Archive for the ‘Background’ Category

Normally I don’t have much to do with politics.  At best I look on the whole process with a sort of idle, morbid curiosity.  However, I have noticed that general elections seem to coincide with politicians paying some interest to the views of the people they represent (put it this way, the last time I heard anything from my MP was during the last election.  Go figure!)  Perhaps there is some chance that we will be listened to at the moment.  Perhaps not, but it is a good time to try.

Today, I received an e-mail from the Badger Trust.  It seems that the Conservative Party has promised to carry out a cull of badgers if they are elected.  The Trust has asked all of its members to contact their Conservative Party candidate to ask them to clarify their position and to request that they re-examine their policy.  They have thoughtfully put together a summary of the science behind the issue if you are not sure what to write.  Drop me a line at badgerwatchingman@googlemail.com if you’d like a copy.

I think that this is an excellent idea.  I have taken the opportunity to e-mail Nadine Dorries, our MP here in Mid Bedfordshire, and I urge others to do the same to their candidates.

Dear Nadine

You very kindly offered on your website to listen to what people have to say, so I hope you can answer my question.  I’m sure you’re busy at the moment, what with the election and everything, but as one of your of Mid Beds constituents this is important to me.  I’m writing to ask what is the Conservative policy (and your own personal opinion) on the proposed badger cull in an effort to control bovine TB (bTB).

The thing is, I’ve spent a good few years now studying the badgers of Mid Bedfordshire.  Like you, I keep a blog.  Mine is about badgers (www.badgerwatcher.com).  I am concerned that the Conservative Party has promised to go ahead with another badger cull if they are elected.  Perhaps you could confirm or deny this?

I am obviously concerned for the welfare of our native wildlife, but I am more concerned that an ill-conceived cull will be launched against the weight of scientific evidence.  A 10-year £50million taxpayer-funded research programme  by the Independent Scientific Group (ISG) concluded that a badger cull would have no meaningful impact on the bTB epidemic and that on a comparatively local scale it could make matters worse (as happened when reactive culling was carried out as part of the randomised badger culling trial).  bTB has continued to rise despite previous badger culls (the example from Ireland is relevant here), and at best, a badger cull would be an expensive, senseless slaughter that will do little to alleviate a problem perpetuated (if not caused) by questionable modern farming practices.

So please could you take the time to let me know whether the Conservative Party intend to go ahead with a cull, and what your personal stance on the matter is.  I am sure that my readers will be interested to know.

Many thanks


Like I said, I rarely get involved in politics and I certainly don’t want to turn this blog into a political forum.  I have no particular allegiance to any political party. Nevertheless, like most people, I’m feeling the frustration of being governed by politicians who are wholly out of touch with the views of the people they are supposed to represent and besides, this is an issue close to my heart.

I’ll keep you posted if and when I get a response.

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First signs of Spring

First snowdrops of springDespite the freezing temperatures and the occasional snow flurries this weekend, there are signs that the winter won’t last forever and that spring is round the corner.

The first snowdrops have appeared at the edges of the woods and are peeping out from the frosty ground.   The first of the spring flowers, they are taking full advantage of the light that’s available on the woodland floor before the foliage of the trees and shrubs develops later in the year and puts them in shade.

We’ve also had the first eggs from the chickens this week (Monday, to be precise).  Chicken egg-laying is determined by light, not temperature, so the days are obviously getting long enough to stimulate them out of their winter break.

To celebrate, here is a wholly gratuitous picture of a chicken.  Meet Clarissa, everyone.

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Happy Winter Solstice 2009

Woburn Deer Park in Snow

Once again we’ve arrived at midwinter’s day, and appropriately it’s snowing heavily outside at the moment.  Tonight is the longest night of the year.  After tonight, the days will start to get longer until the summer solstice next June.  Now that I live closer to nature (in other words, in a house with only limited heating) I really appreciate why people have celebrated midwinter for thousands of years.  It’s good to think that you’ve turned the corner of the year.

And the midwinter festival really is ancient.  Contrary to popular belief, Stonehenge was not originally oriented on the midsummer sunrise.  It was aligned on the midwinter sunset.  Every northern culture has its own midwinter celebration.  Our own Christmas is the descendant of one.  When you think about it in these terms, the drinking and feasting and merrymaking isn’t getting away from the true meaning of Christmas – it is the true meaning of Christmas.

It doesn’t feel like a whole year since the last midwinter.  This year has gone by very quickly.  It doesn’t even feel like six months since I was gallivanting around Loch Ness on midsummer’s day.  I guess that a lot of good things have happened since then.

