Lately I’ve taken to getting up at dawn on Sundays and going for a walk around the local area.
I’d recommend it for anyone interested in wildlife. You are up and about before the human world has woken up, the nocturnal animals – and those that are shy – are still around, and any tracks from the night before are still fresh and untrampled. It’s a rare occasion when I’m not rewarded with views of hares, muntjac and roe deer in the fields.
Besides, it gives me some extra time before the day really begins. Of course, dawn is not very early in the morning at the moment – 6.30 to 7.00am – let’s see if I’m still so keen in May when I have to get up at 4.00am!
Today I thought I’d go up to the wood and see what the badgers have been up to. There was no chance of seeing them, of course, they’d all be tucked up and asleep underground, but I thought I’d have a look.
The good news is that they seem to be thriving. The pasture field was full of snuffle holes where they’d been foraging for worms and insects, and the usual latrine sites showed evidence of lots of activity.
Unfortunately it had been tipping down with rain for the last 24 hours, so any tracks were either washed away or underwater. It was definitely a day for wearing wellies! The only track I found was a fallow deer print under an overhanging tree, but other than that the ground was a clean slate.
Down at the sett the badger paths were well trampled, so they are obviously still very active. I may try a night time trip with a red torch one of these evenings and see if I can spot anything. I’m beginning to get badger withdrawal symptoms, so I’d like to try and watch them again before spring.
My fascination with badger dung continues. The main latrine site by the sett contained large amounts of dung, some that was a mass of seeds, and some that was mostly sweetcorn. The sweetcorn probably comes from patches of maize that are grown as food and cover for pheasants.
There seems to be a pattern here, in that separate piles of badger dung can contain entirely different food. It suggests that the different badgers in the sett may be feeding on completely different things, and not all foraging together, which is an interesting insight into their behaviour.
I’m sorry to say that I don’t know what the seeds were in the dung. If I was a proper naturalist I’d have brought some home and looked at it under the microscope, but I didn’t. My wife seems to tolerate my naturalist ramblings (in every sense of the word). Bringing home poo would, I feel, be a step too far even for me.
By this time it was time for my other Sunday ritual, bacon and eggs, with fresh free range eggs from the garden. A good walk in the woods is surely the best way to work up an appetite for breakfast.