Sunday evening started off hot, humid and still. The brisk walk up the hill to the wood left me sticky and winded, while the dark clouds gathering overhead showed that the breathless weather would soon break.
The wheat in the wheatfield is ripening. I was pleased to see a new badger dung pit with fresh dung, showing that once again the badgers are using this food source, and also that there are enough badgers for them to mark it out as territory. Having had no luck in seeing badgers lately, I decided to head to the east end of the sett. It’s a risky strategy because the sett is on top of a small rise in the ground and from this side a good 75% of it is out of sight, particularly with the luxuriant growth of nettles, elder and dog’s mercury. Nevertheless, it was at this end of the sett that the badgers were to be found on the last couple of visits. I may see badgers or I may not, but if I were to see one here the chances are that I would get a good view.
It was good to be back in the wood again, to be lying in damp leaf litter instead of walking the streets of the City in a pinstripe suit. It’s a comforting feeling that the woods – the trees, the branches, the animals – are always here, come rain or shine, even when I’m not. It’s nice to think that life goes on without me.
I’d like to say it was peaceful, but the truth it is that the wood was a real cacophony of noise. The sheep in the pasture field baa-ed at each other, a buzzard ‘pee-arrr’-ed from a branch above me, a pair of muntjacs barked loudly at each other, and to cap it off a small flock of great tits chattered in the bushes. This was not an empty collection of trees, but an ecosystem in full flow. I shot a video to record the sound – it doesn’t show anything and it isn’t great quality but it gives you an idea. I should really bring my digital recorder out with me for occasions like this.
At 8.20pm the weather broke and the rain started – big heavy drops. I was sitting under an ancient sycamore coppice, which is as dry a spot as you’re likely to find, so it wasn’t too bad. Within minutes the warm, still air had been replaced by a freshening wind that was strong enough to move the trees around me. Quite surprising how quickly the weather can change.
At 8.40 a badger appeared. Annoyingly it was at the north-east end of the sett, while I was at the south-east, so no chance of pictures. Still, it was good to see a badger in the flesh again.
At 8.50 I heard the sounds of badgers yipping in the impenetrable undergrowth of the sett. This was good, as it meant that at least two badgers were playing happily, albeit invisibly.
By 9.10 no other badgers had appeared and I called it a night. I had to be in work the next day after all. With the wind and rain muffling my movements I headed off. And then, just as I was leaving the wood, I disturbed a badger no more than 20 feet away. We both stopped, surprised, before it crashed off into the undergrowth.
That makes at least three badgers at the sett, which is good. And you know what, I’d swear the badger I disturbed was a cub. I can’t be sure, as I find it very difficult to make snap judgements of badger size when they’re on their own. It’s easy when they’re in a group and you can compare sizes, but on their own it’s more difficult. I always get a little suspicious when I talk to people and they say ‘I saw a badger cub in the field last night’. I’ve spent many hours watching badgers and I still find it difficult to tell a reasonably-grown cub from an adult. But perhaps that’s just my lack of perception. Anyway, I digress. This badger looked cub-like in its size and it’s fluffy grey coat. It may be wishful thinking on my part, but I hope that it was.
I walked home in the rain, very happy despite the weather.