Our badgers are rebels. Or perhaps they have not been reading the right books. Whatever it is, I am thrilled. Our badgers tolerate me. I have interacted with badgers in ways that, in March, I didn’t think would be possible. In this year so far I have spent more time with badgers than I have in my entire life before, many times over. It’s magic!
The first time I saw the badgers, I was with Mark, and I wrote about how it wasn’t exactly an orthodox badger watching experience (May 15). Things haven’t become more typical. At first we tried to do the traditional badger watch by getting to the wood before the badgers were out of their sett. On one occasion we took the three children who where at home, on another, I took Joe by himself. I took Peta by herself for a badger project she did for school. On no occasion did the badger watch go by the book. When we took Peta, Melody and Amos together, the badgers had beaten us to it – they were already up. They let us sit down and watch as the babies played closer and closer. Admittedly, they ran (all seven of them) down the sett, like water sucking down a plughole, when totally out of the blue, Melody punched Amos and he let out a blood curdling shriek. But, while Mark and I were still wondering incredulously why our normally amiable youngest pair had chosen this moment to fall out – apparently Amos had taken something Melody had been looking at – the badgers came out again. They knew we were there, but they were prepared to put up with us. (Just as a point of interest, I would never recommend scaring badgers, but the noise and action after Amos’ outburst, as seven of them hurtled past us into the sett, was unforgettable.)
When I took Joe and Peta alone, we managed to arrive at the sett before the badgers were up. We saw the badgers come out above ground, but on both visits, it was what happened on the way home that was more special. Both times we bumped into badgers. They regarded Joe and I with passing interest, then wandered off, but when I saw them with Peta, they didn’t even bother. A quick sniff of the air and they were back to their foraging. Peta and I watched for a long time as the badgers looked for food just metres from us. It’s so exciting, standing in the woods in the dusk, watching these special creatures go about their lives.
Then there was the morning I went up the woods to write. It was 9:50 and I heard a rustling noise in the leaves just above basecamp. I stood still to see what it could be, and as I stood there, a badger came down the slope through the trees. I followed it as it came closer to our metal shed. It passed behind a thick tree. I took the opportunity to creep up on it behind the trunk and waited, but the badger didn’t pass back into view again. After a while I became curious. I looked round the tree and could see it hunched, back towards me, head hidden. It must be sorting it’s latrine – I felt I was invading the badgers privacy and averted my eyes. It was taking forever. Perhaps it was asleep? I crept round the tree a little way. I could see its sides moving up and down as it breathed. Was it ill? I moved a little closer and began to hear strange slurping noises. Then it pulled its head up out of the disused pipe I had forgotten existed. The badger had not had it’s back to me, it had been tipped up, neck extended as far as it could manage down the pipe, trying to reach the water at the bottom. Since then, we have left a more accessible source of water for the badgers in this dry weather.
After encountering a badger in broad daylight in the middle of the morning, I began looking out for badgers when I wasn’t expecting to see them. As a result, our badger watching practises are completely different these days. At the moment, the badgers are up before 7PM. Instead of waiting for them at the sett, we just walk quietly round the woods. The floor of the woods is so dry, we can hear the badgers foraging before we see them. When we see them, we stand and watch. The children can find their own badgers to follow. How amazing it that? And we have been able to show others, something I find particularly rewarding; I know how inspiring it can be to see a badger for the first time…