Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘badger’

FoxHmmm.  I notice that it is almost exactly a year since I posted on here, which means that it is also a year since I last went out looking for badgers.  I really need to get out more.

In fact, the circumstances are similar in many ways.  Last year, I took advantage of Mrs BWM and Scarlett taking a trip to Ireland.  This year they are both on a trip to Disneyland Paris.  While they are meeting the mouse, my time is my own for a few days.  Which has meant catching up with chores in the house and garden.

But this evening, like Mole in Wind in the Willows, I said “Hang spring-cleaning!”, dug out my badger watching clothes and headed off to the wood.

Spring is definitely coming.  The first leaves are out in the hedgerows, the lambs are in the fields, the primroses are blooming in the wood.  It was even sunny, although with a chill wind.  The wood hadn’t changed much in a year, a few more of the dead ash trees blown down, and there were good signs of badgers at the main sett.  There were fresh spoil heaps at both the east and west ends, and one of the fallen trees was covered in claw marks where the badgers have obviously used it as a ‘play tree’.  Badgers do seem to love climbing on and over trees – perhaps they have some of the instincts of their pine marten cousins.

I climbed my usual tree (perhaps tree climbing is a universal mammal urge) and settled down to wait.  I’ve said it before, but it is rare to get time to just sit and think these days.  At 6.30 there was a movement in the undergrowth – not a badger, but a fox.  Foxes aren’t very common around here, certainly not so common as they were when I lived in London, and as long as they aren’t after my chickens I like to see them.  A few years ago a fox reared a litter of cubs in an unused part of the sett, but this fox (a dog fox) seemed to be just passing through.

fox

After another half hour, more sounds of stealthy movement.  This time it was a herd of fallow deer.  We have a few of these deer in the area – I used to see their tracks regularly, but again it isn’t common to see them.  There were six of them, three young and three older, and a mix of males and females judging by the antlers (or rather the antler buds).  I wonder if they were a family group, as they were all quite dark coloured.  Fallow deer can be any colour from dark brown through light brown with spots to white all over.  These were all the same dark colour.  They slowly grazed their way past, a couple of the males occasionally playing at butting antlers, despite not having any.

Fallow deer

And then, at 7.50, a badger emerged at the west end of the sett and sat down for a good scratch before wandering off.  By now it was getting too dark for photos (as well as a bit chilly).  I waited for another 20 minutes to see if any more came out, but none did.  Judging by the signs the east end of the sett is well occupied, so presumably they came out after I had left.

Badger

A pleasant evening all round.  I really shouldn’t wait another year before doing it again…

Read Full Post »

The adult badger in the rain

The adult badger in the rain

We have a standing joke in our house.  About four years ago my father-in-law kindly bought us an irrigation system for the garden – a very nice one, with a hose and individual little sprinklers.  Since then, every time we plan to install it, nature responds with prolonged rain that makes it entirely unnecessary.  The irrigation system sits unopened in the shed, and we joke that even to mention it will provoke an inevitable downpour.

The early spring was fine and warm, and we’re officially in a drought here.  But last week we talked about the irrigation system, with predictable consequences.  It’s been torrential rain all week.

Since my last badger watching trip in the rain (in which I vowed never to do it again) I’ve made some adjustments to my kit.  I’ve improved my waterproof camera cover and bought a lens hood to keep the rain off the front of the lens.  This means that I no longer need to shelter the camera under my coat.  I’ve even bought a new pair of waterproof trousers (from my local country and outdoor store, Rugged and Tough in Hockliffe – an Aladdin’s cave of quality clothing and accessories), which takes care of my bottom half.

All this is was useful, since by 7.00pm I was sitting in a tree under a heavy shower and with a cold wind blowing in my face, but pretty warm and dry.  I wasn’t expecting much from the badgers in this sort of weather, but I’ll take any chance to get out and get watching, especially since it’s the season for cubs to be emerging, if there are any.

The camera shy badger cub

The camera shy badger cub

As the church clock struck 8.00 and the light was fading, a badger popped up from the west end of the sett.  Aha!  So this end of the sett is occupied again.  A quick scratch and a visit to the latrine site, and at 8.15 it was joined by a second badger, this time a young cub.

This is good news, as the sett can do with a few more badgers.  The cub didn’t move far from the entrance to the hole, as I’d expect at this time of year, and it went back underground after 5 minutes or so.  It was a little camera shy and I couldn’t get a good picture of it, but it was good to see it.

