Saturday evening was warm without being oppressive, with a light breeze blowing. Around the world financial markets crashed. Tanks rolled down Syrian streets. London was in flames as rioters burned and looted. And me? I walked up to the wood to watch badgers.
The wheat in the wheat fields is ripe now. The badgers are making full use of this seasonal resource, with all the latrine pits full of wheat-filled dung. They’ll need to make the most of it quickly, as the farmers are starting to harvest. They’ll carry on late into the night while the dry weather lasts, with spotlights on the combine harvesters.
By 7.35pm I was happily sitting up a tree at the main sett, listening to tractors in the distance, muntjacs in the wood and the buzzard in the trees. You see, it isn’t that I try to escape from reality by watching badgers. It’s just a different reality – one that’s been here far longer than the troubles of our modern world.
Having had little luck with the badgers at this sett I wasn’t expecting too much – maybe a quick glimpse. But it turned out to be a very good evening of watching. At 7.45 there appeared a badger cub. It ambled over from the east end of the sett and snuffled contentedly around my tree as it foraged in the undergrowth. This was good news indeed! Remember that a couple of years ago I regularly saw 8-10 badgers at this sett, which has gone down to just 2 or 3 this year. I’ve been concerned about them, to be honest. A cub is an excellent sign that things are picking up again.
I thought I saw a cub last time I was here, but I only got a brief look so I wasn’t sure. This time there was no doubt. Here’s a quick video of the badger cub foraging:
As the cub was under my tree I could hear the whickering sound of badgers at play from the other end of the sett, so that makes at least another two badgers in residence. At 8.00pm I saw another badger walking off from the east end of the sett, which confirmed things.
The cub spent the next half-hour foraging, snaffling up the odd morsel of food from the ground. Apart from the delight of getting a good look at a real live badger for the first time in ages, I also got a few new insights. At one point the local buzzard settled into a tree overhead, calling loudly. The badger cub reacted visibly to this – it scampered to a disused sett entrance at the west of the site and crouched there. A badger – even a half-grown cub – has nothing to fear from a buzzard, whose food is mostly carrion and small creatures such as worms, but this one looked visibly nervous.
After a few minutes the cub disappeared underground, only to reappear from the middle entrance to the sett five minutes later. This is the first time I’ve seen this, but it means that the middle and the west of the sett are linked underground. They’re at least 25 yards apart, so there must be a fantastic network of tunnels underground.
All in all, a very satisfying evening. It must be a record for the latest view of a badger cub (I normally see the first in April) but it was good to see it nonetheless. It’s a good sign and I feel like a proper badger watcher again.