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Badgers and Buzzards

I was very lucky to be invited to attend a local badger survey recently, not too far from home in the Scottish Highlands.

Surveys are carried out frequently to ensure the safety of the badgers and their homes (setts) this is to ensure they aren’t obstructed or destroyed, also to ensure badger baiting becomes a thing of the past. Badgers are protected, anyone found tampering or destroying their setts could find themselves in court, along with a hefty fine or imprisonment.

It was amazing; Approximately 8 of us met at around 4pm before heading to the survey site. We arrived at the site firstly looking for signs of badgers in the area. Badger tracks are easily identifiable as they have a low profile meaning their tummy’s will spread the vegetation, showing a pathway they travel on. A badger will typically have set routes they travel, not necessarily the same route each time, this can make it relatively easy to see their tracks.

It wasn’t long before we found tracks, following them we discovered some holes, not all holes are used for entering and exiting the sett; some of the holes are air holes to give ventilation. Lots of holes doesn’t always equate to lots of badgers. Some older badgers may not live in the main sett, they may live in an outlying sett as well as some being old and disused.

Badgers are clean animals, they don’t take food into the sett and change their bedding regularly, this can quite often be seen outside a hole. Badgers will dig a latrine (toilet) away from the set, to further ensure it stays clean inside. Should a badger need the toilet whilst out and about, they will again dig a hole. Badger poo has quite a musky smell to it.

Badgers are typically a nocturnal animal, with poor eyesight, but excellent sense of smell. They use their nose to snuffle for food foraging for slugs, earthworms, grubs, insects, using their sharp claws, they will also top up on berries, cereal, bulbs and tubas, it really depends on what is available.

Badgers visit close to our house, on darker evenings we would see them regularly, however now with the lighter nights and bright mornings we rely on our trail cameras, which we’ve found amazing! These badgers do get a treat, we leave nuts, apples and a small amount of diced cheese, which all seems to be well received!!! We find lots of snuffle holes.

Badgers don’t hibernate in the winter; they go into a slow state known as torpor. Badgers help with seed dispersal, as they ingest seeds through their diet, which comes out in their faeces. This natural process contributes to the development and evolution of natural woodland being dispersed across their territories. Badger setts sometimes provide a refuge for other wildlife, Pine Marten, Foxes, Rabbits, Mice and Voles can co-exist in harmony. Never approach a badger as they would see this as a threat and they have very sharp teeth and claws, if they hear you they will usually run away, even though they only have short legs they can certainly run quickly.

Whilst we were out on our survey a member of the group noticed a very large nest in the distance. Thankfully I had my Zeiss Victory SF’s with me giving a clear view of the nest but we couldn’t see any activity in the nest. We continued to walk through the woodland and could hear Buzzard calling. We spotted it overhead and the bigger female wasn’t far away perched on the branch of a tree. Time to move on and continue with the survey. Another member of the group said ”what’s this?” A dead animal hanging from a branch, a look about found numerous discarded bones and wings of birds, we looked up to see the Buzzard nest directly above us. This was clearly the bits they couldn’t eat, we moved on so as not to disturb them.

To say I had a great couple of hours meeting some lovely like-minded people is an understatement. A big thank you to Jill at Moray Badger group for organising, I look forward to the next one and completing the level one badger-surveying course.

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