Another badger came out from the east end of the sett at 8.30 and trotted busily around the undergrowth, but by this time the light was pretty much gone.  I’m glad I didn’t stick to my resolution of staying inside when it rains.  I don’t know if there are more cubs, or whether any new badgers have joined the sett, but at least I’ve seen the first cub of the year.

Read Full Post »

Parakeets

Parakeets in the Office Car Park

Well well.  Here we are on March 21st.  The Spring Equinox.  Hasn’t the year flown by?  It seems like only the other day that we had snow and ice, and now the days are longer, the trees are in bud and the Blackthorn is in flower.  It seems that spring has well and truly arrived.

I’m conscious that I haven’t been on here much lately.  There’s a few reasons for this, but they all boil down to the fact that I haven’t done much.  You see, I don’t do things just so I can write about them.  People sometimes say to me that they couldn’t write a blog because they don’t think they could do enough to fill it.  To me, this is putting it the wrong way round.  The blog is simply a diary, a record of what you’ve done, and I haven’t done much.

Partly it’s because I’ve been busy at work.  I’ve just returned from a business trip to Saudi Arabia, for instance (sandstorms, and absolutely no wildlife!) and work does otherwise take up a certain amount of time.  Partly it’s because of Mrs BWM’s shift patterns, since when she’s at work in the evenings then I need to stay at home parenting.  A lot of it is because young Scarlett is getting more independent-minded.  In the old days I could carry her around the fields and she’d be happy with that.  She’s now got to the age where she’s less easily impressed and she has the language skills to say ‘No Daddy, I don’t want to go out. I want to watch Thomas the Tank Engine’. Which she does.  A lot.  Although I still take her out (for educational purposes) we tend to spend more time at the playground, or feeding ducks, or other, more fun, places.

So what news is there?  Well, there was a dead badger on the road a couple of weeks ago, in the same place I saw the polecat a couple of years ago (see https://badgerwatcher.com/2010/06/27/a-very-much-alive-polecat/).  It isn’t safe to stop and look closely, but I haven’t seen a badger here before so it’s a new spot on the map.

And talking of badgers, I saw a badger on our road yesterday evening, at 7.31pm to be precise.  This is good, partly because I like the idea of a badger being on the same road as me, partly because I’ve waited ages to see it.  This is undoubtedly the badger that I regularly track in the field behind my house.  I feel I know it already, so it was good to finally meet in person.  If only I could entice it a couple of hundred yards into my garden…

Finally, I’ve added a new bird to my life list.  I work in an office in suburban Surrey, near Surbiton, which is actually more leafy and wooded than you might think.  It turns out that our office car park is home to a small flock of a dozen or so Parakeets.  Now the days are longer and I’m in the car park in daylight I’ve started to notice them.  Parakeets are a naturalised species across a lot of London, and some people complain about them because they can be quite noisy, but I quite like them.  They add a bit of colour to the office in more ways than one.  I was told that they are descendants of birds that escaped from Henry VIII’s menagerie at nearby Hampton Court.  Not sure if I believe that one, but they’re interesting enough all the same.

Read Full Post »

Finally, a Badger Sighting on my Road

There’s a badger sett near my house.  I don’t know where it is (although I have my suspicions) but I know it is there and I know it is near.

For some years now, I’ve been tracking a badger across the field behind my house, where at least one has a regular foraging route.  There have been a couple of dung pits here too.  And finally, there have been three dead badgers in a small patch just down the road over the past three years.  All of this points to an active sett in the near vicinity.

Finally, this morning, I caught sight of one of my local badgers.  As I started my drive to work at 6.00am, a badger was digging a snuffle hole on the verge by the road.  It was in exactly the same spot where the road casualties occurred, showing what creatures of habit they are.  I slowed down for a quick look – eye to eye a few feet away – and then I was past and on my way to work.

It’s nice to get another piece in the jigsaw of my badger map of the area.  I knew from the tracks and signs that I’d see a badger here eventually – it just took longer than expected.

Read Full Post »

Scarlett in the Field Behind My HouseOK, I haven’t done much for a while, I admit.  Mrs BWM has been working at the weekends (including a practice event for the Olympics – she’s a volunteer announcer and they were having a dry run) so I’ve been on parenting duty and confined to home except for the odd short walk.  I remember the good old days when Scarlett was little and she’d happily be carried for hours.  Not any more.

