Monday, April 14, 2008

Badger Cubs!

What a fantastic badger watch I had on Saturday night. I was using the new badger watching chair, which used to be the deer shooting chair years ago, so my view was excellent being able to watch individuals move from one area to the next without losing sight of them. The elevated position also makes you feel less vulnerable and exposed and judging by the behaviour of the badgers reduces disturbance.
Initially, a single adult emerged, had a long scratch and shake as usual and then marched of with great purpose along one of the now very obvious badger paths. At this time of year, as the ground flora increases, badger paths stand out a lot more than other times. After a prolonged wait, it was magical to watch four lovely cubs playing and chasing each other relentlessly around the sett entrances. I didn't see them emerge, they were just there all of a sudden, noisy and very active. Two other adults then emerged and played with the cubs before moving away for some mutual grooming. Finally, it appeared that the dominant boar came on the scene. He immediately sat on top of the cubs, sometimes two at a time. This is dominant behaviour and serves to rub scent over the cubs to remind them of who is boss.
As it got darker, I used a high power lamp with a red filter attached and was very pleased when the badgers did not even flinch at the light. It gives fantastic viewing opportunities and I managed to watch for over 40 minutes. Although, there were cubs last year, these are the first brood to be born under my stewardship and I feel both honoured and very protective towards them. With the bad news that a cull is to take place in Wales I am concerned for badgers, they have suffered centuries of persecution and although it is clear that they carry bovine TB it appears that the spread of bovine TB is caused by the movements of cattle from herd to herd throughout their lifetime and that badger culling actually leads to an increase in TB.
On a brighter note, during the watch there were at least 3 tawny owls calling, males and females and as I left the eerie but very welcome sound of the barn owl screeching repeatedly from the field near the box. I can only pray that he has a mate and that full courtship is under way.

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