Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘bedding’

If you read my last post you’ll know that I’m being unfaithful to ‘my’ badgers and investigating the neighboring sett – the Pine Tree sett.  This sett seems to have three main holes spread widely apart.  Last night I watched the southernmost hole without a sign of any badgers.  Tonight I decided to have a look at the northern hole.

This hole is at the bottom of short but steep bank, about 8′ high.  Because of the wind direction I elected to lie in the grass on the top of the bank and peer over the edge, with the wind blowing directly up the bank towards me.  To begin with this was quite a luxury – badger watching while lying in grass, instead of sitting on a thin tree branch or in a patch of nettles.  After an hour of lying motionless though I had pins and needles in my legs and the blood was pooling uncomfortably in my head.  And I do this for fun?

At 8.35pm the stripey head of a badger popped out of the hole.  Success!  So there are badgers here after all!  A few seconds later it popped back down again.

I was sure it hadn’t scented me, as I’d been very careful to take the long way round when I walked in so the sett was always upwind.  I was also pretty sure it hadn’t spotted me, partly because I was fully camouflaged and hidden behind the grass, but mostly because a badger that sees something suspicious will usually try and sniff the air to make sure, and this one just disappeared.  There was nothing for it but to wait and see.

About 10 minutes later the badger reappeared, and to my horror it started climbing the bank towards me.  Another few feet, I thought to myself, and you’re going to get a surprise!  Luckily the badger wasn’t climbing to the top of the bank.  It was gathering grass for bedding, pulling it out with its mouth and shuffling back to the sett once it had got a reasonable load.  I always enjoy watching badgers doing this, there’s something strangely endearing about it.

Here’s a brief video of the badger:

The badger made three bedding trips in all and then stayed underground, no doubt arranging things in its chamber.  I decided not to push my luck and sneaked off.  It had been a great close-up view, but I didn’t want to spoil things on my first visit to the sett.

As ever, questions remain.  I only saw one badger.  Are there more in this part of the sett?  Is it just a solitary bachelor in residence?  Why are the holes in this sett so far apart?  How do the badgers from each hole interact?   The paths between the holes suggest that they do, but the behaviour seems very different from the communal get-togethers I’ve observed at the other sett.

I shall do what I always do – go back to the textbooks and keep watching!

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

A skylark was singing over the fields as I walked up to the wood, and a cuckoo ‘cuckoo’d’ as I walked back, so I suppose it must be nearly summer, but with a chill wind and towering black clouds it felt more like February than late May.

But I shouldn’t complain about the wind. A good breeze is the badger watcher’s friend. Badgers see only poorly, and their hearing isn’t great, but their sense of smell is something like 800 times more sensitive than ours (sounds like the beginnings of a bad joke – “how does a badger smell? – terrible!”). If they catch a sniff of human scent in the air they’ll be back in the sett before you know it. Providing you’re sat in the right place, a nice breeze carries your scent up and away from the sett, and the badgers will hardly suspect you’re there.

The badgers emerged from the sett a few minutes after 8.00pm. There are five cubs at the sett this year; one litter of two and another of three. When they first came out into the open in late April they were very unsteady, never venturing very far from the sett entrance. Now they are like boisterous children, much to the exasperation of their parents, and spend their whole time chasing each other around and play fighting.

The play fighting looks quite vicious at first sight, with cubs wrestling and rolling over each other, trying to get a playful bite. They don’t seem to do each other any harm though, and the atmosphere is definitely light-hearted. I suppose the thick fur prevents their teeth from really making contact. Occasionally one will give another a harder nip than usual, causing a sharp ‘yip’ cry, but this is not frequent. The adults usually try and keep a respectful distance , but at times even they get drawn into the fun and play along with the cubs.

Life at the sett goes on as normal though, even with a gang of rowdy kids running around. One of the adult sows was busy collecting bedding. It is usually said that badgers prefer dried grass or bracken as bedding, and this may be true in autumn and winter, but at this time of year they seem to favour greenstuff. This may be due to convenience, as the whole area around the sett is carpeted in a thick layer of foliage (bluebells and ground elder mostly) so the badgers do not have to go far to collect a good bundle.

To see a badger grabbing a ball of bedding in its forepaws and shuffling backwards with it towards the sett is one of the classic sights of badger watching. Sometimes they seem very preoccupied with the task and oblivious to the world around them, whilst at other times they’ll stop every now and then and sniff the air, perhaps self-conscious about being spotted in such an ungainly pose.

Lately, I’ve been trying to take both video and still pictures at the sett, partly to prove to my wife that I really am watching badgers and that there is no sinister reason behind me creeping out of the house in the evenings wearing camouflage clothing, but mostly to try to identify individual badgers and to start to analyse behaviour. I’ll write more about this subject at some point, but if you want to see some of the events of the evening, here are the videos on YouTube.

I watched for a while and then left shortly before 9.00pm. The badgers were all still active as I moved carefully away. These kids have far too much energy…

Read Full Post »