BitL Blog: Sett found, record submitted, job done?
Our volunteers often say that once they’ve been on one of our Badgers for Beginners courses, it’s as if they are seeing the world with fresh eyes. No dog walk is ever the same, no walk in the woods complete without a stop to check out a path or to inspect some scrapes in the undergrowth!
We’re in no doubt that badger surveying is some of the most rewarding (and addictive!) work we do, and there’s a real sense of accomplishment at the end of each month when we submit our long list of new sett records to the national database. But what happens next? Do we ever return to those setts to see how they’re faring?
Now well into the second year of our Lottery-funded Badgers in the Landscape project, we’ve been starting to shift our focus slightly to include much more sett monitoring. This involves visiting key, known setts a few times over the course of the year to take photographs and to make a note of any changes in the status of the sett or its surroundings.
We can learn so much from re-visiting a sett over the course of a year, as usage can vary considerably on a seasonal basis. For example, we were recently visiting a sett known to one of our volunteers, as part of a wider survey of the area. On approach, there was much excitement as we could see large spoil heaps with copious amounts of fresh excavation, fresh badger footprints and a clear path running through ground ivy and coming right up over the spoil heap and into the entrance.
On this visit, the sheer amount of activity would have one considering it as a main sett. A quick note of ‘signs of use’ and ‘activity levels’ was recorded, and we photographed the sett and went on our way to continue with the rest of the survey. It was only as we were walking off that our volunteer remembered that she had taken a photo of the sett the first time she found it (as we recommend when recording setts), back in November last year. You might think that there wouldn’t be much change in a sett over the course of a couple of months, but as she scrolled through her phone to find the original image, we couldn’t believe our eyes – it looked like a different sett, covered in leaves with no signs of recent use!
Here’s the image of the sett in November last year:
(Photo: L. Farnan)
And here’s the image of the sett from the same spot in January of this year, only two months apart:
(Photo: L. Farnan)
Sett monitoring is such an important task, not just for learning about how sett use changes throughout the year but also to flag up any concerns such as possible disturbance or the impact of development/ road deaths etc. Such records can also be used by the Police if the sett is interfered with - they give a date confirming last known occupancy.
Scottish Badgers has a network of volunteer sett monitors across Scotland, visiting their local setts as part of our sett monitoring scheme. We’re encouraging our project volunteers to adopt a local sett within South Lanarkshire, but we need much more help right across the country. If you are a member of Scottish Badgers and can help out by visiting a local sett a few times a year, please get in touch with us. If you have a particular sett in mind, you can monitor it and let us know how it’s faring. If you don’t yet know of any setts local to you, we will be more than happy to allocate one to you.
Badgers in the Landscape – Community Building for Wildlife Conservation
Find out more about becoming a Sett Monitor here.
Join us on our surveys and sett monitoring days in South Lanarkshire! View our schedule here.
Consider becoming a member of Scottish Badgers to support our work. Find out more and join here.