For my Masters research project I am studying the effects of woodland management on the foraging activity of bats. This means a lot of wandering round forests at night, doing bat surveys with batboxes – sadly we aren’t allowed to catch bats as none of us have licences and bats are highly protected in the UK.
Thursday night, Adam and I were surveying at Devichoys wood in Cornwall. Devichoys is a Cornwall Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve and we have permission to survey there.
We quickly forgot about the bats.
Our survey methods consist of, amongst other things, walking a thirty minute transect, three times. On the second lap of the transect – we try to make them circular to avoid repeating any sections of wood – we were about two-thirds of the way through when we came upon a lot snuffling noises.
We had seen a badger ambling across the path in front of us a couple a of weeks prior – my first encounter with a live badger, having previously only come across badger setts or seen them on camera traps.
Thursday night, though, we were quickly surrounded by badgers. They must have not known we were there, or if they did they didn’t care. They came closer and closer, snuffling around in the undergrowth. One got particularly close, within 5-10 metres, and showed absolutely no signs of distress. We shone the dim parts of our headtorches on them, and they didn’t care.
We moved forward quietly and with caution, and it seemed like every few steps we came upon another few badgers pottering about in the leaves. They ignored us completely and got on with their task of nosing through old leaves. We could hear them all around us – three over there, two down there, another couple up ahead. We were surrounded, and it was magical.
Nothing can quite compare – you can see pictures and video of badgers but you can’t understand what enchanting little creatures they are until you come across one for yourself. Their striking markings, little black noses as the snuffle through the woodland…especially to be so ignored the way we were. They appeared not to notice and didn’t bother about us at all, showing no qualms about moving towards us, and it was amazing.