13 January 2016

Nocturnal Visitor

Uh oh! I said on hearing noises at the front door at 10PM last night. Not again.

Having given two of them a fright a couple of times already in recent days (for their own good -- people are dangerous) and then somewhat regretted it, I went quietly to the door, switched on the light and looked out. A large animal seemed to want to come in. First, I could see only its back. Could it be a dog? No, of course not. After a moment I saw the unmistakable striped face of a badger. The light didn't bother him at all. He'd come to do a bit of badgering. Poke his nose in the letterbox, see if anyone was home.

I pulled the curtain aside to get a better look at him and he stood up and leaned against the door as if looking for the bell, just a little out of reach. Then he sat calmly and looked in my direction for a bit. I was convinced he'd come in if I opened the door and realized, as I looked at him, that he had the blackest nose I've seen on a badger in person -- as black as some I've seen only in photographs.

I knew I shouldn't let him in. It would be very bad for his character, and if he went to neighbours' houses it might not do him any good at all. Still, it was amusing to imagine the reaction anyway, at least up the point of having to suggest it was time to go back out into the cold. At this point he gave up and waddled off into the dark. I was glad not have had to frighten him off and hoped he'd soon get bored with the house. No such luck.

At 2AM he returned to the back of the house and made so much noise I thought he must be eating the house! I slipped out using my phone as a torch, my feet on the gravel signalling my approach--no ambush this time. He ran off into the wood, turning the light at back door, illuminating his ample rear as he disappeared. I discovered the next day that he'd eaten, or tried to eat, some insulating tape I'd used to waterproof a bit of corrugated plastic pipe attached to a drain pipe. The tape being ripped off was responsible for the unholy racket.

(The cat likes sellotape and will attack and eat any loose ends on packaging left unattended, but... badgernip?)

A New Home

Two days ago I found that an old unoccupied sett a couple of hundred metres away at the edge of the wood had been freshly re-excavated.

The night before last one of the Acorn cameras recorded a single photo of a badger there. I decided to put the Moultrie trailcam on the sett overnight, hoping that some of our badgers had moved here. Here's most of what was recorded (several clips merged; warning: there are a couple of bits of static which I'll try to remove later if I have time):

One of the boys, at least, plus the "three-legged" female (that is, the lady with the limp), were in residence. The sound isn't the best but the camera was close enough to pick up some noises I hadn't heard before: at one point the female makes some calls which resonate in the sett (listen carefully at 20s). The sound is very different from the yikking of badgers playing. Later there's some play-mating or dominance assertion, with the usual ear biting, by the male before they both leave -- for our end of the wood and who knows where else. And of course the badgers musk each other.

None were recorded returning to the sett, possibly because the Moultrie has a 5 second trigger time. An Acorn trailcam on the path to the sett photographed the female passing in a homeward direction at about 03:40.

No badgers entered or left "our" sett overnight as far as I could tell. The cameras are less than perfectly reliable however. Some straw left out for bedding was moved into the sett entrance but this action wasn't recorded.

We may still have a sleeping female underground or she may have abandoned her temporary home already. Two, probably the two in the video above, showed up at one point in another video, horse-playing near the sett, while another (off camera) turned on a light on the house in the background, so there were at least three around simultaneously.

On one hand, it's sad to see the badgers take off and set up a new home so quickly, though it may just be a temporary abode until they find somewhere better. On the other, it's great that we know where at least some of them have gone, and that they're visiting. The woods around us are full of signs of badger exploration.