Badgers dig up an old Purdey cartridge case

Busy badgers.
Busy badgers.

THE FULL moon at the end of December gave wonderful light for badger watching.

Their sett is just outside the garden and the animals were busy on the track at eight o’clock. What on earth were they doing though?

A group of three were pigging into something in that grass strip that grows between the vehicle wheels. I could just about hear a faint snorting at thirty yards as I focused my old Zeiss.

All three were the same size, sort of half grown, certainly not yet the size of the boar and sow.

The moon, rolling through fast streams of white and umber with occasional rainbows in the halo gave an intermittent flash of gleam like a headlight.

The grey on the badgers’ coats could then be seen. Otherwise they were just curved black shapes like porpoises leaping.

The air drift was to me. I have learned over decades to stand still. I remember fidgeting when I was nine as I waited for pigeons with my father on his Norfolk farm and he hissing: “Will you please keep still”.

He had frozen still in No-Man’s Land on Christmas Eve 1914 just before the Germans had waved their light on a pole and sang Silent Night.

He used to look like an old heron waiting to spear a fish when the pigeons were circling and wondering if all was safe in the oaks. I remember feeling a little petulant at being scolded then, but I learned.

Today even in my kitchen behind the window I have to freeze like a stone statue when the great spotted woodpecker lands on the bird table and turns her big black eye in my direction to see if I am real or part of the brickwork.

So the badgers snuffled together with their broad bowed backs and snouts into the soil.

The next day I saw what all the interest was about. Just earthworms again.

The night had been dozy and mild and the ground wet and worms had been rising into the rich green strip where the buck rabbits wee and making the grass grow blue green. The most unlikely feed source for worms but the badgers had found them.

Later in the week I found where one had started a new dig under the garage. A hundred years ago this shed known as The Luncheon Hut was where Mr “Willie” James had entertained Edward VII to shooting lunches.

All kinds of little reminders of royal luncheons came to light even now. Bits of broken potter – cups and saucers, cake plates and cartridges.

This week the badger had unearthed an ancient Purdey full brass cartridge case with the percussion cap neatly dented by the royal firing pin. It was paper thin and beyond polishing but a nice reminder.

I have found Stone Age implements thrown out by rabbits on the Downs and a shard of pottery made by the Beaker Folk of Bronze Age times unearned by badgers but this recent treasure is a prize.

Richard Williamson