I’ve mentioned this before, but the village I live in has a connection to some of the most courageous polar expeditions in history. The frozen ends of the earth are a long way from our green fields and woods and hedgerows, but I like to think I’m keeping the polar tradition alive by going outside every time it snows.
It snowed a couple of weeks ago and I was looking forward to going out tracking, but unfortunately it all melted by the weekend and I didn’t get the chance. Today, however, we’ve had another good fall of snow – four inches or so in the space of the afternoon. The whole of the UK has once again ground to a halt (it took Mrs BWM three and half hours to drive home from London today, on what is normally a one hour journey) but I’m happy. It’s snowed, it’s Saturday, it’s time to go out tracking.
It’s been a while since I’ve been outdoors, so it felt good to take out my camouflage jacket, put on my walking boots and pick up my tracking stick from its place behind the back door. It sounds odd, but I always enjoy walking in winter. There is a satisfaction in getting dressed up and going out into the cold, meeting the challenge of the conditions. As luck would have it, I bought myself a new piece of kit on Thursday – a windproof fleece balaclava. I suspect it makes me look even more scary than usual, but it really does keep my ears and neck warm.
The temperature tonight was minus 3 or so, which meant that the snow was still fresh and powdery, the snow-covered fields eerily bright in the moonlight, almost as clear as day. I headed up to the pasture field in the hope of tracking the badgers there. I’ve had some fascinating times following the badger trails here – following the tracks of badgers for hundreds of yards and seeing how the trails interact with each other. The snow provides a wonderful record of badger behaviour that would normally be invisible.
Alas, tonight did not reveal anything about badger behaviour. In fact, there were no badger tracks at all.
A few rabbit tracks, and the fresh trail of a fox trotting across the footpath, but no badgers. I was out at 9.00 to 10.00pm, so perhaps the badgers had not come out yet. It might be the case that they are staying underground at the moment – I know that badgers will venture out and forage in snow, but this snow comes after a few days of hard frost. A hard frost makes it much harder for the badgers to dig for worms, so it may be that the frozen ground has had more of an effect on them than the snow. I’ll go out again tomorrow and see if there have been any new tracks overnight.
Even without badger tracks it was still a fine night to be out. Despite the chaos that it brings, I hope we get more snow. If it carries on into next week I’d like to build an igloo in the garden and really make the most of it.