Friday, 7 April 2017

Spring In Badger Wood



Badger Wood is an ancient place and the sett hidden within it is also old. I know this because

  1. The plants that grow in the wood are all ancient woodland indicator species (ransoms, wild daffodils, lords and ladies, primroses, bluebells, dog's mercury). They've not suffered the plough and their ancestors were in the wood in all likelihood since the last great Ice sheets retreated ten thousand years ago
  2. The Badger Paths that run through the wood are all well-defined, meaning that countless generations of badgers have trod them through the centuries.
  3. The earthworks that surround the sett are significant in size, because over the centuries the badgers have dug up more earth to put on top of them and created these huge structures rising from the woodland floor.
  4. I've seen the maps and know that, up until fifty years ago, the wood that is now reduced to a thin strip between mono-culture fields,once covered all the land here as far as the eye could see.
Greater Stitchwort blooms in the banks
I started off walking up the Green Lane, and at the top decided there was so little to see out in the fields I'd be better off inside the old wood, so the dogs and I crossed the hedge line and stepped into a magical world full of life.


The badger paths run right through the wood. I followed the main one and soon came across a fallen tree which crossed it. I hoped it would reveal the sharpness of badger claws as the path continues on the other side, meandering through the wood.



Hopefully you can see the scratch marks in the surface of the wood. The badgers have to climb over this tree to continue on their way and badger claws are razor sharp. This allows them to peel the skin off hedgehogs so effectively. Not the nicest of thoughts perhaps, but this is the reality of nature. If we hadn't got in the way so completely the balance would work itself out between predator and prey quite happily.




All along the path were scuffed up areas of bare earth where stripy folk have been rubbing off their winter coats.....


Now is the perfect time to find these patches in your local woods. The badgers rake up the greenery so they can scratch against the earth more effectively. There are lots of these badger rubbing places in evidence this week, many of them with piles of these in them...


Badger hair is quite long and brittle.Sometimes, although not always, with grey bits in it. Most of the stuff I find is white.

Walking through ancient woods always shows you something interesting. Apart from the badgers, in my walk I found this.....


It's a bowl of wood growing out of a silver birch. Thousands of years ago, our ancestors would have known where all these natural bowls were growing in their local environment. They harvested them and used carpentry skills far superior to my own to hollow the wood out and turn it into bowls for storing grain in. 

There was also this...


It's a hazelnut that's been nibbled. Birds and squirrels split nuts open and leave jagged lines in the shell, but mice, voles and dormice make smaller holes. You can tell which is which by the pattern of the tooth mark on the edge of the hole. I'm fairly sure this is a mouse, although the hole is a bit bigger than others I've seen.

We reached the sett and discovered the badgers had been hard at work spring cleaning. Old winter bedding had been brought up and chucked out. Huge piles of these dried collections of vegetation were left strewn about the entrances. 



There was also evidence of recent renovation work with fresh chalk spoil heaps piled up outside the front doors. 


I'd lost track of time wandering along the badger way and was jumped back into modern life by my plumber ringing my mobile, so we ended the walk there.

Back at home and the andrena mining bees have moved in to the lawn....


You can just see the little bee inside the hole. I've rescued four from the house already this week, with my usual problem of trying to persuade them to get off my finger once I've picked them up. Yesterday I sat for twenty minutes in the garden with one on my finger, waiting while the bee had a good old clean of her antennae with her legs, watching me as I watched her, before she'd decided she was spick and span enough and sufficiently devoid of carpet fluff to fly off. I'm glad to have them back. I don't really understand why some people classify them as pests and kill them. Having mining bees in your lawn is so good for the soil as the burrows aerate it. They aren't there for long and the small spoil heaps are very quickly absorbed back into the grass, plus the bees themselves are pollinators.

One other quick thing before I go- listen out for goldfinches perched in trees singing non-stop over the next week or so. They are nest building and the males sing from trees close to the nest to help the females locate it when she return with twigs etc. They will sing when she's incubating too, but less forcefully. Ours are in the wisteria and he is singing his little heart out from dawn to dusk at present. 

