Sunday, 18 August 2013

Badgers, Look Out

Mr and Mrs Cooper are still doing a grand job at keeping an eye open over the badger sett. It’s very reassuring to know that there are still people about who care enough to devote some of their spare time to guard one of the countryside’s most noble of animals. Every detail in the protection programme has worked out splendidly. Last Wednesday evening, all was still remarkably well and the badgers were very much in play-fighting mode. All was serene. No one, apart from the Coopers, had been anywhere near the sett, so Mozart’s Magic Flute had worked brilliantly well.
 Like all visits to the badger sett, you always stay a lot later than you have time for. Just as I started to leave, the badgers darted towards their holes. Their hearing, obviously much better than my own, had picked up something that had disturbed them greatly. I stood still and crouched down behind one of the big rocks that we had put into place earlier on in the year. ‘Could it be the Coopers?’ I thought; I doubted this idea. I stood there, just listening. The badgers continued to remain underground and I started to come down from the bank, away from the badgers, to a couple of look-out posts. Quite amazing, really, how the badgers had decided to make their home within yards of two of the finest look-out posts in the Cotswolds; I was making my way to one of them. Still nothing could be heard, bar the odd skylark and the cooing of the pigeons. I looked back down the route that the Coopers would have used and there was no sign of them. ‘Badgers won’t run from foxes or deer,’ I thought, ‘so I wonder what spooked them.’ I made my way to the look-out point as quietly as possible. Then, I heard a bustling, thumping type sound: something was taking on a hawthorn bush. For those of you who know a little bit about hawthorn, the hawthorn was getting the better of the encounter as the thumping and rustling got louder. Then quiet, deathly quiet. Whatever it was, had spooked the last of the remaining pigeons and the skylarks. What had they seen from so high up in the sky?

To the look-out at last. The look-out was a tree that had grown absolutely perfectly for the job as one could be within this tree and walkers and deer would walk right by, almost leaning up against it, with no idea that one was inside; I loved this place. As I scanned the area where I thought the sound was coming from, I could just make out a black shape, it was still. After ten minutes of watching this black shape, the stillness of it was starting to get a little unsettling. Whatever it was, it didn’t want to come any further, which meant that I would have to go closer to it. I left the safe seclusion of the ingenious look-out post and made my way back into the wood, further down. As I crept up through the trees, it really was quite eerily silent. Then movement could be heard. It was coming towards me. I crouched down by an ash stump, trying to make my persona as less likely as possible. ‘Was this someone who had come to do the badgers harm?’ I thought. My heart started to beat a little faster as the thing was definitely getting nearer. It was now starting to break twigs and sticks in its path: this sounded big. I couldn’t help but think that this was more than one person because one could not make this level of noise and if this was their idea of stealth, it was a joke. Only, just at this moment in time, I couldn’t see the funny side. Then, with an enormous explosion of fear, I jumped up and fell backwards. The nemesis reared up on its back legs, in as much fear as he had struck into me. We stood there for a few seconds, well he stood and I lay on my back, just looking at each other: it was a young Devon bull calf, a beautiful looking beast. He seemed as relieved as I was at our revelation. I cursed him for being out of his field, and it was going to be another three-quarters of an hour getting him back into where I knew he had come from. I felt a great deal of satisfaction on just how secure we had managed to make this family of badger’s sett. Everything worked. The badgers were safe for now, if not a little startled by our lost and not-so-stealthy friend.

 This little Devon bull calf isn’t nearly as frightening as what he made out to be.
Look-outs don't come any better than this.

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