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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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?
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