I have said before in this blog that I and not in favour of building relationships with wild animals: they will die from disease, die on a road, or something will eat them. Having said this, I do like to give names to the more colourful characters.
If interested in nature, I feel a person should be able to watch animals being killed by others without feeling upset or a need to save them. I am interested in all animal behaviour. I want to know how they interact with each other, how they affect their environment, and how the environment affects them. I want to know what they eat and how difficult it is for them to make a living within the confines of a territory. I am nearly always looking for animal actions, reactions and reasons for why they do what they do.
If there was one marsh animal that I felt was more interesting than another, or for whom I held more than a mild affection, it would have to be One Eye: the old badger. He is such a character. He growls, mutters, humphs, puffs, and coughs his way around the marsh. He reminds me of a little angry old man. Occasionally, whilst walking through the marsh on dark winter nights, I have heard him approach. He is easy to identify through my night scope and by the sounds he makes: he appears as a little one-eyed monster in the viewfinder. He pays little or no heed to me. Having only his left eye, he has to turn his head a good way around to his right if he wants to see me, and I don’t think there is an animal on the marsh with the courage to bother him – he has a mighty strong pair from paws and long sharp claws. I’ve found myself muttering, “How’s it going, One Eye.” I imagine him looking back at me and saying, “What? Oh! It’s you! Humph, grrr, cough, cough.”
I’ve come across One Eye on the narrow tracks of Hoo Wood. On one occasion I heard him huffing and chuffing along, switched my torch on and saw him coming at me like a train with Spike close on his tail. On at least two occasions I have had to lift my leg to let him pass beneath.
Whilst British badgers are social creatures, I usually see them out foraging singly. During the mating season I sometimes see them in pairs, and my remote cameras have photographed them singly, in pairs, and in family groups. Cullum, the camera fiddling badger, is always out on his own. The marsh foxes hunt singly and as a pair, and they have developed very effective hunting tactics, but they only hunt as a pair when providing for cubs.
There are many badger setts on Wilden Marsh and in the hills surrounding the Reserve, and they don’t stay in the same setts, they move around. In winter the badgers use the marsh setts and in summer they prefer their hill setts.
The River Stour is a favourite place for the badgers to forage and they love raiding wasp nests.
My camera traps capture some strange things out on the marsh.