Category Archives: Badgers

Badgers Back to Back

I’m so excited, because it’s trailcam season again! After a mental newt season followed  by a hectic bat season, the early sunsets mean that not only can I sleep more than 4 hours a night, but my attention can turn to one of our most enigmatic animals – badgers. I’ve only had the trailcams out for a week so far, but already have captured some awesome footage, and have plans to find out just where they’re going and what they’re doing in the long autumn and winter nights. However, as for this week’s footage, in spite of some technical hitches (One camera failed completely and the other wouldn’t format – but I’m hoping that tech support can fix it.) we had some great footage and made some interesting notes…

The video above shows some cool behaviour – basically tussling about, a bit of biting here and there. (You can see this on and off all the way through, but it doesn’t seem to be outright aggression as they soon revert to mutual grooming.) Fighting is more often between females, and can be done for social dominance reasons, territorial disputes or associated with mating. Also keep an eye out in the video above for what the books call ‘bum-pressing’ – basically anointing each other with their scent glands – they lift their tail and rub their bums on each other in order to ensure that all of the members of the sett share their particular cocktail of scents! (Don’t try this at home!)

Another great bit of behaviour we caught was the changing of bedding. Usually done by less dominant females and dominant males, the badgers pull out old bedding from the sett (which you can see in the video below – watch for bums wiggling backwards out of the sett entrance!) and then collection of bedding to bring back to the sett. The badgers do this by dragging a bundle of bedding in their front legs as they walk backwards to the sett entrance. It’s a really cool thing to have caught on camera.

The interesting thing is that none of the aggressive behaviour took place on nights where bedding was being changed. They seem to be in full ‘cooperation mode’ when work needs doing. You can also see grooming and scratching behaviour in the video below. They do a lot of self-grooming, but also do it for each other too.

We have recorded four badgers at any one time on camera, but we know that there is a 5th badger, not seen interacting with the others, but that also uses the sett. He’s easy to spot because he only has one eye:

oe1 oe2

Watch this space for more badgery goodness!

Here be Badgers

For the first time in 2016, last night I set out my trail cameras near the Hogsmeade badger sett. It appeared that over the last few weeks there had been some activity digging out sett entrances and whatnot. My mate Scott and I had recently discovered a scratching post near the sett and were keen to see if we could capture some of this activity on film.

Scratching posts are often found near sett entrances and there is some debate about the reason that badgers seem to relish scratching at old (usually Elder) trees – perhaps to stretch, to clean their claws, or event to sharpen them. You can find them by looking for deep, vertical scratches on trees near the sett, with the scratches reaching perhaps a metre (3 feet or so) up the tree, and running sometimes down to the ground.

Many years ago, when I first went on a badger survey course, I was told that these trees are called ‘Totem Trees’ and I have always called them that since. However, I can’t seem to find any reference to that on the internet, so perhaps it was a term colloquial to the badger group in Suffolk at the time that I was learning.

Other signs of badger activity include their trademark footprints – a kidney-bean shaped pad of the foot, with 5 little toes lined up above the ‘bean’. This will be with (front foot) or without (hind foot) long claws (there is a gap between the toe pad and the claw because they are so long!). The whole combination gives the impression that tiny little bears have been running around! The photos of prints in this post were taken when my friend Helen and I went to collect in the camera traps this morning, so clearly there was some activity last night. Near sett entrances and on fences or brambles, you may also find badger hairs, which have three different colour tones, and are non-circular in cross section – more triangular. Now, you won’t see this with the naked eye, but you can see the effect that it creates – roll the hair between your thumb and forefinger and you’ll feel it jump about rather than rolling smoothly. I did a slow motion video to show you:

 

A video posted by Morgan Bowers (@thereremouse) on Jan 28, 2016 at 2:26am PST

(Having a bit of trouble with the embed code, so here’s the direct link to the video: https://www.instagram.com/p/BBFE6DHpV4h)

Incidentally, we had no badger activity on camera, in spite of it being a dry night. There could be a reason for this – as it is at this time of year (January & February) that badger cubs are born. It warms my cockles to think that under my feet the sow might be snuggled up preparing to give birth, or even nursing two or three new cubs. With ongoing monitoring, I hope to film the cubs in the early spring when they first start to venture from the sett, and will of course post on here when I do!

Anyway, the trail cams are out again tonight, so may have more to show you tomorrow!

Winter Mammal Update

With the help of the Black Country & Staffordshire Naturalists group, I’ve been continuing to monitor the mammals on our local nature reserves, including bats and badgers. As you’ll know if you’re a regular on here, we give each of our badger setts fictitious names in order to protect them and keep their location a secret. We’ve been giving special attention this winter to the Hogsmeade badgers, as they appear to have been particularly active, but we don’t seem to be able to be in the right place at the right time to catch them on camera. After a few problems with my trailcams (not entirely sure what is going on, as the problem persists intermittently) we finally managed to get an evening’s worth of footage, including the return of a one-eyed fox (whom we have called Mad-Eye Moody), an extremely hyperactive mouse and a couple of fat badgers…

In addition to trailcam setting, we’ve been out and about with the endoscope, looking for hibernating bats. Last week we found this hibernating Brown Long Eared bat in a tearaway cavity in a tree in Merrions Wood.

We returned to Merrions Wood today to clean out the nests left behind by feathered squatters this summer, and to our surprise found five noctules – one in one box and four in another. They have been left in peace, but we did shoot a bit of sneaky endoscope footage of the first one, which you can see below.

It really is great news that noctules are using our bat boxes, as until now we only had confirmed use by Brown Long Eared and Soprano Pipistrelles. Here’s the endoscope footage:

The next plan is to move onto our Sunnydale badger sett to see how our badgers there are faring, which will happen later this month.

