BitL BLOG: Beginners take on badger surveying at Falls of Clyde!

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Our Project Officer Elaine Rainey reports on the recent Badgers for Beginners event at Scottish Wildlife Trust Falls of Clyde reserve in New Lanark ...   

On a crisp Saturday in October, we welcomed 17 people to Falls of Clyde for our Badgers for Beginners course. Armed with tea, biscuits and beautiful views over the river from our morning venue in the SWT Clyde Room, attendees learned about badger biology, ecology, crime, field signs and surveying. In the afternoon, we headed out into the reserve to look for badger setts and signs. We were fortunate to have New Zealand photographer, writer & storyteller Jess MacKenzie of The Upland Road documenting our adventures.

We started out walking along the woodland edge, bordered by fields. This is a great place to begin a badger survey, easy walking on a footpath and keeping any eye out for foraging and any evidence of badgers crossing under fence lines into the field. Soon enough, we spotted some foraging - a ‘snuffle hole’ and some digging by a badger:

Photo: A 'snuffle hole' created by a badger pushing into the vegetation with it's mouth & nose to obtain a worm or other insect. 

Photo: Foraging by a badger using forepaws, with a triangle-shaped excavation. Note the faint print just above and to the left of the stone.

It wasn’t long before we spotted a patch of bare earth under the fence, where badgers had been pushing under en route to their foraging grounds. We spotted badger guard hair caught on the fence – long, coarse and banded black & white:

There was also a badger dung pit by this crossing point, most likely marking the adjacent field as 'their' patch of food! Attendees conducted the obligatory sniff test, getting their nose in for the (not unpleasant and slightly chemical) ‘eau de badger’:

There was a well-worn badger path heading into the woods from this point, which we dutifully followed. It lead us to a large latrine (collection of dung pits):

Photo: A well-used badger path, trodden down to the bare earth. Note the path continuing under low branches.

It wasn’t long before we located our first sett of the day – a small subsidiary sett. Attendees checked the size and shape of the sett entrances and tunnels and examined the spoil heaps for badger guard hairs:

We spotted a 'collapse' (where the roof of the underground tunnel had caved in):

We also found some badger claw marks on a fallen tree close to the sett:

To finish off, we visited a main sett. Main setts are a key resource for badger social groups or ‘clans’, generally being in use all year round and normally used as the breeding sett. To keep disturbance to a minimum, we kept completely silent and stayed well away from the sett entrances, spoil heaps and paths. We didn't hang around for long, again to minimise disturbance. On the way out, we spotted a ‘mega’ latrine full of badger dung:

On our walk back to the SWT Visitor Centre, we couldn’t resist stopping by the sub-station for a group photo beside the lovely new badger mural on the reserve:

What a great day with such an enthusiastic bunch! They were not 'beginners' by the end of the day, that's for sure!

Thanks to everyone who came along, to the team at Scottish Wildlife Trust Falls of Clyde for hosting us, and to Jess from The Upland Road for her wonderful images.  

As part of the Lottery-funded Badgers in the Landscape project, we are running a series of free 'Badgers for Beginners' training days in South Lanarkshire over the next three years. The events are designed to encourage complete newcomers to get involved in learning more about their local badgers. Our aim is to provide free, entry-level training that is both fun, informal & informative. If you would be interested in attending one of our courses, sign up to our mailing list here to find out about upcoming events. You can also join us on Facebook and Twitter!

All images copyright J.MacKenzie.

Contacts:

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Scottish Badgers (SCIO) Charity Number SCO34297.