Saturday, 15 June 2013

Badgers, See You at Chelsea

Today’s the day we put Operation Mozart’s Magic Flute into action. Time: 4:07 a.m. Rain pouring, wind strong - perfect for what we wanted to do. The chosen tool I had in mind for this particular exercise of badger protection was the bobcat: small enough to go anywhere, robust enough to do almost anything. I made a couple of sandwiches, put the dogs into the bucket of the bobcat and off we went.

As we approached the badger sett, winding in and out amongst the trees, there were a couple of young badgers still out at play. They were far too trusting, we stopped the bobcat near the sett and walked towards the end of the wood to inspect the boulders I’d left there a couple of days earlier. Our job this morning was to strategically place these in and around the sett for anti-sniping deterrents. The two dogs Mitch and Shep cockily walked around more interested in the rabbits than anything I was thinking of doing.  As I walked back from the boulders to the bobcat the furthest tunnel from the badger sett always looked to me as if it was the badgers bolt hole. There, just in the shadow of the opening, was a big badger’s head just looking out seeing what we were doing. This would be all too easy if you were of a mind to do them harm, they were far too trusting. The dogs were told to keep well back as the bobcat and I started to position the boulders - the bobcat was invaluable, definitely the correct tool choice, tightly turning around the trees, lifting these boulders up, putting them precisely down onto the ground, getting more and more sticky due to the torrential rain which was getting decidedly worse. You would never believe that it’s the 15th of June.

I felt sure the machine was always trying to go one step further by talking to you through its engine, growling when it was biting for grip, positively purring when it was releasing its load of rock around the badger sett. The day was wearing on, we took shelter by the side of the machine, Mitch and Shep looked like drowned rats, the weather was really cheesing them off. I lit up the stove and put the kettle on and we all had some lunch, quite a miserable affair due to the weather. Mitch and Shep were positively no help to the situation at all but most rewarding company. After 20 minutes, I decided to get back to it. We walked around surveying the situation. I found myself lifting my arms, holding an imaginary rifle from various positions within the woodland, imagining sighting-in on the sett. The operation had gone to plan; every clear view point of this sett had been obscured.  There was just one further area down a wooded gulley that was proving to test ones tenacity to the tenth degree. We paced up and down in the pouring rain, this was a killing point, and you could do an awful lot of damage with a rifle from here. The badgers would not know what had hit them and from where this line was from the badger sett it would be possible to get two or three shots off before the badgers could identify where the shots were coming from.  Mitch and Shep had left me to take cover under an old dead fallen beech trunk sat on top of a few rabbit holes of course, “That’s it!” I shouted, “Good dogs,” up into the fired up bobcat, we headed to the trunk. We lowered the bucket on the backside of the trunk and we started to push it down the wooded gulley sixty yards downhill from the sett. It looked perfect. The next step was to prepare a little surprise.

I felt sure that if this sett were to be attacked it would be from its vulnerable point, down by the now in-position beech trunk.  We left the bobcat in the woodland, spade and bucket in hand, a thirty minute walk across the fields to a particularly good piece of trout fishing water where, in the week, I discovered a very new young wasp nest. The skill of nest excavation is trying to dig it out whole. I dug into the bank, around the nest, gently lifting out the whole thing keeping as much earth around the young nest as possible. This awful, cold, wet and windy weather makes wasps very dummel and dozy. I then very gingerly lowered it into the bucket and then put a sod of earth on top for good measure. There were now a few wasps buzzing about, ones that had left the nest during the gentle excavation and a few braving the weather returning home with their nest building material.  We started to walk back towards the wood with a definite spring in our step, there was something quite unnerving walking in the pouring rain with a bucketful of angry wasps. When we got back to the woodland, we dug a hole and embedded the wasp nest by the dead beech trunk that we rolled down earlier.  Any badger sniper now, resting his gun, taking aim on the beech stump was in for a nasty surprise. Wasps take a dim view of being trod on by snipers.

The time was now 5:45 p.m. We had been at it all day.  We were soaking wet, dog tired but very content. All objectives had been achieved.  The badger sett now had taken over the disguise as a shabby chic woodland environmental garden with a fantastic rockery.  One couldn’t help thinking that Bunny Guinness herself would indeed be proud to enter this into the Chelsea Flower Show.  This family of badgers were now well and truly “Off Grid.” Operation Mozart’s Magic Flute had been accomplished.

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