Badgers in the Bush?

What's lurking in here?

What’s lurking in here?

Like most people, we have a part of our garden of which we are less than proud. It’s where we dump grass cuttings, leaves and other garden rubbish that we don’t put in the compost bins. Fortunately, it’s shielded by plum trees and stone walls and we don’t frequent it very often. Just the place for wild creatures to make their home.

Recently, I tipped there the last of the fallen autumn leaves. I noticed a large hole in a mound of former garden detritus, now probably rather good compost. Assuming the hole was no longer in use, I emptied the leaves over it. The next day, they had been cleared away and some fresh soil scraped out from inside the hole.

Someone's front door?

Someone’s front door?

The opening was too big for a rat and, as far as I know, hedgehogs don’t burrow. We don’t have rabbits here and we’re not near water, so it was unlikely to be coypu. Investigating further, I discovered two more large holes on the other side of the mound.

Badger behaviour

Internet researches revealed, first, that the holes were the right size and shape for badgers (blaireaux in French) and, second, that badgers make several entrances into their setts. I also learned that badger setts can be very old and extend for several hundred metres. Maybe we had a badger family?

We have seen lone badgers on our lane late at night, usually just a rump disappearing into the undergrowth. Once, though, we saw one up close when we went for a stroll at dusk. The badger advanced down the lane towards us, oblivious to our presence, and we got within about five metres of it. I said, “Oh, hello.” Its head shot up and we eyeballed each other for a few seconds before it shot off into the hedge. Badgers can move surprisingly fast if they need to.

We explained to our farmer neighbour that in the UK it has been found that badgers are carriers of TB and there is high potential for cattle to be infected, although there is considerable debate about this and how it should be addressed. He had never heard of this.

Stars of the silver screen?

Last week, we borrowed an infra-red camera and set it up in a strategic position overnight. Each day, we eagerly played back what it had filmed. However, there were only two stars of the show: a very active mouse and a persistent robin. Not the expected frolicking badgers. We reluctantly concluded that the badgers have moved house or they were never there at all. I will keep an eye on the burrow, though.

March weather

Now, onto the weather for March. The SF is beside himself that I haven’t posted his stats yet, so here they are. And they don’t make jolly reading.

We assign each day a plus if it’s fine, a minus if it’s bad and a zero if it’s indifferent or we can’t decide. In March we had:

Pluses – 10
Zeros – 11
Minuses – 10

The graph shows the percentage of plus days each March for the past 18 years (the line is the trend).

Proportion of pluses in March over 18 years

Proportion of pluses in March over 18 years

Our stats put this March firmly in the bottom half of the draw, with four worse and three equal. It was pretty gloomy, with very few sunny days and a lot of rain. We had seven frost nights, which is slightly more than usual, but we can get up to 12 here in March.

Rainfall

In March, we would normally expect 76.9 mm of rain. This year we had 99.5 mm. This brings the total up to a soggy 354.5 mm for the year to date, 51.5% more than the average of 234 mm.

Rainfall 2016 to date

Rainfall 2016 to date

Everything in the garden is burgeoning, so much so that I had to cut the lawns in the rain yesterday afternoon. Of course, we needed the rain. The autumn was unusually dry and the aquifers needed replenishing. But does it have to be either a famine or a feast?

You might also like:

Hedgehogs in the Bush
Hares
Moles!

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About nessafrance

My husband and I moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I am fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs and enjoy seeking out the reality behind the myths. I run my own copywriting business and write short stories and the occasional novel in my spare time. My husband appears here as the SF, which stands for Statistics Freak, owing to his penchant for recording numbers about everything.
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11 Responses to Badgers in the Bush?

  1. Chitra parpia says:

    Thank you Vanessa …it’s a great help.. We two girlfriends may do the Le puy en velay section of the Camino for 6 days then drive around

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Caroline says:

    exciting !

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We have a place at the bottom of the garden where we dump stuff that doesn’t go to the dechett. I must look for holes as nearby there is a definite animal track that comes from the woods and disappears up the railway embankment. Vigils with the infra red camera have not revealed anything more exciting than various cats although, one february a couple of years ago, we had some great shots of a deer beyond the end of the garden. We do get bothered by ‘fouines’, beech martins, who thunder around our loft space. I don’t know if the females nest in heaps when rearing young. Another possibility for the maker of your holes? And thanks for the stats, vindicates my whingeing about a rotten spring! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      Yes, we have the nocturnal visitors in the attic. I will have to research how fouines nest. I suppose they could be another explanation.

      It has definitely been a rotten spring so far! But at least it’s going in the right direction.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I hope the Badgers come back, I can’t imagine what else it would be. Growing up as a farmers daughter in England, I remember there was a huge badgers set where we used to go riding, my mother would always be thrilled if we ever caught a glimpse of a badger, my father hated them, obviously for fear of the TB threat as we had beef cattle, although as you rightly say, no one knows if this theory is true. I haven’t seen one for years, we are in the Charente Maritime in SW France and I have never seen any here, our children have never seen one in their lives. March was a soggy sorry affair here too, April is proving a totally mixed bag, yesterday it was 22C and brilliant sunshine all day, the day before it was 11C and raining and today it doesn’t appear to know what to do, sun showers as we call them! Many years ago I lived down in the Aveyron, it’s a beautiful area.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      We hope we will see the badgers, as I am pretty sure that’s what they are. We have seen them only rarely, since they are shy creatures and keep to themselves.

      The weather is very odd at the moment. One day is pleasant, the next is foul and trying to plan to do anything in the garden is difficult. However, it’s good to see everything burgeoning. The trees here have sprouted noticeably in the past few days – no doubt thanks to the mixture of sun, rain and sporadic warmth.

      We are very close to the Aveyron département, although not actually in it, but I am very attached to it.

      Like

  5. Chitra parpia says:

    Vanessa on another topic …..according to SF which month has the least rain ? Planning our trip for next year to Aveyron area and debating whether may June or September (my preference)

    Thank u for this delightful peek into your region

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      Hi Chitra, and I hope you enjoy your visit to the Aveyron département, which is full of things to see and do and wonderful countryside. September tends to be a more settled month weather-wise than May or June and certainly has been for the past few years. But bear in mind that this is what the statistics say and any particular year could be different. We are not in the Aveyron here but we are very close. The rainfall averages for those months (0ver 18 years) are as follows: May 84.6 mm; June 60.6 mm; Sept 55 mm. In my view, September is the better month with dry, warm weather, but don’t just take my word for it!

      Like

  6. We had a pet badger when I was a child, her mother had been killed and she was given to my mother at a few hours old to rear. Beryl lived in the house, the dalmatian was her best friend, and was a delightful personality, the only thing you had to watch out for was that she was very short sighted and would snap at things that alarmed her. Badgers have really pwerful jaws and can easily take off a finger. She became quite a celebrity – Beryl’s and my picture is in the first Blue Peter annual. I hope your badger comes back, they’re lovely things and they eat wasps nests too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      How wonderful! I’d love a pet badger. But they are clearly very short sighted (the one in our lane didn’t see us until we were almost on top of it) and I know they have a very powerful bite. We hope we will see them. I am sure that we have a badger sett there but perhaps we have put them off by being too much in evidence ourselves in that part of the garden.

      Like

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