It’s time to make plans for the year ahead.  It’s been a few months since I’ve seen a badger, so they’re definitely on my list, but I’ve got a few more (very) amateur naturalist goals for 2010.  I’ll tell you about these soon.

I hope that you have had a good year too, and I hope the coming year is even better for you.  Happy winter solstice from me, Mrs BWM and baby Scarlett.

Scarlett in her baby carrier

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Baby carrier and camouflage umbrella - you saw it here first!

Things have been quiet around here for a while.  Actually, that isn’t quite true.  I haven’t been out much lately, but things have been busy at home.  Having a small baby takes up a lot of time, but things are starting to ease up a little.  I’ve also been busy with DIY in the house.  In particular I’ve been restoring our living room door.

This may not sound like a big task, but it’s turned into one.   I thought the door was a fairly naff 1970s one that looked out of place in a 140 year old house.  After some investigation it turns out that it was the original plank-built door that dates back to the building of the house in 1868, but the previous owners had stuck on plywood on both sides to make it look like a 1970s one.  A major campaign of reconstruction and painting, and it’s now back in its proper place – blocking the huge draft into the living room.  The practical upshot of all this is that we can now turn on the heating in the room, so at least we’re a bit warmer.

The other thing that has kept me indoors is the weather.  Like most people we’ve had a lot of heavy rain.  I don’t mind rain too much myself, but it makes it almost impossible to go for a walk with Scarlett.  In her baby carrier she’s exposed to the elements.  I can keep her warm with fleece suits, but I can’t keep her dry.  I don’t think they make gore-tex baby suits yet.

But I think I’ve found the answer.  Being a proper English gentleman I have taken to walking about the countryside with an umbrella.  But not just any umbrella.  I’ve found an American one in Mossy Oak camouflage.

Mossy Oak camouflage umbrella

OK.  So this is probably totally unnecessary.  Having a camouflage umbrella is taking the whole ‘blending into the background’ thing a little bit too far.  Who cares – I like it.

And when you think about it, perhaps it isn’t such a daft idea after all.  I like to think that it isn’t so much an umbrella as a portable hide or blind.  If ever I need to get out of sight of the wildlife, all I need to do is to pop up the umbrella and hide behind it – hey presto – virtually an invisibility cloak!

Whatever.  It means I’ve got more chance of getting outside with my daughter over the winter, and that’s the important thing.

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Cider and autumn strolls

Baby carrier - this season's must-have outdoor accessory

Baby carrier - this season's must-have outdoor accessory

The weather has been beautiful for the past couple of weeks – dry and warm during the day, with a pleasant, cool crispness in the evenings.  Perfect autumn weather.

To celebrate the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, we’ve been making cider in the village.  It turns out that a lot of us have got surplus apples that tend to go to waste, so we’ve got together and formed a cider collective.  Everyone has pooled equipment, knowledge and labour.  A couple of days of enthusiastic effort involving a garden shredder (!), two cider presses and many willing hands have given us 240 pints of home-made cider brewing away nicely.  It’s been a great way to bring people together and use the local produce, although I suspect there’ll be some sore heads when we have our Cider Festival at some point in the spring.

As predicted, I haven’t had much time for the badgers lately.  Having a young baby (that feeds every three hours, regular as clockwork) takes up a lot of my free time.  However, one of my duties is to give mummy some time off at the weekend, so I’ve been taking some gentle strolls outside.  Nothing too strenuous, you understand, just around the local fields and footpaths near the house.  For obvious reasons I don’t want to be going too far away juCountry Trackst yet.

The baby carrier makes it easy to walk around and Scarlett is quite happy in it – she just falls asleep and stays asleep, even though I point out interesting things such as muntjac deer, badger tracks and fox poo.  Not to worry – I have a nice walk outside, the gentle rocking motion of walking seems soothing for Scarlett, while Mrs BWM gets some time to unwind and relax with the rest of us out of the house.

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Yet another road casualty

When I drove to work on Wednesday there was another dead badger on the road through the woods on the outskirts of the village, almost exactly the same spot as the casualties of October last year and April this year.  I had a train to catch so I couldn’t stop to check the sex, but it looked fully grown.  When I came home at the end of the day it had been moved from the road (hopefully just onto the verge, but you hear odd rumours of people taking dead badgers away.  I don’t even want to think what for…)

This makes three badgers in a year killed here, almost certainly from the same sett.  I hope the sett is big enough to withstand the losses.  It must be a fairly active one – I’ll have to see if I can locate it when I get time.

