Spurred on by yesterday’s fine display of badger antics I decided to go up to the wood again last night. Unfortunately the dark clouds of yesterday evening had turned into a heavy rain, so much so that there was a severe weather warning over much of England.
I was interested to see whether badgers are particularly bothered by rain. I know they have thick coats and must be fairly well insulated from the cold, as they seem to feed on most nights (from what I can tell from footprints). However, I also know that other mammals such as rabbits seem to dislike the rain and avoid it if possible.
Since the badgers emerged at about 8.00pm yesterday, I arrived at the sett at 7.20pm to give them plenty of time. I have got used to the idea of sitting in a tree, getting cold and stiff, waiting for badgers to appear; but sitting out, cold and stiff and wet was a new twist. It is always surprising just how cold you can be, even in summer, when you are sitting still and not moving.
As far as tonight’s observation goes, it seems that badgers are not keen on rain. One of the cubs emerged at 8.10 and then promptly went in again. One of the adults came out at 8.25 and promptly trotted off; and another one followed suit at about 8.45. There was none of the sociable behaviour I’ve seen on fine evenings, where the whole clan is content to lounge around the sett entrance and the cubs go off and play.
The highlight of the evening was a muntjac deer and her young fawn that came within 20 feet of the tree where I was sitting. The fawn was a beautiful little thing. It was tiny, about the size of a small domestic cat, and a rich red-brown colour with white dapples, quite beautiful and perfectly camouflaged against the leaf litter on the floor of the wood. It can only have been a few days old, and it walked unsteadily alongside its mother like a tiny miniature Bambi. After a few minutes they moved off, and I heard the mother barking a little way away.
I had no chance of taking a picture. The mother muntjac was quite suspicious – she would look at me and stamp her foot, a habit of muntjac when they are upset. I was wearing full camouflage gear and sitting perfectly still, but she was still on edge. I obviously wasn’t so visible that she took alarm, but visible enough for her not to relax. Because of the rain, I had taken my hat off my head and put it on my camera. The camera stayed dry while my head got wet. If I’d have moved, let alone uncovered the camera and pointed it in her direction, she would have been off like a shot. I hate disturbing animals for no reason. I’d much rather let them go about their business in peace.
Deer are like that, including muntjac. With badgers, whose eyesight is not great, as long as you don’t move they are not too bothered. Deer, on the other hand, look straight at you, not taken in by such cheap tricks as camouflage clothing. They look straight at you and you know that they know. Having said that, there’s been times when I’ve been out running in the woods dressed in my dayglo fluorescent jacket and I’ve managed to run to within a few feet of a muntjac. Maybe they don’t see fluorescent people as a threat, and are only suspicious of those that lurk in trees dressed in dark clothing.
Anyhow, a damp evening, but a rewarding one, although I fear that I’m probably still a fair-weather badger watcher.