‘A professional case of great gravity was engaging my own attention at the time…‘
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, A Case of Identity
I’ve been neglecting my badgers again lately. I can’t believe I haven’t been to see them since April. Partly this has been due to a demanding schedule at work. In the last couple of months my work has taken me from the heat of Saudi Arabia to the cool opulence of a boardroom by the lakeside in Zurich and the offices of the United Nations in Vienna. It’s been good work and nice to see the world, but it’s also good to take time to reflect every now and then. Partly it’s been due to an even more demanding two and a half year old daughter, who is now old enough to prefer playing with her toys to being taken out into fields, and who is also quite capable of saying so. Throw in Mrs BWM’s shift schedule and holidays and social events, and there has been no time to get out to the woods.
But tonight I had a free evening, so it was time for a long-overdue trip to the badgers. The day had been sunny and warm but with a threat of rain. I don’t get to pick and choose the days of my visits at the moment, so I picked up my (now repaired) umbrella and was off.
To refresh the memory, the main sett I watch has had a bit of decline over the past couple of years, going from at least twelve badgers down to just three. But on my last trip I saw a new cub, so it looked like the numbers were increasing again. Would there be more cubs to be seen this time?
The sett is in it’s full summer undergrowth, so it is impossible to see all of it. There were signs of activity (fresh spoil and discarded bedding) at the west end where I saw the cub, so that’s where I sat. But there was also a lot of fresh spoil at the east end, so it looked like multiple holes are in occupation.
I arrived at 7.45pm and settled down, and at 8.20 the first badger emerged from the west end, joined quickly by two more. One adult and two cubs! This was good news, as it meant the cub I saw back in April has a brother or sister. Things are looking better for the clan.
The three badgers did all the proper badger things – scratching, grooming, play-fighting and collecting bedding. Despite watching badgers for some years now I still enjoy watching a relaxed family group like this.
At 8.30 the sound of whickering drew my attention to the east end. There, by the new spoil heap were one, two, three, four badgers – two adults and two cubs. This was even better news! They were too distant for photos in the dim light, but clear enough through binoculars. The badgers at the west end disappeared underground, and shortly afterwards I counted seven badgers at the east end. I’m inclined to believe that this was the west end badgers joining the social group, having made their way their by some devious underground route (I know the west end holes are linked to the centre holes of the sett – the tunnels may well go further).
It was a fine display of badger behaviour, with all seven snuffling and playing and scratching. I crept down from my tree and stalked over for a closer look, but it was still impossible to get decent photos. I watched for half an hour until the rain finally started and then headed home.
All in all, a good visit. There are at least four cubs this year, which makes the clan stronger and more stable – hopefully a good sign for the future. Interestingly, the cubs are clearly from two separate litters; and more interestingly, the mother of one litter has obviously separated herself to the outlying west end but without and sign of being distant from the rest of the clan. Fine badger watching, and another aspect of badger behaviour for me to ponder.