 

What does (Mad-Eye Moody) the Fox Say?

I had a Christmas Eve disaster. It didn’t involve drunken relatives, inappropriate seasonal shenanigans or even awful presents – it was camera failure on the Hogsmeade Badger sett. My plan was to get some great footage (as it’s been mild, there are signs of loads of activity at Hogsmeade!) and then take some stills, photoshop some artfully placed santa hats, and voila: Christmas blog post!

Alas, it appears that my batteries on both cameras ran out during the night. (At first I thought it may have been file corruption due to a Windows 10 upgrade on my laptop but I’m hoping not!). As a result of battery failure, I lost over ninety (that’s NINE ZERO!) 15-second video clips (29 on camera one and 66 on camera two) which I’m gutted about – as I’d even put out a little Christmas present of honey & peanuts for the badgers! Just think of all the peanut-munching footage lost forever!  However, before the batteries died, they did capture some pretty cool footage, so I do have something to show you! Not of badgers, but of foxes (After all, Foxes are a bit more christmassy anyway, right?)

So as you can see, pretty early on in the evening, the area was visited by a one-eyed fox, which, given the name of the location, I have called ‘Mad Eye Moody’. Moody proceeded to return to graze on the peanuts I’d left for the badgers for a good while, before a two-eyed (aka ‘Normal’) fox came by (and didn’t eat anything!).

Snapshot 1 (28-12-2015 13-39)

I did also get some rather irksome footage of a couple of thieving Jays.

We’ll never know what was on the 90 clips of footage later in the evening, but I suspect it will have been our badgers. Every trace of peanut and honey was gone by morning!

The plan now is to repeat the honey and peanut process with fresh batteries on Tuesday or Wednesday, weather permitting!

 

Eyes in the Dark

Argh I could kick myself! – My camera trap was set too high and I didn’t get the sett entrance in frame, but we definitely have found the main sett entrance.  First frame was at  6:07pm – not long after dark!  There was a bit of activity and general snuffling about until just before 7pm, when it went quiet.

Snapshot 2 (05-11-2015 11-07)

We picked up activity again at around 9.30pm for about 5 minutes, and then nothing at the sett  for the rest of the evening. Around the corner we picked up a badger passing by just before 10.30pm, then again two hours later.

The next step is to ascertain numbers – so I’ll be putting down some bait and focusing all three cameras on the sett entrance, hopefully on Friday night. After that we start casting our net further to see where the trails are leading, and where the badgers are foraging, but not before moving onto our next sett: Sunnydale.

Snapshot 1 (05-11-2015 11-06)

 

A Misty Night’s Trapping

Back at Hogsmeade again last night, we set the camera traps on the old sett entrances (used last year) and nothing came out! I am wondering if the badgers have changed their main location.

Snapshot 3 (04-11-2015 11-44)

We did get some action early on – a fox investigated the sett entrance for a while, and a frantic wood mouse bounded around for a bit, before a single badger showed up in the early hours.

The video shows the badger appearing from a path to the left and then taking another path away into the background, so tonight’s cameras will be set up on those two trails, in hopes of tracking down their new sett location!

Snapshot 2 (04-11-2015 11-43)

Quiet on Sett

Okay so I totally can’t take credit for the title of this blog post – you can thank my mate Scott for that! But we’ve started our winter monitoring of badger populations. I have new toys!  Two new HD video trailcams with sound recording – they blow my old trailcam out of the water, and I’m really excited to get some more footage (and biological records) with them over the winter months.

We started the survey season with a return visit to Hogsmeade. (Remember that for the sake of the badgers’ safety we use code names for each of the setts, so you’ll be able to follow each sett’s adventures without putting them at risk – and yes, we DO still have problems with badger digging and baiting in the West Midlands. Last year a group of half a dozen men in camouflage with shovels and Jack Russell terriers “honest, officer, we’re just out for a walk” were seen on one of my sites.)

Last year, Hogsmeade’s badgers had at least two cubs. We’ve also had four adults on screen at the same time, so the population (barring casualties) should be at least 6-strong. There is evidence of a lot of activity; the badgers have dug a few new sett entrances since last year, so we started with those. We only had activity in front of one sett, so all of this video is from one camera:

In the early hours of darkness we only recorded the activity of rodents: a rat that seemed quite happy to set my camera off every two minutes for the best part of two hours, and a mouse with some sort of VTOL capability. Eventually a badger showed up at 01:17. As you can see, this badger (Likely to be a female because of her slender face) appears from the right (the direction of the sett we know they used last year) and spends some time in front of the new entrance, but doesn’t appear to go in.

Snapshot 3 (31-10-2015 11-51)

She does lots of sniffing about for just over 5 minutes, then disappears, returning at 04:05 (presumably returning to the sett after a night’s badgering about). She returns from the right hand side again. The (quite obvious) trail leading away to the left of the entrance did not get any traffic last night at all (we had a cam set up there which caught only rats).

Snapshot 2 (31-10-2015 11-50)

Bizarrely, the last video capture was of a black domestic cat actually ENTERING the sett entrance! I’ve never seen this behaviour before, and will try to find out what could be going on. To my knowledge, cats usually avoid badgers!

The plan next is to place cameras facing the old sett entrances, and also one at a satellite sett to see if there is any activity going on there. I also want some wide-angle shots so we can try to ascertain numbers, but the best way to do that may be to put some honey and peanuts down for them to draw out more than one at a time.

I’m going to add a new tab above, so you can keep up to date with the badgers as the surveys continue. You can check out last year’s video of the cubs below:

If this has piqued your curiosity about our most awesome mustelid, then I highly recommend these books!