Tag Archives: badger

Scrumping badgers: the proof

Last year my parents moved house, and I was delighted on my first visit to see badgers in garden several times. My suspicion was that they were scrumping the windfall apples. Sadly my camera trap let me down – the infrared light was broken, so I got lots of clips of darkness. Subsequent fleeting visits didn’t result in any badger footage either – maybe I put the camera in the wrong place, or maybe the badgers didn’t come on those nights.

A year later I returned, with a new and better camera trap, which I was able to leave in place for almost two weeks. Would I find definitive proof that the badgers were committing the crime of stealing the apples?

The camera trap triggered well over a hundred times those nights, so it took a while to sift through. There were plenty of clips of the neighbours’ cats out on the prowl, and quite a few of blackbirds.

There was also the footage I’d been hoping for: badgers. I don’t know how many individuals I recorded. There’s only ever one in frame at the same time, but it could be different ones in different clips. They seemed to visit for three nights in a row, and then disappear for a few nights, before showing up now and then.

And yes, I was able to confirm my suspicions: they were eating the windfalls.

My dad is highly indignant that badgers are stealing his apples, but given that he would have just left them on the lawn to rot, or have to move them to mow the lawn, I don’t think he’s got much of a case. If he wanted them himself, all he needs to do is pick them up before nightfall. It’s lovely to finally get pictures of badgers, in the wild, snuffling about.

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Another year in the Wild South

Today is the 2nd birthday of this blog, so to celebrate I’ve been back over my posts from the last year, and picked a couple of my favourites from each month. I quite enjoyed looking back – brought back lots of memories!

September 2014

Looking from St Agnes to the Gugh
Looking from St Agnes to the Gugh
  • Photo Special: Isles of Scilly – I had to choose this one, really, as not only do I quite like some of these photos, but, as it happens, I’m actually in the Isles of Scilly at the moment. It’s a beautiful place with excellent wildlife watching opportunities.
  • Hedgehog pawprints – I just love hedgehogs really.

October 2014

Diagram of how moles are adapted to life underground
Diagram of how moles are adapted to life underground
  • Scrumping badgers? – it’s so exciting seeing badgers (even if I didn’t get any photos)!
  • Moles: perfectly adapted – I’ve still never seen a mole in the wild (alive, at least), but you can’t help admire how suited they are to their subterranean lifestyle.

November 2014

Nut nibbled by a dormouse. Note the smooth inner surface of the hole, and the scratches outside the hole.
Nut nibbled by a dormouse. Note the smooth inner surface of the hole, and the scratches outside the hole.
  • Looking for Harvest Mice at an airport – this day of surveying for harvest mice at Gatwick airport was really memorable, even if we didn’t find any in the end. It’s fascinating to see what wildlife can exist even in the most unlikely places.
  • How to tell who’s been nibbling your nuts – some close-up photos of nuts nibbled by dormice and other mice, with guidance on how to distinguish between the two.

December 2014

New growth from beaver-coppiced willows on the River Otter
New growth from beaver-coppiced willows on the River Otter
  • Dormouse licence! – It took a long time to get enough experience with handling dormice to obtain my licence, so this was quite a significant milestone for me. This year I’ve enjoyed having my own site to survey.
  • On the trail of wild beavers – I’ve really enjoyed following the story of England’s first beavers in the wild for hundreds of years, and it was amazing to see signs of them when we were visiting the River Otter.

January 2015Grey squirrel

February 2015Skeletal hydrangea flower

March 2015

What you need to set up a footprint tunnel: tunnel, tracking plate, tasty food, masking tape, vegetable oil, black poster paint powder, something to mix the paint in, A4 paper, paper clips, tent pegs, footprint guide
What you need to set up a footprint tunnel: tunnel, tracking plate, tasty food, masking tape, vegetable oil, black poster paint powder, something to mix the paint in, A4 paper, paper clips, tent pegs, footprint guide

April 2015

Supporters of Christian charities call for action on climate change
Supporters of Christian aid agencies (and others) call for action on climate change
  • British Animal Challenge: March and April 2015 – a summary of my progress on seeing every species of British Animal
  • Church speaks and acts on climate change – While the new government seems to be implementing as many policies as possible to increase climate change (fracking, cutting subsidies to renewable energy, imposing the climate change levy on green electricity, the list goes on), it’s encouraging to see the church take a strong stance on this issue

May 2015

Summary of where the parties stand on some nature issues
Summary of where the parties stand on some nature issues
  • Election summary – I spent a couple of months during the election campaign trying to find out where the main British parties stood on various issues relating to nature, the environment and wildlife. I must say, I didn’t enjoy the process much – it was quite dispiriting. But this post summarised all that work.
  • In which I learn I need a new approach to seeing bats – another batty adventure.

June 2015

Torpid dormouse found on my box check in June
Torpid dormouse found on my box check in June

July 2015

Work in progress: my barn owl cross stitch
Can you tell what it is yet?
  • Too darn hot (or how to help wildlife during a heatwave) – I think the rather dull summer we’ve had might be my fault – I wrote this post during a hot period, and since then heat has not been a problem. But still, it’s good advice for if we do get another heat wave.
  • My barn owl project – this is a little different from the projects I usually write about on this blog, but I’m enjoying it, and making good progress.

August 2015

How my garden birds did in 2014-15 compared to previous years
How my garden birds did in 2014-15 compared to previous years

Plan to cull badger cubs shows the cull’s not about bovine TB

The Guardian reported this afternoon that next year’s badger cull will start earlier, in June or July, when badger cubs will be young and inexperienced. This means they will be easier to trap and kill than cubs later in the year. This will help the cullers achieve their target numbers of badgers killed, but will not help them reduce bovine TB.

