It’s been a while since I last had a look at the main badger sett in the wood so it was overdue a visit. I like to go to the sett at this time of year – the lack of undergrowth makes it easy to see the layout of the site (not easy in summer when there’s waist-high nettles), and the number of active holes gives you an idea of the prosperity of the clan. The badgers should be giving birth to cubs now; extra active holes is a sign that the females have set up separate ‘maternity’ holes safely away from the rest of the group.
The badgers seem to have declined sharply in numbers at this sett, from 12 or so a couple of years ago down to maybe just four last year. I was keen to check that they were OK. There was no chance of seeing badgers in the middle of the day, but hopefully the activity at the sett would give me an idea.
Getting up to the wood presented a bit of a challenge. Mrs BWM has been away for the weekend for work, so that means if I was going to go to the wood, then Scarlett was going to come with me. The all-terrain baby buggy is good, but I didn’t fancy lugging it over fallen trees in the wood. Besides, it’s been raining a lot this week and the fields around here resemble a Flanders battlefield in 1917. It was time to try out a new piece of kit – a backpack baby carrier that a friend had kindly given us. It was surprisingly comfortable to carry – I’m used to carrying a big rucksack after years of backpacking – and Scarlett enjoyed peering out over my shoulder. All in all it proved a very effective way of covering rough ground.
The mud was deep and claggy but it showed up tracks beautifully. The badgers had been out in force, with badger tracks literally covering the ground at the entrance to the wood. So far so good – the badgers are there and they’re active.
The sett itself showed similarly encouraging signs. The badger paths were all well-trodden and the dung pits were well-used. Six of the sett entrances showed significant signs of use, both tracks and spoil from recent excavation. Interestingly, I did a similar survey almost exactly a year ago, and different holes were active then than are active now. Most of the active holes were at the east end of the sett, with only the main hole at the west end showing signs of use. This is not necessarily anything to be concerned about. I’m getting used to the idea that badgers move regularly between holes at the sett, even though I still don’t know why they do it or what determines which holes they use. I have an idea that it is related to clan relationships and hierarchy, but I’m a long way off proving it or even providing a working hypothesis. One day the pieces of the puzzle will fall into place.
Overall, it was a useful visit. The badgers seem to be active and there were no signs of disturbance or visible casualties. I’ll try to get a nocturnal session up here soon and see if I can’t observe the badgers themselves.