There are lots of badgers around Colislinn. With several setts at less than a mile’s distance from the house, it makes for an easy but fascinating evening expedition, particularly with kids old enough to keep quiet for an hour or so; definitely better than telly/ipad/xbox! However, for a successful badger watching session there are a few rules to be observed:
Arrive near the sett about 20 minutes before the badgers come out. On a summer’s day this would be around 7pm, but generally about 2 hours before dark. If you are unsuccessful the first time and you either don’t see any or end up frightening them away, try a little later or earlier the next day.
Make sure the badgers don’t see you.
The badger’s eyesight is not very good. It can’t see colour, and can’t see details very well. It
can see shapes and movements though. So don’t wear bright clothing or clothing that is noisy. Don’t stand/sit too close to the sett, stand/sit where the badgers won’t see your shape against the sky, keep still.
Making sure the badgers don’t smell you.
The badger’s sense of smell is very, very good! However, it’s not too difficult to make sure that you are not detected by Brock’s nose: Don’t walk over the badger sett or on a badger path. The badgers will be able to smell where you have been, and this may frighten them off. Don’t stand or sit in a place where the wind is blowing from you, towards the sett. If you are looking at the sett, and you can feel the wind on your back, then the badgers will smell you when they come out.
Making sure the badgers don’t hear you.
The badger’s hearing is also very good. If the badgers are going to detect you, it will most
likely be because they hear you. So it is very important that you keep as quiet as possible
when you are watching badgers. Do try to sit or stand in a place where you will have a good view of the sett, and where you will be comfortable and get there ideally before the badgers come out of their sett
Don’t all go at once! Badgers are very shy!
Make this an exclusive outing. No more than 2 or 3 people to avoid scaring them away.
NB. Bring binoculars and midge net
More about badgers here provided by http://www.scottishbadgers.org.uk/index.html:
The European badger (Meles meles) holds a special place in our natural history. Since the bear, wolf and lynx were purged from our islands in a bid to make our land and livestock safe, the badger is now our largest carnivore and top of it’s food chain.
It’s average weight varies from 7.25 kgs in spring to 14.4 kgs in autumn, and measures just under a meter in length, nose to tail. They can live quite a long life, over 15 years much like a domestic dog, in favourable circumstances. In Britain they have no natural predators and their only threat is man and his activities. In the south of England populations are at their greatest while in Scotland their frequency varies from common to scarce the further north you go, and as the altitude increases and the availability of food decreases.
An extraordinary sense of smell, excellent hearing, poor eyesight, just the job for an animal that spends the daytime below ground sleeping, and coming out only at night to feed. A creature better designed for making its home underground cannot be found! It’s body is low slung with short legs, and has spade like feet with very long claws, perfect for digging hundreds of meters of underground tunnels. It’s elongated body is flexible and yet muscular, especially around the neck and shoulders.
Their underground homes are constructed of tunnels and chambers, generally excavated in soft sandy type soil. Their tunnels are normally around a meter below ground but can be much deeper and can stretch to distances of over 10 meters from the entrance. The entrances are quite distinct, a hole which is approximately 300mm diameter and which is slightly wider than tall, and with a platform of soil mixed with old bedding immediately outside. Fox holes are noticeably smaller and slightly taller than wide, and will often stink! There will be well worn connecting tracks in evidence at an active sett. The badger will spend hours digging out fresh earth spoil from its sett, a sort of continual home improvements plan. It would seem as if they were never satisfied with the finished article, but it is more likely that they are simply de-lousing their many sleeping and living quarters – a regular and necessary activity to control unwanted house guests such as ticks and lice! Digging activity can cause problems to ground stability. Chambers are often excavated under some sort of solid structure, such as a large rock or the roots of trees, causing them to be easily blown over, and the founds of buildings are also at risk for the same reasons.