Scottish Badger Week 2020 - Day 2 Watching Badgers
With the longer days and vegetation still short, now is the perfect time to spot badgers during the evenings if you’re lucky enough to live near them. Some people are luckier than others and get to regularly see our striped friends. Scottish Badgers Trustee Allan Bantick and Honorary Manager of Strathspey Badger Hide in Boat of Garten has written a guest blog over on the Scottish Wildlife Trust website about his experiences over the decades.
Trustee and all round badger enthusiast Ann Innes has written a short piece on some badger watching her and another volunteer were involved with last summer:
A Summer of Badger Watching
A report of a dead female badger in spring is always a worry, as if she is lactating then it means that somewhere around there are orphaned cubs. It was a report of exactly that that led to a summer of badger watching for a small number of Scottish Badgers members, including myself, in the local area.
These volunteers, aided by people with local knowledge located the likely sett that the female had come from. It was in quite a tricky location - access from one side of the sett was not possible, and on the other side there was a 10ft wide burn with deep silt on the bottom. The sett was located on the steep embankment of this. Luckily it was possible (with a 10 min walk) to get opposite the sett, on the other side of the burn. As there was another embankment behind us this meant that our outlines were obscured against the hill behind, making it hard for any badgers (who have poor eyesight anyway) to see us. Also because of the geography of the area our location mean we were rarely upwind of the sett, keeping our scent away from badger’s keen noses. Shifts were set up during the day to watch the sett in case hungry cubs made an appearance, and a trail camera was set up to keep an eye on activity at night. A cub had actually been spotted while on the first trip to locate the sett, so we knew there was at least one, but we had no idea if there were others, or if there were any other adults. If there were other adults in the sett the best option would be to leave the cubs alone as the time of year meant that they would not be solely reliant on milk and would continue to learn other foraging behaviours from any other adults around. Over the next couple of days we watched, and although we were concerned about the situation we discovered over the next couple of days that there were not two cubs as we had originally thought, but three. After a worrying time thinking there were no adults present, one finally appeared, meaning that the rescue operation we had thought likely could be called off. The cubs were foraging well and had an adult around who they would continue to learn from.
With the immediate worry for the cubs gone we realised we were incredibly lucky. The location of the sett meant that we could get really good views, without needing to be as close as some of the other sites we visit. A few of us are keen amateur nature photographers and we were able to get some beautiful shots (using long lenses) of the clan members over the next few weeks, taking advantage of the long daylight hours. Eventually the thing that curtailed visits was the height of the forest of ferns we had to wade through to get to the location. By the time they got to head height it was all getting a bit silly! But that’s the magical draw of badger-watching – once you’ve watched as a badger tentatively sticks their nose out of the sett entrance and sniffs the air, startlingly white stripes looking strangely unreal, it’s hard not to be hooked. Many of us have become midge buffets, ignoring bites so as not to move a muscle and disturb the magical creatures we so often sadly only ever see dead at the side of roads.
We have advice for anyone who wants to watch badgers themselves and best practice guidance to photograph badgers. Please do have a read of these to get acquainted with the do's and don'ts to keep both yourself, and our badgers safe. Remember - Watch from a distance, and do not try to engage them!