“Any damn fool can be uncomfortable.” So said a wise person once about roughing it outdoors. In other words, the art is to make the experience as pleasant as possible, no matter what the conditions. I heard this advice about 20 years ago and I’ve taken it to heart ever since. I spent this evening up in a tree, sitting comfortably on an inflatable cushion and drinking hot tea from the flask, my camouflage umbrella close at hand in case of rain. I was very comfortable indeed, thank you. This was badger watching with style. Unfortunately, having all the gear doesn’t make you a better naturalist, as I found out.
I was back at the west end of the sett, the opposite end to last night. The holes at this end show lots of signs of activity: fresh spoil and pieces of discarded bedding. Unfortunately, the badgers didn’t make an appearance from here. I expected the badgers to appear about the same time as last night – 8.30pm or so – but no badgers emerged until 9.15 when a lone individual wandered out of the east end and disappeared into the wood. I waited, but for a long 20 minutes no other badgers came out. This was most unusual – I started wondering if something had happened to them. Finally, another badger emerged from the centre part of the sett and slowly foraged away through the trees, occasionally snapping up worms or other tidbits. After another 10 minutes, as it was getting dark, another pair of badgers came out of the middle hole. No badgers came out of the holes at the west end, at least not before I left for home, and I didn’t see any cubs.
I’m not sure why the badgers were so late to come out. I don’t think I’d disturbed them. It had been raining heavily all day, and badgers don’t like heavy rain (some people think this is because the noise of rain makes them nervous because it stops them from hearing what’s going on) but the rain had died off by the evening. On the other hand, they do like damp nights because it makes foraging easier and more productive, so they should have been keen to get out and about. All the signs are that the sett is happy and healthy, so perhaps it was just one of those nights. Perhaps the badgers just decided to have a lie-in.
It wasn’t a wasted evening, though. No evening in the woods is ever wasted. The local buzzard was on good form, swooping through the trees and crying from the high branches. A pair of fallow deer walked past my tree, browsing on the lush new foliage. A fox (a healthy, non-mangy one) spent a few minutes sniffing around the sett before trotting off across the fields; and just before I left a tawny owl perched on a tree in front of me, calling for five minutes before gliding away, accompanied by the pink-pink-pink alarm calls of blackbirds.
A very comfortable evening, but as always seems to be the case, I’ll need to spend a few more at the sett before I find out what the badgers are up to.