What a night! Ten badgers. Yearlings playing. The big boar musking and churring. And confirmation that Radar the peanut butter addict is still at the sett. Where to begin? Let’s start with my Radar detector test.
As I mentioned on March 28th (Springing forward), one of the yearlings I saw that night reminded me of a cub I watched at the sett last year, named Radar. Last summer he was the only one of eight cubs who found peanut butter absolutely irresistible. Wherever I put it, he would find it with what I called his peanut butter radar – hence the name he ended up with. (Someone did suggest that I should name the other cubs after characters from the TV series M*A*S*H, but I pointed out that if I ever called a badger Hot Lips, I would never hear the last of it!) Here’s a picture from last August, showing Radar snacking on some peanut butter hidden from view on a log:
Tonight I decided to find out for certain whether or not Radar was still at the sett, using the one substance which was guaranteed to make him visible. Arriving at the sett before the badgers were due out, I smeared some peanut butter on a tree stump by one of the uppermost sett entrances, and some more on the twin-trunked sycamore nearby. With the usual offering of peanuts spread widely over the sett, my preparations were complete. Now I just had to wait, and watch.
At a few minutes short of eight o’clock, three badgers emerged from different entrances within seconds of each other. Two more emerged soon afterwards. It was as if they had all set their alarms for the same time! One of the five sniffed the air and headed for the sycamore tree … Radar!
Now of course, Radar was not the only cub at the sett who would eat peanut butter last summer, and several cubs sampled Whole Earth’s best this evening. So how could be sure that one of those cubs was Radar? Well, it was something in his behaviour, the way he held his head while tracking down the peanut butter, his enthusiasm for the food that the other yearlings could take or leave. I just knew! (In addition to the two somewhat blurred photos shown here, I also managed to get a rather dark video clip.)
Confirmation of Radar’s continued presence at the sett was just one of several high points of this evening’s watch, as you will have gathered from my introduction above. As the evening progressed, the number of badgers kept increasing. Shortly after one left the sett at around five past eight, I counted seven other black and white beasties still at the sett. Then, some five or ten minutes later, I carried out another count and realised that there were ten badgers present. Clearly, this number included adults as well as yearlings. The churring sounds from one of them made it clear that the big boar I saw and heard on March 28th was one of them, and that he was still in the mood for lurrve.
Believe it or not, watching adult badgers at this sett was a rather unusual experience. I saw very little of them last summer; mostly they came out later in the evening and slipped away from the lowermost sett entrances without partaking in the feast of peanuts and raisins that their cubs were enjoying. But tonight, things were different. Not only did some of the adults help themselves to a few of the remaining peanuts, the big boar came right up to the top of the sett and sauntered past me, stopping at intervals to plonk his rear end on the ground and deposit his musk.
Meanwhile, the yearlings were in the mood for play. Some, while lying on their backs so that they could scratch their bellies, would suddenly wriggle about just for the fun of it. Occasionally a couple would engage in a brief play-fight (as in the photo here, taken last summer). Once the supply of peanuts (and peanut butter) had gone, around half an hour after the first badgers had emerged, playtime began in earnest. In twos and threes the yearlings romped and chased each other. Some left the sett, while others remained, playing king of the castle on and around a favourite tree. Eventually, these badgers too left the sett.
As I crept away, I could hear the sounds of animals moving elsewhere in the wood. Yelps from two different directions indicated that the yearlings were still playing. As I said – what a night!
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