THE MARSHLAND BADGERS: My first badger encounter (17th May 2014)

A couple of months ago, my Mum and I took a visit to a nature reserve in Staffordshire. During our visit we spotted plenty of signs of an active badger sett. (please see post titled ‘Finding a badger sett’ in February 2014 to see photos of the badger sett)

On Saturday it was a lovely warm evening, and after our success in spotting a tawny owl, we decided to make our way to the nature reserve in hope of seeing a badger. A badger encounter would be another first for me.

We arrived at the reserve at 7.30pm while it was still light. Again, we saw fresh signs of badger activity at several badger setts. This time though, there was a lot more foliage making it more difficult to spot the badgers if they did make an appearance.

I set up my camera trap on a tree next to a badger sett. This way, if I didn’t manage to get a photograph, hopefully the camera trap would capture some footage.

My Dad sat on a bench on the path with my Mum, and I positioned myself further up a bank in the crevice of a tree near to a barb wire fence. I had seen badger fur on this barbed wire fence so felt confident this was a pathway for the badgers. I was wearing a very neutral coloured waterproof jacket so blended in quite well with the tree trunk.

Waiting for wildlife certainly requires a lot of patience. We waited for over an hour in silence. During that time, I spotted voles scurrying around in the dead leaves below me, the call of a cuckoo, and the eery cries of an owl.

Then I heard the definite sound of snuffling. As always, when there is the chance of seeing wildlife I have never seen before, I get a sudden huge rush of adrenalin pulsing through my body which somehow freezes me to the spot. I had to look twice when a young badger appeared through the dead leaves near to the barbed wire fence. I was in total awe. He was totally unaware of my presence at first, busily snuffling through the leaves in search of grubs. Then he spotted me. Our eyes locked for a few seconds. And then he turned and scurried away, grunting as he went. I didn’t manage to get a photograph, it all seemed to happen so quickly and I was worried that any movement may have scared him away sooner. But just having the encounter was enough for me that night. It was magical.

I see wildlife on TV and in books all the time, but until you actual see it for yourself in the flesh, only then do you understand how magical it is.

Then, a few minutes later, I heard more snuffling in the dead leaves further down the bank. I looked down at my Mum and Dad and gestured to them that I had heard something heading towards them through the leaves. Unfortunately I couldn’t see this badger from where I was sitting, but I could see a look of absolute amazement on my Mum and Dads faces, and that in itself was rewarding for me. After all, this was also their first encounter of a badger.

We decided to call it a night at about 9.30pm as it was going extremely dark in the woods very quickly. Me and my Dad walked back to one of the setts to collect my camera. That is when we heard the loud grunting and snuffling of a badger near to the sett. He spotted us and quickly scurried off into his sett, poking his head out for one last look at us before disappearing again.

Walking back to the car we were all buzzing, telling each other our own tales of badger encounters from where we were sitting. We couldn’t wait to get back home to see if the trail camera had captured any badger footage. Watching the videos which had only captured trees blowing in the breeze, we finally came to a video of a badger at the sett! Result! It was certainly worth setting up the camera trap as a back up.

The footage shows the badger leaving the sett and sniffing the branch of a tree. My Dad and I had brushed past this branch when setting up the camera trap so perhaps he could smell our scent on the tree.


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