Despite the threatening rain clouds I decided to pay a visit to the wood on Friday evening. It’s a good way to unwind after the working week. Like most people, I spend my time rushing everywhere: rushing to work, rushing to meetings, rushing home. Watching wildlife forces you slow down, to stop and listen and think.
The slight wind was blowing in an unusual direction. Wooded valleys seem to have an uncanny influence on the wind. It is not uncommon to have the wind blowing one way outside the wood, and in another direction entirely when you’re actually inside it. The practical upshot of this was that all of my usual trees would put me upwind of the badgers. This would not do at all, so I circled around the sett and sat on the ground with my back to a large oak.
The first thing I noticed was how many nettles there were. I was sitting on a few, but being a rough, tough badger watcher I couldn’t let myself be too put off by that. The nettles also grew around the sett entrance, putting a bit of a screen between me and the badgers. Not good for a clear view, but good for keeping the badgers relaxed.
The cubs came out at about 8.15pm. They are getting very independent now, and seem perfectly happy foraging around the area of the sett. The adults emerged about 45 minutes later. The whole group seems very relaxed and content at the moment. I suppose that life must be good for a badger just now. The wet weather means that the worms that make up most of their diet are plentiful and easy to catch, and that must take some of the pressure off the food gathering.
One of the advantages of being on the ground was that I was closer to the badgers than usual, which gave a new perspective on things. I sat there for a good hour and a half, my legs slowly going numb underneath me and a small cloud of mosquitoes gathering about my head, but with a great view of the sett.
The downside of being on the ground was that I was more likely to come into contact with the badgers. As I’ve said before, one of my rules for badger watching is to avoid disturbing the animals. Sitting in front of the tree it was surprising how little notice the badgers took of me. I was wearing full camouflage gear including gloves and face net, so I should have been quite inconspicuous. However, eventually the inevitable happened. One of the foraging badgers circled round and approached me from the side. From this position my silhouette must have been visible, because it stopped, stared and then trundled quickly back to the sett.
Not wishing to put the badgers off their foraging, I slowly straightened my cramped legs and crept away as quietly as I could. After 30 yards I turned round and I could see the cubs ambling about, so they seemed happy enough.
All in all an interesting evening. I think I still prefer my trees. They offer so much more concealment.. There’s been many times when I’ve had badgers scuffling around the roots of the tree I’ve been sitting in, and they’ve never suspected.
One good thing from the night is that I think I’ve finally got an individual badger I can recognise. The coats of most badgers are greyish-black, with a reddish-brown tint beneath, but the fur of this one was quite white underneath the grey. He also had a patch of white fur visible below his left ear. I say he, because he looked well-built like a boar, but I could be mistaken. I’m no expert on sexing badgers, except when I see them with cubs or exposing their undercarriage as they scratch. I shall look out for this particular badger on subsequent visits.
My efforts to build up a video archive of the badgers continue. I’ve discovered how to set my camera to take high quality video, but it only does it for 15 seconds at a time. I’ve spliced all the footage for the evening into one montage. I’ll have to read the camera manual, but I guess in the meantime I’ve got a video that is ideal for people like me with 15 second attention spans!
For a better look at the video, click here to go to YouTube and select ‘Watch in high quality’.