Hope you're all well and enjoying this gorgeous spell of warm sunny weather if you're UK based.

CT :o)

14 comments:

  1. What a lovely post. We have some ancient badger setts in the steep valley-side woodland around here. Up the top of the hill they use the roadside ditch as their latrines.

    I didn't know that about Goldfinches - will listen out on my walks. We have a pair of Goldcrests who seem to have set up home somewhere near the back of the house. They were peering in through the bottom kitchen window last week, and this week Mrs Goldcrest was thinking about checking out the room side of the open bathroom window. She was probably looking for tucked away insect larva to scoff. It's lovely to have them so close.

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    1. Goldcrests are such dear little birds. Usually quite oblivious of people because they're so intent on hunting insects so they can come quite close. Sounds like yours do just that. I can hear them here but no idea where the nest is. I've seen lots of fresh badger latrines over the past fortnight- they must be restating their territories after winter. X

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  2. We saw a bowl of wood the other day at the top of an ancient tree. It was a lovely visit to an arboretum in the north of the island. I was intrigued by the sequoi trees. Not very large yet but with their distinctive red bark. I hope to write about the arboretum soon. Don't think we have any mining bees yet, but lots of different varieties. The garden is very noisy with the buzzing and the bird call at the moment. Good luck on Sunday. B x

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  3. What a wonderful woodland walk. I just love love​ trees, something magical about them I find.

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  4. More things to look out for when I next go walking in our local woods. Thank you!
    Arilx

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  5. Hey CT,
    Quite wonderful. Olly and I took a similar walk yesterday morning. Along a pathway by the saltings. So many pollinators; butterflies, lots of different types of bees. Wild flora, birdsong of so many different birds. And a first for Olly, a woodpecker drumming his beak somewhere in Anne's Wood. Oh and a rope swing. Doesn't get much better than that!
    Have a lovely weekend. Weather glorious here, and we're hitting the beach tomorrow.
    Leanne xx

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  6. Wonderful, isn't it. You have left me with a picture of all the badgers over the centuries sauntering along the path. x

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  7. I've noticed great tits singing a lot in the garden lately, and nest building in the nest box. Hopefully they'll have chicks in there this year. I shall go and have a look for the ivy mining bees at the allotment site. Hopefully they'll have been left in peace. Hope you have a good weekend. CJ xx

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  8. Peeling hedgehogs?! I noticed quite a few goldfinches on the feeders today. I'll keep an ear out, although I'll have to Google their song first - much as I love 'Tweet of the Day', I'm hopeless at remembering them. Enjoy the sunny weekend. xx

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  9. We are Badgers lovers in my family.
    I can't even tell you how much I love this post. So interesting and full of such wonderful facts. The part of the ancient wood and plants I could feel where you were walking. I so want to walk where the Badgers live.
    Thank You so much for this lovely post.

    cheers, parsnip

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  10. Yes, I know the badger tracks in my woodland, they often make good cycling tracks. Cycling home at dusk I often see young badgers playing. They are very orderly creatures aren't they? At the cottage last year there was a huge and active earthwork of badger setts in the bank that divided the garden from the busyish lane and here we have regular late summer/early autumn badger visits. They seem to adore my front lawn which is enriched with my delicious wormy compost. Any thoughts about the link between the rise in badgers and the decline in hedgehogs. Our garden used to be a hedgehog haven, but I haven't seen a hedgehog for years.

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  11. Stunning photos! It looks so peaceful and I can imagine the badgers sauntering along those well trodden paths!
    Spring brings such hope! It's perfect to set new goals and look forward!
    Lovely post CT - being in touch with nature is the most rewarding gift you can get!
    Life here is now v autumnal- vines and leaves changing colour... reds and golds and warm yellows- perfect cold mornings, sunny days filled with blue sky and a brisk breeze!
    Perfect for getting out door jobs done! I've picked the last of the apples and tomatoes and am filling the garden with plants that can grow over the coolness of winter!
    All is well - love to you! Xx

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  12. Lovely to share your walk, thank you. x

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  13. Lovely as always to catch up with your nature notes! I am glad that the bees are back for you, hope you have some good rescue honey for them.

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x