Spring is definitely here. The weekend has been clear, sunny and warm. The vegetable garden is coming along nicely, the trees and hedgerows are coming into bud, and last night was the first of the year when you got that lovely smell of vegetation and growing things in the air. But we shouldn’t forget that we’re still in what my Dad calls the ‘blackthorn winter’, the cold snap that often accompanies the flowering of the blackthorn. On Friday I scraped the ice of my car before I set off to work. Tonight I went out to the badger sett and nearly froze myself.
My days follow a consistent pattern at the moment. Every evening at 7.00pm I give Scarlett her bath, feed her and put her to bed. The days have grown sufficiently long now for me to be able to follow my usual routine and walk the mile or so up to wood before it gets dark. And that’s what I did tonight. I wanted to try the night vision scope again and check the effects on the badgers.
I settled down at the base of a tree. Badger watching means always having the wind in your face. Tonight, there was a bitterly cold wind knifing through the leafless trees. It was one of those evenings when I put on my camouflage face veil; not to keep out of sight, but merely to try to keep warm. At 8.21pm a badger trotted over from the eastern end of the sett and went down into a hole in front of me. A few minutes later it reappeared, and soon there were four badgers scratching and rolling and play-fighting in front of me.
(One of the main reasons for writing this blog is to document and journal my badger watching experiences so that I can look for patterns. One of the things I always try to record is the time at which the badgers emerge from the sett. Interestingly, if I look back in the archives to last year, I see that I visited this sett on the 10th April 2009, almost exactly a year ago. On that occasion the badgers emerged at 8.20pm, almost exactly the same time. When I get a chance I’ll have to make a chart of emergence times and see if there is a consistent pattern across the year.)
There was still just enough light to see by, but I turned on the NV scope and watched for a reaction from the badgers. There was none. They carried on playing and grooming happily. I gave them a few minutes and then turned on the infra-red illuminator. Again, no reaction. I could see the badgers eyeshine from the infra-red, but they didn’t seem in the least bothered. At random intervals for the next ten minutes I turned the NV and infra-red on and off, but the badgers carried on regardless. After a while the badgers romped away out of view, and I took this as my cue to leave. I had seen what I wanted to and I was happy to head back towards the light and warmth of home.
Based on tonight’s watching, the badgers did not react to either the NV scope or the infra-red. In fact, the NV scope proved to be a very useful aid to watching as it grew dark. This was the opposite of my earlier experiences. Does this mean that I was mistaken about the badgers being spooked by the infra-red? I don’t think so. I’ve been watching badgers too long for that. Let me try a few more evenings like this and I’ll see if I can come to some sort of conclusion.