Surveying for badgers in West Berkshire

Sunday morning and we were up and out, heading for Berks, Bucks and Oxon’s Nature Discovery Centre in West Berkshire, to meet up with other members of our local Badger Group, to check whether badger sett records held by the group were accurate. We were off on a badger hunt!

Arriving early, we meandered around the lake, spotting common terns on nesting rafts, ducks and geese, many with fluffy youngsters, bees buzzed, collecting nectar and pollen, butterflies flitted passed, it was a beautiful day.

We gathered together with other badger group members, checking maps and records of badger setts in the area, before heading off to check the first sett record, of an outlying single hole sett. We were unable to find any evidence of badgers here; perhaps the sett had only been used briefly. A quick lesson on badger footprints was given as we passed the first damp spot on the path, no badger footprints here, but now we all knew what to look for.

Walking on we passed over the river and along the pretty canal. On the base of a barbed wire fence we found our first definite evidence of badgers, badger hairs caught in the wire. Some places where sett records had been previously recorded were too overgrown with nettles and other undergrowth at this time of year to be able to definitively check.

One record was for a main sett, recorded as having 27 holes back in 2008. We split, checking either side of the hedgerow. On the side of the hedge I was one, we found ten or more holes, all overgrown and no longer in use. Heading back round to the other side of the hedgerow, we found that they had more luck, in the hedge active badger holes were found, badger poo too, confirming that this sett was still very much alive and kicking.

As we explored we came across orchids, a tiger moth, calves grazing, bees buzzing, a stunning red beetle and a beautiful family of Canada geese.

After checking one more area, no definite signs of badger, but possible pathways, we headed back to the centre for a drink and a chat. On the island a sand martin nesting box was in use, small birds zooming in and out, busy looking after their young.

There are plenty more sett records to check across Berkshire, so this will become a regular monthly activity, checking to see whether setts are still active so that the records held by the group are accurate. These can then be used to help protect badgers from inappropriate development, feeding into objections to planning applications and to locate where roadkill badgers may have come from, particularly if a lactating female badger, who may have left vulnerable cubs behind, is found dead.

A great way to get outside, enjoy the countryside and do something great for nature at the same time.


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