I’ve been busy laying a new floor this weekend, but I took a couple of hours off this evening to see what the badgers were up to. In particular, I was keen to see if the cub (or maybe cubs) made another appearance.
A good breeze was blowing so I made for my usual tree. At 8.05pm the fox wandered past. It seems very regular in its habits, this fox.
By 8.25 it was getting dark and there were no badgers to be seen. At this time last week there were at least five of them out and about, but for some reason tonight they were having a lie-in. I don’t think it was my presence. I’d arrived carefully and early, so I don’t think they could be aware of me.
Just before 8.30 a badger came out of the western entrance, stopped, scratched a couple of times and then went back underground. I waited for a good while but it didn’t reappear.
I can take a hint. This was obviously not going to be a great night of badger watching, so I climbed down the tree and headed for home. Just as I touched the ground, however, the badger popped its head out of the sett again. I was standing in full view not 30 feet away. I was caught in the act!
But there were four things acting in my favour, and it was a good reminder how important they all are.
- Firstly, and most importantly, the wind was in the right direction. I was in exactly the right place to observe this sett, with the wind blowing from the badger to me. My scent was therefore carried away behind me and not towards the badger. Since smell is the most important sense for badgers I was effectively ‘off the radar’, so to speak.
- Secondly, I stayed absolutely still. Badgers do not have brilliant eyesight but they see movement pretty well. By immediately freezing I reduced the chances of being seen significantly.
- Thirdly, I was wearing dark, drab clothing (including my super high-tech camouflage jacket, wide-brimmed hat and camouflage gloves) so there was nothing to catch the badger’s attention. Covering up the face and hands is so important but often overlooked. Your hands in particular are very visible, especially as they are usually the part of you that moves the most as you lift up your binoculars or camera. Dark gloves are essential, even on warm summer evenings.
- Fourthly, I was standing with my back to the tree, so my silhouette was hidden. In my dark clothes I blended into the background instead of standing out against it.
Because of all these factors I was able to stand there in full view of the badger yet remain effectively invisible (although it did feel horribly exposed to be on the ground – I’m like a fish out of water when I’m out of my tree!)
After a minute of two the badger was joined by another, and they sat there scratching merrily. I crept away as slowly and as quietly as I could so as not to disturb them, and when I looked back they were still blissfully unaware of me. I had got away with it.
At times I do feel that I get a little obsessive about not disturbing the badgers, but I really do believe that it is these little details that mean the difference between success and failure when watching wildlife.