It’s been a weekend of extremes as far as the weather has gone. It has been very hot and very humid, with long periods of sunshine giving way to thunderstorms in the evenings. Although we haven’t had any rain ourselves, it has been torrential in places nearby. One friend had his car alarm set off repeatedly by intense hailstorms, while the house of another was actually struck by lightning!
The badgers seemed to respond to the sluggish weather too. I went up to the wood on Sunday evening. I was relieved to find that it was slightly cooler in the wood – I had imagined that it would be even more humid and oppressive under the trees, but the opposite was the case. I am constantly surprised by the differences in microclimate between woods and nearby fields. If any ecology student is looking for a subject for a project I suspect that there’s an interesting field of study here.
Two badgers came out of the western side of the sett at 8.20pm, including a light coloured individual. They groomed for a bit, wandered around in a desultory way and eventually mooched off towards the east. I don’t know if it is the weather, but they did seem a bit lethargic. They weren’t in any hurry to rush off and forage, but at the same time they weren’t in the mood for playing or interacting. Perhaps it was just too hot, especially for a badger with a thick coat of hair.
I don’t know where the other badgers in the sett were. They may be staying underground until later to escape the heat (I only stayed until 9.30). They could even be sleeping above ground somewhere, perhaps in one of the nests I discovered a few weeks ago.
The evening was notable because I actually managed to get a half-decent photograph of a muntjac. These little deer are a real contradiction: they are very common in this area, but surprisingly difficult to get close to.
If I’m driving to or from work in the early morning or evening then I see them regularly by the side of the road. I saw one at 6.00am this morning about 100 yards from my house. But although they’re common, they are wary. They have an uncanny sense of whether you’re interested in them. They’ll let you drive or walk past, but if you slow down the car they’ll be off like a shot. If you pause or raise a camera then they notice immediately. I try to practise my deerstalking on the local muntjac, but rarely with any success. All of this means that I’ve never got a close-up picture of one.
Last night though a muntjac buck walked past the tree where I was sitting, giving me some great close-up views. In terms of fieldcraft, camouflage and wind direction I was in just the right spot and it wandered about, blissfully unaware of me as it browsed on the vegetation.
Notice the small antlers with the long pedicles (the tissue at the base of the antlers), the pronounced brow ridges and the long canine teeth.
Not a rare species by any means, but a challenge to get close to.