WatchingIntroduction - Badger Watching can be immensely satisfying on a good night, even when badgers don't appear just being out in the woods can be very exciting, you`ve the anticipation of a really good watch and whilst waiting it's rarely dull. A rustle in the leaves can produce some wonderful moments maybe a wood mouse, skipping around oblivious to your presence, the fast trotting sound of a distant fox scurrying about his business. As dusk falls, the rooks and crows can be deafening in their calls and squabbles. Time for the night creatures to slowly take their place in the arena. Hark! a Tawny owl , a Fox barking, and if your lucky a couple of roe deer gallop through like a herd of elephant's, strange how noisy these can be at night. It's never silent for very long, if you are quiet the woodland becomes filled with all kinds of sounds and life.
|The best way to begin watching badgers
for the first time, is without doubt to be taken out by somebody who has
watched them before. Try contacting a local badger group, or take one of
the many badger watching short breaks available such as College
Barn Farm. The main advantages of local groups is that they will
know where the best setts are, and which setts are currently active. They
will also be able to show you how best to approach a sett and where to watch
from depending on the time of year, wind and weather conditions. You will
also learn from them how to identify active setts, paths used and become
at ease in the presence of badgers.
Finding a sett: If there's not a local group or you feel like going it alone then the first step is to find an active sett, unless your lucky enough to have Badgers visiting your garden many people do but don`t realize it.
|To locate an active sett you will need to do some daytime walking, likely sett locations are in or on the edge of woodland more often then not in some sort of bank or hillside etc. Try looking for badger paths "what are badger paths" I hear you say, well that`s not an easy one at first but I`ll try to explain. The paths are often wider then you might think, about 12 inches or so, they twist and turn with the grade of the land and will lead to, or from holes which are the sett entrances. These can be anything up to 20 inches in diameter. The paths are normally very well trodden and worn, almost as a human path would look except they tend to disappear into the undergrowth or under wire fences.Once you've located a sett try not to wander around the sett entrances at anytime as your scent will linger for days and can cause the badgers to use other setts or be very nervous to emerge. Never interfere with the sett in anyway (see law). Visit the area a few times in daylight, so you know your way around. Look for signs that the badgers are active in the sett you've discovered, there are many unoccupied setts about and you don't want to spend time and effort watching an empty sett, it's just plain boring.|
|To check that the sett is in fact occupied look to see if the paths leading to and from the sett are clear ie: not covered with leaves, plant growth etc. you can also try and pay a visit after a wet night and look for badger prints in and around the sett area, a good place to spot these is where the paths enter fields or grassland.First watch: Once you are happy you've found an active sett and have become comfortable with the layout of the land in daylight it's time to attempt your first watch. Plan to arrive at the sett a good half hour before dusk, in summer make this an hour as badgers often appear before dusk. Check wind direction, you should approach downwind if possible and try to view the sett with the wind in your face remember that badgers have a great sense of smell and your scent will drift a considerable way. Don't forget to wear warm dark clothing even in the summer months, sitting still in the open can and indeed does get very cold. Make sure you've remembered to take a good torch with replacement batteries with you as woods can look a lot different in the dark but over time you will learn a certain amount of night vision, until then best be prepared.|
|Once you have reached your chosen
viewing spot, get yourself in a comfortable position maybe take a fishing
stool, settle down and wait, try not to make any noise and most important
of all don`t move your feet around unnecessarily, the tunnels may run close
to where your waiting and any movement you make above ground is sure to
be heard below, therefore this will delay or even stop the badgers emerging.
|For the first few watches be satisfied to just glimpse the badger, give yourself time to note the direction they appear from and their movements. This will be of great benefit to you in predicting the time and place of emergence, their numbers and where best to watch from the next time. Sit well back from the sett entrances and quietly wait, watch and most of all listen. You can often hear the badgers coughing snorting and a sort of noisy wet mouthed munching as they pick their way through the undergrowth. Once your sure that your presence has not disturbed them from where you've been watching, it`s time to move a little closer, but remember if you try to get too close too quickly you may find the next time you visit they just won`t come out to play.|
|You will find that regular visits (once a week) will pay real dividends the badgers over time will become tolerant of your presence and come very close indeed, I`ve been in situations where there have been eight badgers almost in touching distance.|
|Photography: If you wish to film or take pictures of badgers give them time to get use to having you around, they don't seem to mind lights or indeed flashguns, but the noise of the camera will send them running for home. So if you are going to take pictures let them settle first and be prepared that the first picture you take may very well put paid to any further watching that night. So use the camera sparingly.|
|Video is a little easier once you know their routines, you can set yourself up with a good video light, and film them for quite long periods of time providing you are downwind, quiet, and spend time letting the badgers trust your presence.|
|If you want the badgers to stay
in an area for a while try feeding them. Peanuts are always good but NOT
the salted kind, just the plain red skin types. Raisins are also very good.
Always try and spread the food around before dark. Try and leave some food
after you have left the area, by doing this the badgers will visit the area
more regularly, and being able to feed without disturbance will make them
feel much more comfortable when you are there.
Summary: The best time to see badgers is late summer to early autumn although they are around the whole year, but this time of year it`s dry, and the worms are not so easy for the badgers to find, therefore your food offering not only comes as a welcome food source but you have a good chance of seeing badgers before dark, plus an added bonus is that it's warm. Watch out for the hungry insects though, wear long sleeves and thick socks. Also you will find while filming with a good light the insects will fly around the light beam and with luck you will have a great display of hungry bats while you wait.