For badger culling to reduce the incidence of bovine TB in cows, the scientific evidence shows that a large proportion of badgers need to be killed. So far, the cullers have missed their targets. On the face of it, starting earlier in the year, when cubs are easier to kill, may help them. But in reality it’s likely to have little impact on the spread of the disease for two reasons:

  1. Many cubs die in their first year anyway, so shooting them will have less effect on the badger population than killing the same number of older badgers.
  2. Cubs are less likely to be infected with TB than adults, so aren’t the badgers that are most likely to spread the disease to cattle.

This provides further evidence that the cull is not really about reducing bovine TB – at best it’s about looking like they’re trying to reduce bovine TB. I realise this makes me sound like one of the crazy conspiracy theorists that abound on the internet. But, as discussed in previous posts (The badger cull: an ‘evidence to policy’ perspective; Badgering pays off at last) the cull so far has shown no signs of meeting the conditions necessary to have an impact on the disease. To carry on with it in the face of evidence from the government’s own advisory panel saying it’s neither effective nor humane, hints at the politics behind the cull. To then introduce further measures that are likely to increase the numbers of badgers culled without reducing transmission is a very cynical ploy.

Bovine TB is a big problem. But it doesn’t justify an expensive, ineffective, inhumane cull that has already cost the tax payer millions, and has little chance of making a difference. The government and National Farmers Union need to look at other ways to tackle the problem, rather than ignore or distort the scientific evidence.

Scrumping badgers?

My parents have recently moved from south Devon to the Lizard peninsula deep in Cornwall. While, as a patriotic Devonian, I was a little sad I’ll no longer be able to visit them in that beautiful part of the country, I’ve been quite excited by the possibilities of a new territory. I didn’t even wait for them to unpack before coming for a visit.

My first day there I had a quick recce of the garden, to see what wildlife signs I could spot. Apart from the Rookery, there weren’t obvious signs of anything exciting. But night transforms things, so I set up my camera trap in a promising spot, and, once it was dark, headed out with my bat detector. Once again I picked up a species I couldn’t identify, and some more pipistrelles.

While we were out bat detecting, Dr C heard a snuffling sound, and, expecting to see a hedgehog, turned his torch onto the front lawn. In fact, it was a badger.

I haven’t seen a badger for years, so it was very exciting. We were only a few metres away, but it didn’t seem too concerned, and finished its snuffling before disappearing up the road. This made my day.

The next night we got back late, driving past a badger on the road, then spotting another under the apple tree in the back garden. The night after, coming back from the village, we disturbed 3 badgers, who dashed off from under the apple tree.

Sadly, despite all the sightings, I haven’t managed to get a photo of them. I had packed light and not brought my flash with me, and while they did trigger my trail camera, the infrared seems to have broken, as all the clips are black. This is very frustrating, but at least I have had good views of them.

It seems like badgers are regular visitors at the moment. I am not sure what they are eating there, as there are no signs of them digging up the lawn for leatherjackets, and the ground was dry, so it can’t be earthworms. Are they scrumping the windfall apples?

Britain’s most elusive creatures

Several newspapers were today featuring articles based on a survey of 2000 people on what wildlife they had seen. The survey was carried out for a new David Attenborough series, called Natural Curiosities. I haven’t been able to find a full report of the survey results, so am having to go from the press coverage. The results are a mixture of surprising and expected.otter

The focus of a lot of the coverage has been the ‘top ten most seldom seen creatures’:

  • Nightjar, seen by only 4% of respondents
  • Pine marten – 5%
  • Golden eagle – 9%
  • Stoats and weasels – 16%
  • Otters – 17%
  • Cuckoo – 22%
  • Slow worm – 25%
  • Adder – 29%
  • Raven – 30%
  • Kingfisher – 34%

Some of these I’m not at all surprised by. The top three are all rare, restricted in range to only a small part of the country, and in the case of pine martens and nightjars, hard to spot.

Others are a bit more puzzling. Take stoats and weasels. (I find it quite endearing that they’ve chosen to count this as a kind of composite species, like in Wind in the Willows).  These are not rare in Britain, with several hundred thousand of each species, and they can be found all over mainland Britain. They are nocturnal, but certainly not unusual. My glimpses of them have so far been mustelid shapes darting across country lanes.

What’s also interesting is the species that aren’t in the top ten. I find it very hard to believe that more people (34% apparently) have seen dormice than slow worms or adders. The two reptile species are spread much more widely across the country than the hazel dormouse, which is now almost exclusively found in the south. Both reptiles can be (almost literally) stumbled across when walking in the countryside or pottering in the garden. Whereas dormice are nocturnal creatures who live in trees – unless you’re actively looking for them, you’re unlikely ever to see one, even if you live in a wood (unless your cat is good at jumping). I can’t help suspecting that maybe some of the people who reported having seen dormice had actually seen other rodents, and didn’t really know what a dormouse looked like.

I’m a bit surprised wildcat isn’t somewhere near the top, although perhaps they didn’t ask about that.

More generally, some of our more common species had been seen by relatively few people. Only 39% had seen badgers, for example. Perhaps we, as a nation, just don’t spend much time in places where we’re likely to see wild animals.

I’ve seen 6 of the 10 on the list. In terms of my British Animal Challenge, it confirms that pine martens and otters are going to be a challenge. Luckily I’ve seen the other animals that come in the top ten.