But this is still my diary, so I have a few things to note.  Firstly, I came across another dead badger on the main road.  I saw it this morning on my way to the shops, in almost exactly the same place as the road casualty of July 23rd.  On that occasion the dead badger vanished, causing me some confusion.  I looked closely at this one, to make sure that I wasn’t imagining it.  Good thing too, as by the time I came back an hour or so later, the badger had disappeared.  There must be a sett around here somewhere; and I can only imagine that, being a main road, the bodies get picked up pretty quickly.  I wonder how many road casualties occur that I don’t notice, even in our village?

While we’re on this morbid subject, we’ve had some trouble from a fox attacking chickens lately.  There are at least a couple of foxes locally – I see their tracks regularly – but not nearly so many as we had in London.  This is pheasant country, and there are rearing pens around the village.  The keepers are not fond of foxes.  Probably not fond of any other carnivores either, but certainly not foxes.  Incidentally, a couple of years ago a fox got into the penguin enclosure at the nearby safari park and wreaked terrible havoc among the young penguins.  Foxes were even less popular around here after that, I can tell you.

Anyway, our neighbour lost one chicken last week, killed in daylight.  A couple of days later, our own Mabel went the same way, a patch of feathers telling the story.  Poor Henrietta had a narrow squeak but escaped with cuts and bruises, only to fall victim on Friday.  So it’s RIP Mabel and Henrietta.  They’d had a good life – four and a half years – with no trouble.  They have a fox-proof house in which they sleep, but this is the first time we’ve had a fox in the daytime, hence their run is not fully protected (which takes either a 6-foot tall dug-in fence, or an electric one).

On the whole, I like foxes.  They are attractive, interesting to watch and great survivors.  They do what they do, not out of spite or malice, but to eat and live.  But I love them a little less after this.

Read Full Post »

OK.  So far, I haven’t much success with the badgers at the Hawthorn Sett.  I have yet to answer the fundamental question of how many badgers there are.  If I can find this out, I can see how it changes over the year to come. It’s part of my overall master plan to understand more about the badgers in the area, and how the different setts relate to each other.

But first things first.  I’d be happy at the moment just to see the badgers.

My last trip wasn’t very successful.  I spent an uncomfortable evening in a tree without seeing the badgers emerge.  I have an idea that the badgers are late to emerge here.  I decided the best way to test this idea would be to lay siege to the sett – to sit and wait until the badgers finally came out.

This evening I came prepared.  By 5.00pm I was sitting comfortably on an inflatable cushion (on the ground!), night vision scope ready on a tripod, flask of hot tea handy for morale purposes.  I was nicely downwind of the sett and well camouflaged.  It was textbook badger watching stuff.

Unfortunately, no badgers appeared.  I had a fallow deer stag walk past, it’s broad antlers silhouetted against the sky.  I see female fallow deer quite often, but stags only rarely.  But this was the highlight of the evening.  No badgers.  I watched and waited until a little after 8.00pm.  I had planned to stay later, but it was difficult to stay alert after watching and listening in the dark for three hours, straining eyes and ears for any signs of badgers, and the light and warmth of home were beckoning to me.  Badger watching in the dark months of winter obviously needs more dedication than the summer sessions that I’m used to.

So I still don’t have an answer to my question, and I still don’t know when these badgers come out.   But they should come out by 8.00pm, shouldn’t they?  Neal & Cheeseman report an average emergence time of c.5.45pm for early November, so for no badgers to show by 8.00pm is odd.  It’s obviously a badger sett (and I have seen a badger here before) otherwise I’d be doubting whether there are badgers at all.  I’ll maybe give it another try this year, or I may put this sett on the back burner until spring.  Perhaps in the meantime I’ll make a few trips in the daylight to get positive signs that the badgers are still in residence.

Read Full Post »

Road Casualty Badger

Well, Mrs BWM and Scarlett are still on holiday in Anglesey, braving the gales, but I’m back in Bedfordshire.  I’m here alone with just a somewhat neurotic cat for company.

Anyway, I have another badger road death to record.  I came across this one on the way to work this morning, in a wooded area to the south of the village.  I didn’t have time to look closely (especially not in my best suit), but it was a fully grown adult.

I’ve never seen any signs of badgers in this area before, but it’s a badgery sort of place – woods and fields and no houses.  My long-term plan of logging badger deaths in the area is meant to give me a record that I can refer back to and look for patterns, but it also helps to track badger setts too.  If my mapping of territories is correct, badgers around here control an area with a radius of 350-500m from their home sett.  This means that every time you see a dead badger on the road, there is probably a sett within 500m.  Makes you think, doesn’t it?

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »