Today was a miserable day for July, with gusting winds and intermittent rain, but I went up to the wood anyway, feeling guilty no doubt for being stuck in the house all day. Besides, I was curious to see if the badgers were back to normal after their unusual behaviour yesterday, and I was anxious to see if the cubs were all right, since they hardly put in an appearance last time.
It was a damp evening, and the wind was still gusting in odd directions. Such days are often bad ones for badger watching, as your scent carries much further on damp air. I needn’t have worried. Four of the cubs emerged from the western sett entrance at about 7.45pm, and spent the next hour or so contentedly foraging. They were utterly oblivious to me as I sat ten feet above them in my tree. I think that when they’re pre-occupied with food, badgers rarely look up. All their attention is fixed on the ground and what is at the end of their nose.
The cubs are acting all grown up now, with much less of the boisterous play fighting of previous months. At one point though they all ran off and started an all in wrestling match near the entrance of the sett. Even this seems a bit more serious, with a fair amount of biting at the neck and hindquarters. I suppose they are more actively establishing a hierarchy in the group.
I think that all six cubs were there in the end. This sounds terribly vague, but the truth is that it is very difficult to keep track of individual badgers when they are either rolling around in one big heap, or spread out and foraging over half an acre of woodland. I often found myself with badgers on all sides, and disappearing and reappearing from the undergrowth.
One highlight of the day was that I noticed an unusual facial feature one one of the cubs – a notch or nick in
the black stripe, just under the ears. This may not sound very unusual, but none of the other cubs had a similar mark, so I think I’ve found a way to identify one of the cubs as an individual. In an act of no imagination at all I christened him ‘Nick’ (although it could equally well be a Nicola). Here is a picture showing the facial markings. This badger is one of the three in the picture at the top of this post, and you can see how the nick in the stripe stands out from the others.
Having done this, I was able to go back through previous pictures and see if I could track the same individual. Here is a picture of Nick from the 16th June. Once again, I’ll keep an eye out for him (or her) in the future.
Interestingly, all the cubs came out from the western entrance again, and the sole adult to come out while I was there emerged from the centre hole. Is there a significance to this?
At 9.00pm the sky grew black, and the dusk got suddenly darker. A moment later the heavens opened in a terrific downpour. I was sitting in a chestnut tree, which I’ve always found to be a pretty good tree to be under when it rains. Not as good as a nice thick holly or a yew, but pretty good nonetheless.
The rain lashed down. I could see it bouncing off the bare earth of the sett entrance. Although I was relatively dry in my tree, the badgers were evidently none too impressed. Within a minute they’d all trotted back into the sett. I speculated that they don’t like rain because the sound drowns out the sounds of potential predators, but the truth is that they probably don’t like getting wet.
Taking their lead I sneaked off home, with all the delights of walking through a soaking wet wheat field in the rain. I really must get some waterproof trousers one of these days…