Almost three years ago, I got into contact with a badger (Meles meles, Das) conservationist. He is as passionate about badgers as I am about my photography, and we soon decided to join forces and go visit a badger sett together. I really wanted to see and photograph badgers and he needed good photographs for promotional purposes.
I never tried to go after badgers myself, because (1) they don’t live anywhere near my neck of the woods and (2) I know how hard it can be to photograph mammals and do not want to disturb anything because of a severe lack of knowledge.
Because of several hickups along the way, it wasn’t until yesterday that we finally had a change to actually go out into the field. But all good things come to those who wait, isn’t that how the saying goes? Around 7.30 pm on a dry and sometimes sunny evening, we took our position at the far edge of the badger sett, beautifully positioned in a ridge within mature deciduous forest. Dappled sunlight hit the forest floor every here and there. The tension rose: would I finally get to see a badger? On previous favorable occasions in the UK and the Veluwe area, I was very unfortunate and missed them by a hair. Not this time. Before long, no less than 11 badgers came out of the sett and started to scratch themselves for a while, after which the 5 youngsters got into playfights and were taken one by one by their mothers for some food gathering lessons. At one time, I was lying flat on the forest floor, photographing a badger cub at a distance of only 2 meters, when a second cub came out of the sett and walked right up to us, he could almost lick my ear!
This encounter rates definitely very high on my scale of wonderful wildlife moments. I can’t wait to go back to this happy family. A bit further from home than I am used to, but watching a badger family behave naturally from a close distance without being intrusive is more than worth the drive.
Technically, it was less hard than imagined. Yes, light levels are low, but when a badger stands still, it is almost like a rock. I got tacksharp images at 1/8th of a second. I’ll have to play a bit with the noise reduction sliders in Lightroom to get the best posiible results from my high-ISO shots, but I am very happy with the first quick conversion shown above.
Badger; Canon 5D Mark II w. 70-200/2.8L IS II; 1/40s at F2.8 and ISO3200; handheld