What a difference a couple of weeks makes! I’ve been busy with various (non-badger) things for a couple of weeks so I haven’t been able to get out until last night. But things have changed since I last went out to the wood. The leaves on the trees are starting to show, the blackthorn is in full flower and the woodland flowers are blooming. The weather is noticeably warmer (i.e. not freezing!) and the birds are starting to sing as they begin their search for a mate.
The wheat field that I walk through on the way to the wood is not a wheat field any more. This year it is planted with oilseed rape and the first yellow flowers are already out (the field behind my house is rape too, and the scent this evening when I went out to feed the chickens is marvelous. It can become overpowering later in the year but at the moment it smells like spring and its nice). This field has been wheat for the last two years, and it’s been a food source for (I think) at least three different clans of badgers. I wonder how it will affect them now the food source has gone? I imagine that the badgers won’t be so keen to try to annexe it as territory, but I’ll see what happens. Unless badgers each oilseed rape, of course…
I arrived at the sett at about 7.45pm. The tawny owls hooted and ‘ke-wicked’ and the first woodpecker of the year yaffled away somewhere behind me. It’s good to get back into the wood. I spend so much time rushing about at work that it’s a real luxury to just sit and listen and watch and do nothing.
It is a good time of year to be watching badgers at the moment, for two reasons. Firstly because the undergrowth has not yet grown up. Later in the year the nettles and elder will block a lot of the views at this sett, but for now it is possible to look across the whole area. Secondly, and more importantly, this year’s cubs will be emerging about now. I can tell myself that I want to see cubs because it allows me to judge the success of the clan, but if I’m honest I want to see them because they’re cute, especially when they’re finding their feet outside the sett for the first time.
There were six active sett entrances visible from where I was sitting, so the badgers are still active. At 8.15pm an adult badger emerged at the east end of the sett, followed a few minutes later by a second. They groomed themselves and each other for a moment and then wandered slowly around the area. Ten minutes later they were joined by another badger from the east end and two more from the west end – all adults, no cubs. It was too dark for pictures but light enough to see well with binoculars.
I didn’t stay long. I had to go to work the next day so I couldn’t stay late. The badgers seemed relaxed and happy, and at least I know that there are at least five adults still in residence. The next few weeks will be busy for me too, but I’ll try to get out again soon. The evenings are lengthening and I hope there will be cubs out in the next week or two.