I recently went on a badger course at Palacerigg Country Park in Cumbernauld run by the Scottish Badger Trust. The park is owned by North Lanarkshire Council and has a large variety of animals and educational facilities. Getting to the Cumbernauld from Motherwell is a short journey on the train.
However, there is no public transport from Cumbernauld Railway Station to the park so I took my Razor A5 scooter to travel to avoid the long mile walk. The road to the park is uphill so is a bit difficult on the scooter, but on the return journey, it was much easier to freewheel for long periods. There is a footpath to the park, so is not dangerous for pedestrians.
When I arrived at the park I was fortunate to meet Emilie who was organising the learning session and she showed me to the small wooden educational building where tea, coffee and some cakes were on offer to everyone on arrival. Emilie is the Biodiversity and Heritage Officer of the Central Scotland Forest Trust.
|Peacocks at Palacerigg Country park|
The main reason I wanted to go on the course was to learn more about badgers. I had been fortunate enough to see them one evening at New Lanark and had often come across their setts and tracks at New Lanark, Chatelherault Country Park and at Dalzell Estate in Motherwell. I wanted to learn more about badgers.
Elaine informed us that the badger which is found in the UK is also found in most of Europe and Asia. There are approximately 340,000 badgers in the UK with 34,000 found in Scotland. Most badgers in Scotland are concentrated in the South and Lowlands and their habitats include woodland, hedgerows, sand dunes, moorland, railway embankments, urban areas etc.
Badgers have long bodies and short legs and have poor eyesight but have an excellent sense of smell to compensate for the poor eyesight. They have spade-like paws which are excellent for digging. They have black faces with white markings and grey bodies and a small head with long snout.
Badgers live in setts and these are joined to other setts by tunnels. There are various different categories of setts in a territory.
While on the course we learned how to survey a badger site. The best times of the year are in early Spring and late Autumn when the grass is low and the setts can be seen easily. We were given information on how to identify a badger’s path and of the various indicators of badger activity including dung heaps, bedding, scrape marks and snuffle holes.
|Earth balls from excavation on clay soil|
Roll Test for Badger Hairs
After lunch the group went on to survey an area with badgers to look out for clues on badger activity and to find some setts. The group were also looking for scrape marks, paths and other signs of badger activity. It was very good and we did find some setts, badger paths and badger bedding lying out to dry.
|Out on a survey trip|
The fieldwork trip also allowed us to make use the information given in the morning session to identify possible areas where badgers would likely to be found.
|Elaine finds some badger bedding|
An exercise was set to try and find badger setts and signs of badger activity and we were fortunate in finding some setts, scratch marks and evidence the sett was currently in use.
|Any signs here?|
We then made our way back to our base before wrapping up the session and providing feedback on the day.
Review of the Day
It was a very interesting and informative day and both Elaine and Emilie were very informative and supportive. It was well organised and the learning materials were very well presented and were easy to understand.
As I go walking about I will be more aware of the signs of badger activity and will conduct some surveys in the Autumn of the setts I come across.
Scottish Badgers – Organising the study, conservation and protection of Scotland’s badgers.
Central Scotland Forest Trust – Maintaining and improving the woodland areas in Central Scotland.
Palacerigg Country Park – Based in Cumbernauld in North Lanarkshire.