Oxfordshire Mammal Group runs various educational events throughout the year. Yesterday was an afternoon of looking and learning about signs of Badgers, followed by an evening of Badger watching in Wytham Woods.
Wytham Woods is located just outside Oxford and owned by Oxford University. It is 426 hectares of woodlands, both ancient and semi natural, grasslands, with ponds and mire.
The wood is used for environmental research and is one the the most studied woodlands in the world. The public have access to the woods via a permit.
Our group met around 4.30pm and walked through a small part of the wood to look for signs of badgers.
One of the first signs was droppings, which although wasn’t in a latrine, it did appear to be badger droppings.
Bob spent some time dissecting the poo.
We stood at the top of a steep hill looking down at a sett at the bottom. Where we were standing there were a couple of entrance holes which brought up a discussion about whether these holes connected to the sett and whether badgers could dig vertically.
We looked at various entrance holes and discussed how badgers often dig their holes around tree roots and in one hole we looked at it even appeared that the badger had chosen that precise spot, using a large tree root like a lintel and smaller roots like scaffolding.
We looked for foraging paths and discussed how badgers will try to continue to use a foraging path even when blocked.
My local badgers had hay bales temporarily stacked up on one of their foraging paths and instead of going around they dug a tunnel through the hay.
While back at the Chalet for a picnic, I got chance to show my film for the first time that I have made for National Badger Week (24th June to 1st July). I was quite pleased with how it looked on a big screen.
Around 6.45pm we drove through the woods out to one of the Badger setts to settle down to watch.
Wytham has roughly 22 setts with between 200 and 250 badgers. These badgers produced between 20 to 80 cubs per year. WildCRU’s Badger Project have been studying Badgers in Wytham Woods since 1987.
With so many Badgers within this wood there was a high chance we would get to see some.
Each of us settled down against trees a short distance away from the sett. The sett was a made of a huge spoil mound amongst conifers.
Earlier in the day my mum and I had decided that she would film and I would take photos to save us disturbing the badgers if we swapped.
After about 15 minutes the first badger appear, leaning up against a tree and frantically groomed himself for a few minutes. Even laying on his back to scratch his belly. After every part of him had been itched and scratched he plodded straight passed us and away from the sett.
A second badger followed the same way. The third slightly more wary, sniffing the air and cautiously coming out, returning to the sett, then finally leaving in a different direction.
In total we had 9 badger sighting which were probably 6 or 7 individuals.
One of the most exciting parts of the badger watch was when a Tawny owl landing on a branch very close to us causing uproar amongst the local small birds.
Big thank you to Oxfordshire Mammal Group for organising the event. You can click on the link to find out more about Oxfordshire Mammal Group