Photo courtesy of Badger Watch Dorset
Staking out a sett can be rewarding throughout spring and summer, but badgers are particularly active feeding during September as they build up body fat in preparation for winter.
Old Henley Farm offers floodlit viewing of a large sett in Dorset thought to be around 100 years old and currently home to a clan of about a dozen adult badgers. Two hides – each accommodating up to 12 people – face a sheltered beech copse on a gentle slope of chalk grassland. This is badger watching in style. The hides have comfortable seats and reading lights, while carpeted floors deaden the sound of footfalls as you arrive in the early evening to take up your vigil.
You may need to wait an hour or two before the first black and white face appears in the dark maw of one of the sett’s burrows. Sitting quietly, though, you’ll quickly tune in to the subtle sights and sounds that accompany the transition from day to night shift in the English countryside: a blackbird singing, pheasants settling down to roost, a fox flowing like a wisp of russet smoke along the woodland edge… With luck you’ll hear tawny owls calling or glimpse the flickering shapes of bats.
If they feel safe, the badgers will emerge onto this twilight stage, raising their snouts to scent for possible danger before settling into their nocturnal routines. As well as feeding behaviour, you may also observe them grooming, mating, fighting or even doing a spot of housework, dragging out old bedding material from the sett and replacing it with fresh grass and leaves. Cubs are usually born in February, venturing outside for the first time around mid-April. By September, they’ll be nearly as big as the adults. Depending on how long summer lingers into September, cubs will be busy play fighting or feeding alongside grown-ups to put on winter fat.
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Old Henley Farm, Buckland Newton, Dorset