BitL Blog: Oot ‘n’ Aboot in South Lanarkshire

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It’s been great to get out & about with the Badgers in the Landscape project volunteers again in early January for the first of our surveys, sett monitoring and trail camera sessions for 2018. We’ve come across some interesting finds that have been keeping us on our toes and reminding us to always keep an open mind when it comes to the ways of the badger! Our Project Officer Elaine Rainey reports on their findings …

Sett monitoring and trail cameras

It’s been interesting to re-visit some known setts to check activity levels. Reassuringly we’ve seen activity ramping up at some setts, with an increase in bedding collection pointing towards the imminent arrival of cubs. We found this bedding ball at our long-term monitoring site, along with a newly-sited and well-used latrine close to that entrance. This is where the cubs were born last year, so we are hopeful for another fruitful year for this clan.

What is particularly interesting about this site is that the breeding is happening in what we would consider the ‘annexe’ sett, not the much larger ‘main’ sett nearby (where breeding would normally take place). We’ve really got lucky in choosing these two setts for long-term monitoring as they have already taught us so much about badgers – particularly the need to keep an open mind and not always expect badgers to follow the text books!

With the potential for increased sensitivity of the sett occupants at this time of year, we’ve re-positioned our trail camera a little further away and higher up.  This new positioning should give us a great overview of the comings and goings at this sett over the coming months though, so we shouldn’t miss a thing! Thanks to volunteer Bill Winter for this photo showing how many badger enthusiasts it takes to put up a trail camera!

Surveys

We’ve also carried out a really interesting survey, checking out a strip of woodland that was the last piece in the jigsaw puzzle of a large site that we’ve been surveying from all angles for some time. We were keen to find out if this strip would house a separate social group, or whether it would be a kind of ‘no-man’s land’ – a boundary between the territories of the various social groups we’d come to know well.

The evidence pointed towards the latter, with the strip being riddled with badger paths and numerous well-filled latrines! We also found five small setts that didn’t look particularly active, plus quite a few large day nests. It really had the feel of a place where badgers might come to hang out occasionally. In particular, the day nests felt like somewhere that displaced badgers might come to hang out before deciding where to settle down! We’ll monitor this strip over the course of the year to see how things change.

Eyes down for badger surveying?

I often find myself (jokingly) reminding volunteers to keep their eyes to the ground when badger surveying and to try not to be too distracted by bird song and other things that might draw their eyes to the sky! I learnt my lesson on our last survey though, when we spotted a badger path going up and over a stone wall. We had walked past it at first, focused on following the line of well registered badger prints on the path below.

It was only when the trail of prints suddenly stopped that we decided to re-trace our steps. It was then that we found this scat on top of the adjacent stone wall.

Again, one might have walked past this assuming it was fox scat (due to it’s positioning and texture). However, one of our volunteers had the courage to take a sniff only to find out it was in fact badger! How are they getting up there? Are they going up or coming down? On closer inspection, we noticed these scratch marks on the stone from the badgers climbing up and over.

The mystery of the disappearing prints had been solved and we were once again reminded to keep an open mind when it comes to badgers! Here's the view of the badger path on approach. Would you have spotted it?

We still have lots of work to do this year as we begin surveys on some new key sites, keep an eye on all the setts we’ve discovered so far and continue with our rewarding trail camera project. We’ve just issued our schedule of volunteer days until the end of April, so do get in touch if you’d like to join us on our adventures! You’ll not regret it!

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Contacts:

For issues related to badger problems, legislation, planning, mitigation, data searches and to log badger records:

Available Monday to Friday

Operations Co-ordinator

T: 07866 844232

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For matters relating to our Badgers in the Landscape - Community Building for Wildlife project:

Project Officer

T: 07565 813401

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Sponsors:

Scottish Badgers (SCIO) Charity Number SCO34297.