Field Event Reports

4 May 2016: Wytham Wood - Badgers

Leaders: Nigel Fisher, Conservator of Wytham Woods, University of Oxford.

Badger setts were amongst the Bluebell Woods

A significant group of 18 Members and 3 visitors met in the main Wytham Woods Car Park, some of us who had not visited the Woods before having 'enjoyed' a trip around the country lanes trying to find the entrance! At 6.45pm we were met on a cracking sunny and warm evening by our leader, who was clutching a badger soft toy - our hopes were that we would see some real ones too. Nigel explained the background to the badger colonies in Wytham (there are over 20 setts and 200 individuals at this time) and talked about some of the research projects. The atmosphere was considerably lightened as he recounted a number of humorous stories about the badgers and indeed some of the visitors.

We then walked up the main drive into the Woods for some 20 minutes - a quite strenuous hike up the hill, which did not seem to bother the numerous runners from a local group encountered out on their evening exercise. When we reached an old house, we divided into two groups, each to go to a separate sett. So, about 7.40pm the two groups settled at their locations on banks/ridges above the setts.

The larger group did not have too much luck. They saw a Roe Deer buck in the bottom of the dell and were barked at quite spectacularly by a Muntjac/Roe from across the dell. And, exceptionally loud woodpeckers drummed nearby. At the sett, the first sighting was about 8.30 pm: a young (teenager) popped his head out several times before making a full appearance when he/she ran from one hole to another, took a look at the group up the slope then ran back again to his original hole before disappearing. This was the sole sighting. Perhaps there may have been a change of wind direction instead of going from the sett to the viewers it was blowing down to the sett.

The second smaller group (to which I belonged) settled about 7.45pm above a sett, spread out along the bank - apparently holes were also spread out below us and the badgers could appear from any. We also heard the distant woodpeckers and a rather irate Blue Tit alarm-called in front of us for some 20 minutes. Strangely, within a couple of minutes of the Blue Tit giving up, the first badger appeared from our left and disappeared down the track into the woods. Over the next hour we had a number of sightings from the same end, mostly young, sometimes just individuals, the best being a group of four or five. At one point, two adults and some youngsters appeared, but with a grunt fled back into the sett. So successful for this group, although all sightings were brief as the animals were sensitive to any sounds. Also it was clear that the youngsters often peered up the slope to us, so probably could see us - Nigel had earlier told us that the youngsters had good eyesight, while adults suffered from cataracts. At around 9pm both groups decamped as the light had dropped rapidly and walked back down the hill (the runners had disappeared) to the car park where thanks were conveyed to Nigel. A pleasant spring evening in the woods with variable success of seeing badgers, but I believe enjoyed by all.

Graham Bateman

Graham Bateman, Michael & Gillian Taylor, Tony & Lyn Richmond, Felicity Jenkins, Sally Ainslie, Caroline & Nigel Gregory, Michael Bloom, Douglas & Penny Isles, Ian Smith, Vivienne Summers, Janet & Martin Buckland, Jane Bye, Susan Morley, plus three guests.

21 attendees

Michael Bloom's Gallery

Badgers were seen among Bluebells There was a fleeting view of cubsBluebell woods were an added attraction Here is the group at the start

The group with Nigel Fisher Nigel Fisher has a cuddly, but not very lively, Badger!The group approaching the settsBadgers were seen among Bluebells