of the middle of the sett. I haven’t seen any serious badger activity at this hole before, but it is the same hole in which the fox reared a litter of cubs four years ago (see http://badgerwatcher.com/2009/05/10/fieldnotes-10th-may-2009-more-fox-cubs/). Blimey, four years, hasn’t time flown…
Anyhow, I counted five badgers, including at least one cub. Why do I say ‘at least one’ cub? Well, as always, badgers are damn difficult to count. They don’t stay still, they hide in undergrowth so you can only see part of them, and they’re constantly nipping off and coming back again. Hence I can be sure there was one cub, but there may have been more. The maximum number of badgers I saw at one time was five, so that’s what I’m calling.
The badgers were relaxed and happy. There was a lot of grooming, playing and play fighting. This got quite funny and endearing, for instance two badgers chasing each other around the trunk of a tree, or one badger climbing on a fallen tree and jumping on another as it walked underneath. I know that play has a serious purpose in training animals for the real world, but badgers often seem like they’re playing for the sheer joy of it
After half an hour or so the play stopped and serious work began. The badgers were collecting a lot of bedding, shuffling backwards with paws full of dead leaves. It occurred to me that this is the first dry spell we’ve had for a while, so they may have been taking advantage of the warm weather to get a clean, dry bed.
As well as the bedding, they spent a lot of time foraging for food. This is always fascinating to watch. The badgers were snuffling in the leaves, digging out the soil and turning over dead wood to get at insect underneath. In the soft leaf mould they often seemed to be ploughing furrows with their noses to get at choice morsels.
As the church clock struck nine the badgers moved off. Time for me to go too. It’s good to know that the badgers are healthy and happy, and very good to spend time with them again.