So it goes…

I’m aware that anyone visiting this site will be confronted by depressingly regular tales of dead badgers.  I’m sorry about this.  It isn’t my intention to focus on unpleasant matters just for the sake of it.  What I want to do is to build up an archive of badgers in my local patch.  By recording the road casualties here in my diary (and I only include the ones in or immediately around my village), it means that I’m saving the information.  Perhaps it is just the scientist in me, instinctively collecting data, but in years to come it may reveal a pattern.  Nevertheless, if we get many more road deaths I may need to find a less public way to record them.

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For the past few months, while I have been wandering the countryside and pondering the mysteries of badgers, my wife has been quietly and patiently getting on with something much more important.

At 4.00am this morning our first child was born.  I’d like to introduce Scarlett Elizabeth to the world.  She’s beautiful.  I simply cannot express how happy I am, and how proud I am of my wife.

Scarlet ElizabethSo I’m now a dad!  Blimey.   It’s either time for me to grow up or an excuse to act like a kid again.  To my wife’s amused horror I’ve started searching the internet for camouflage baby slings.   I’m looking forward to taking a few gentle strolls around the countryside with my daughter.

In the meantime, things may go a bit quiet on here for a little while.  At least now you know the reason why.

Right, time to get some sleep while I have the chance…

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BBC Countryfile MagazineThe BBC Countryfile Magazine has just published its list of the top 50 British wildlife websites and I’m pleased to say that they’ve selected Tales from the Wood as one of the top 10 mammal websites.

Blimey.  I don’t know what to say.  This is all very unexpected.  I’m just a (very) amateur naturalist.

I’m kind of blushing here, to tell you the truth…

Anyway, check out the whole list here BBC Countryfile Magazine Top 50 British Wildlife Websites

Thanks guys!

50 Best British Wildlife Websites

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I mentioned that my efforts to track down and watch badgers after they have left the sett have only been quite fleeting so far.  Well, things are going to change.

To celebrate my 2½ week anniversary in my new job, I’ve bought myself a night vision scope.  Check out this bad boy:

Night Vision MonocularActually, I’ve been thinking about getting one for a while.  I’ve just been waiting until one came up cheap on eBay.

I haven’t tried it out properly yet, only around the garden, but it really does work.  The image is green and a bit fuzzy but you can see in the dark.  This could potentially change my badger watching habits a lot.  I’m definitely going to spend some time out in the fields this weekend.

Night Vision View

If people think it’s suspicious that I go out in the evenings with a camouflage jacket and a pair of binoculars, what on earth will they think about me going out with a night vision device too?

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Drunken Badgers

I’m getting a little worried about the decline in moral standards on this blog.  I seem to have become fixated on badger genitalia.  It’s only a matter of time before someone sends a letter to the Daily Mail – “My daughter was researching a school project on badgers and all she found was a video of badger testicles – why don’t the government ban this sick filth now?!”

So, in an attempt to raise the tone, here is a pair of amusing, educational and morally instructive stories sent in by readers about drunk badgers.

The first was found by Mungo:

A badger in Germany got so drunk on over-ripe cherries it staggered into the middle of a road and refused to budge.

A motorist called police near the central town of Goslar to report a dead badger on a road – only for officers to turn up and discover the animal alive and well, but drunk.

Police discovered the nocturnal beast had eaten cherries from a nearby tree which had turned to alcohol and given the badger diarrhoea.

Having failed to scare the animal away, officers eventually chased it from the road with a broom.

Oh, the mental images this conjours up!  The second story is a more personal experience from Josie:

A friend of mine runs a wildlife hospital and one night he received a call about an injured badger and fox lying in someones front garden, close to a road.

When he arrived he found the pair to be uninjured but blind drunk – both of them staggering around the place after gorging themselves on fermenting apples from a nearby orchard.

It was too unsafe to leave the drunk & disorderly pair so close to the road so they were gently guided into a cage with the aid of a walking stick.

By the time they arrived at the hospital the badger was snoring loudly.
The wildlife hospital provided them with bed and ‘breakfast’ and then they were released back on their home patch the following evening – after they had slept their hangovers off!

That was one little badger that had a brilliant “you will never guess what happened to me the other night” tale to tell his mates back at the sett!

Thanks for these, guys.  This is exactly what this blog was created for – sharing stories about drunk animals.  Now, if anyone has any video on this subject I’ll use it to really lower the tone…

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