Strange thing, September. For the last two years, autumn has appeared to start precisely on the 1st. The air cools, the mornings are sweeter, and the last swallows hunt over dewy fields. And woodlands acquire that watercolour glow.
Water – rainwater – is what fungi need, but last year’s switch from dryness to extreme undying rain produced few. I hope we have more of a show this year, and the boletes have already fruited, carpeting the road verge with otherworldly glory.
And the foxes – hints of their winter coats are starting to frost the russet.
We may call it a moment of genius. It takes an object – a rock, a stick, a tool – and applies it to purpose never before imagined. We admire crows that use traffic to crack open nuts, elephants that swat flies with branches, and badgers that convert trailcams into toys.
Okay, maybe the last one is less brilliance than simple mischief. Be that as it may, Trailcam2 is gone. The strap has been chewed through by badger cubs and the camera dragged underground!
And there it will stay, at least until the badgers shove it outwards during their regular sett cleaning forays. I hope I do see it again eventually because I’m sure the footage that it has obtained during its captivity is spellbinding. Otherwise, an archaeologist in a few centuries’ time will ponder the meaning of a small rectangular camera deep inside a Surrey hill.
But even when the path has been trodden before, nature has the feeling of a pioneer. A toadlet venturing from its breeding pond into the wood cannot guess how many generations have preceded it.
It is the first of its journeys, after all. Not like the rain, which is evaporated and precipitated over and over again.
As for the badgers, they write their stories in rocks as well as on trailcams. Scratch marks on chalk tell of their travels.
Here’s a still that I got from Trailcam2 last week.
It was a good camera, and it will be missed – and replaced, of course.
But the badgers will still play whether they are watched or not.
Or wild children, as it happens. Hetty and Dyson continue their visits to the garden, but out in the countryside, another badger family is growing up. Social grooming is an important badger ritual – one presumes that this cub will eventually realise that the idea isn’t to sit on your parents.
A small family, with just two adults and three cubs. Here’s the father on babysitting duties.
The dry May has cooled into an unsettled June, and not a moment too soon. The earthworms that comprise such an important part of badger and young fox diets have been deep underground, and some of the other badgers that I’ve found have been severely underweight.
And rain will help our wildflowers too.