Yesterday was another beautiful warm evening. 7.45pm found me sitting contentedly up a tree at the main sett, drinking tea and making running repairs to my camouflage gloves with a needle and thread. A more blissful domestic scene could not be imagined.
I’d taken a detour around the wood earlier in the evening to check out the badger day nests I found last month. I’m curious to see whether the badgers are using them in this hot weather, particularly since the last time I was at the sett there were only two badgers to be seen. Unfortunately the nests were all unoccupied and showed no signs of recent use, so there is another theory that will have to wait for another day to be proved.
At 8.35 a badger came trotting up from the inaccessible east end of the sett and disappeared into a hole at the west end. Two more followed, and then another two. In total, five badgers had come from the other part of the sett and gone straight back underground.
I waited for the badgers to re-appear, but nothing happened. I would have thought they would be eager to start foraging, but they stayed underground. Very odd.
As I was waiting another muntjac deer wandered onto the scene. I’ve waited ages to get a good view of a muntjac, and now it’s happened twice in consecutive trips. I’m getting a bit blasé now – the muntjac will have to start performing tricks if they want me to film them in the future!
After a little while I heard badger noises from the east end of the sett, whickering and the short, high-pitched bark that badgers make when play fighting has got out of hand. Once again, this area is now an impenetrable mass of vegetation – elder, nettles and bracken. The sounds were confirmed when three badgers came into view at the very far east side of the sett and started foraging through the wood. These three plus the five I’d seen at the west end makes at least eight badgers, which is good. I was worried because I’d only seen two last time.
A few minutes later a fox trotted past with a baby rabbit in its mouth, unfortunately too far away to photograph in the fading light. I think it was the vixen that had the cubs here, but it could conceivably be one of the cubs themselves. They’ve certainly grown up and left home now. The fox loped off to the east end of the sett. The fact that it was taking food there implies it has a den in the area.
The five badgers at the west end of the sett remained underground until 9.30 when I had decided to pack up and was in the process of climbing down the tree, at which point they emerged and gave me a hard stare. Absolutely typical!
It was an interesting night for the variety of wildlife that was about, but it was also interesting because it showed a pattern. Last year, the badgers started off in the west end of the sett and then moved to the east as the summer progressed. This year they’ve done the same, although at least some badgers are using the west end for at least some of the time.
There is obviously something going on here. Something makes the badgers move between parts of the sett. If only I could recognise individual badgers I’d be in a better position to understand this, but despite staring at film and pictures they still look pretty much alike to me. In the meantime I’ll keep making notes of what I see and hope it all makes more sense in the future.