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Sunday, 15 June 2014

foolish young badgers

I write this post to the humming of the incubator. It's been a week involving predatory wildlife and bucket loads of sweet peas.
A few mornings ago I went to open the lady duck's house and was surprised not to be greeted with the usual squawking and reprimands "what time of day do you call this" and "Come and look at my egg" . When I opened the door the cupboard was bare and there was a huge hole in the side of the house where something had pushed through and one by one removed them. I think it was a fox, my neighbour thinks it was a pine marten, a friend's son thinks it was a badger. My money's on the fox.

 It was a sad, hollow feeling, whatever had taken them, and I'll miss their joyful antics around the poly tunnel area, their eating of all the slugs and snails and of course their delicious eggs. I felt I should have kept the last ones they laid for posterity rather than put them in the tortilla.

 My boys are still ok in the wendy house - here is one of them having just checked himself out in the washing machine window and on the prowl for snacks. Needless to say I was straight onto E Bay where I purchased six eggs from black Indian runners and a further six from white Indian runners. Heaven help us if they all hatch but they don't normally and anyway about 70% of them will be boys which I won't want and will have to find homes for - though no one really wants boy ducks - they don't give you eggs and give you a nasty peck on the back of the leg.

So in 28 days (watch this space dear Readers) these beauties should start to hatch with luck and diligent handling. You have to be mother duck and turn the eggs every few hours so they don't get stuck to one side of the shell when they are developing. They are lovely looking eggs I must say - much bigger than the ones my ladies used to lay. It was very tempting I must say when one of my daughters came down and said "Oh haven't you got any eggs? I feel like a cooked breakfast." Fortunately the postage had been rather high and stopped me reducing their numbers  to eleven.

There have been rather a lot of foolish young badgers by the side of the roads recently - just learning the dangers of those tarmaced rivers I guess. Or farmers have dumped their bodies there - though I guess this is unlikely. Last night when I went to check on the horses who are now down in the yurt field, I noticed lots of mounds of chalk in the corner of the next door field. The field backs onto a wood and I could see they were badger sets. I crept there and stood quietly for ages watching the little chaps busying themselves at the edge of the wood. It was a joyous sight. They are so funny and very noisy. There was a lot of activity going on and the ones you couldn't see you could definitely hear.
There was a mass of grunting, snuffling noises and the sound of breaking twigs as they lumbered around in the clearing. I stood there till it got too dark to see them. Fortunately they are no where near a road. I'm keeping it a secret - just hope that gamekeeper doesn't do something horrible.

This is the beginning of a very long poem by John Clare about a badger. Apart from the fact it is too long to type out it is also very sad. People have been cruel to badgers for centuries. They are lovely creatures - even if my friend's son had been right about who the culprit was.

The badger grunting on his woodland track

With shaggy hide and sharp nose scrowed with black

Roots in the bushes and the woods, and makes

A great high burrow in the ferns and brakes.

With nose on ground he runs an awkward pace,

And anything will beat him in the race.

The shepherd's dog will run him to his den

Followed and hooted by the dogs and men.

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