After taking some pride in my fieldcraft a couple of weeks ago, tonight was a lesson on what not do when badger watching.
The wind was blowing briskly from the south west today, so I approached the sett from the north east to keep myself downwind. There’s a climbable hornbeam tree at this end of the sett and this was my objective.
I say that it’s climbable. It is, but it’s difficult. I’d say it’s a Grade IV or Grade V on my tree climbing scale, with a tricky crux halfway up. Unfortunately, when I got up to a branch I could sit on, I found that the wind was eddying round and blowing from me to the sett. Back down I went.
I crept around the sett with a view to sitting with my back to a tree. The wind was wrong here too.
By 7.40pm I’d covered a wide circle 180 degrees around the sett, yet wherever I sat it seemed the wind was blowing in the wrong direction. As I’ve said, the wind does funny things in a wooded valley. I’d been careful to avoid going to near the sett entrances, or even the main paths, but even so I’m sure I must have caused all sorts of disturbance.
On reflection I should have just gone home when I first realised what the conditions were like, but ‘badger fever’ had gripped hold of me. There were signs of serious badger activity all around – fresh digging, tracks and trails where they’d gathered bedding – and I still haven’t seen this year’s cubs properly.
The highlight of the evening was a young fallow deer buck that wandered through the wood. Perhaps I wasn’t making as much disturbance as I thought, as the fallow deer here are very shy. They have sensitive noses and unlike badgers they can see very well. This buck was perfectly at ease as he stood among the bluebells, the first stage velvet antlers showing on his head.
Nevertheless, I walked home in frustration, not having seen any of the badgers. May the Protector of All Small Beasts give me at least one day with a decent steady wind so I can get back to some serious badger watching soon.