We are very lucky to have an active local Badger Group in our area, Binfield Badger Group, and even more lucky that they look after an area of land with a badger sett on it. In fact, this is the whole reason for the group’s existence, as the badger sett was saved from development and from builders pouring diesel into the sett, by the action of a group of local residents working together to save the sett, which had existed in the woodlands for hundreds of years. All this happened back in 1985, but the group, and the badgers, are still going strong.
Over the past few years we’ve been to most of the group’s interesting meetings and have also taken part in “copse maintenance days” where the lawns are kept clear of encroaching vegetation so the badgers have room to forage, and in May we re erected a fence that had fallen and was blocking one of the wildlife corridors leading from the area where the sett is located, through the housing estate and into the wider world beyond to link the badgers to other areas of green space.
After all this time we’d still never been to see the badgers in the flesh, although have kept up with their antics on the group’s website and facebook page. This National Badger Week, it was time for that to change. As it was getting dark this evening we headed over to the sett, picked up the keys for the area and the badger watching hide from the group’s chairman and settled in for a watch. We’d taken treats for the badgers, peanut butter sandwiches and peanuts, which were supplemented with some more treats, including eggs, from the chairman. These had been scattered in front of the hide.
We sat and waited, nervous and excited with anticipation building. The darkness crept in slowly and in the last of the daylight a deer crept into the clearing in front of us. A muntjac deer, tawny coloured and beautiful. Louder than I would have imagined, quiet on its feet but sniffing the air audibly, gobbling up the nuts from the ground, aware it seemed, of our presence in the hide, stopping every few steps and looking in our direction but continuing to browse the ground. Suddenly startled, human noise, a noisy car somewhere close by, the deer fled.
Back to watching, waiting, the colour seeping out of the world, black, white and grey as our eyes tried to see in the darkness. Scuffles could be heard from the trees, then on the edge of the copse, a badger appeared, white stripes clear in the darkness, nervous, halting, turning and rushing away. The merest glimpse, but a badger all the same!
Then, back in the clearing, the muntjac returned, braver it seemed than the badgers, calmer this time, no halting and looking at us, relaxed and eating before heading into the trees. The night quietened, tawny owls hooted in the trees, we both jumped at a loud barking noise, unearthly against the quiet of the wood, the muntjac somewhere in the woods asserting their presence.
Again at the edge of the clearing a badger appeared, sniffing, but not coming out onto the lawn, rejecting the food laid out for it. We stayed longer, hoping for a return, and could hear snuffles and scratching in the wood, but no badgers came back. At around half past midnight, finding it hard to stay unaccustomedly still after three hours, we headed home, hoping that the badgers would enjoy their picnic once we were gone.
It was amazing to see the muntjac so close and the badgers too, we’ll be back in the hope of a closer look soon. It’s fabulous to have this little patch of wildness in the centre of a housing estate so close to home.
No pictures tonight I’m afraid, we were paying attention and it was too dark to make them worthwhile in any case.