Country diary: there’s a telltale musky smell beneath the plum tree

The last of the Victoria plums are rotting on the ground. I step around them, avoiding the sticky mess and gorging wasps. The air has a sweet alcoholic tang, like the day after a big party. Peacock butterflies and red admirals flit from fallen fruit, drinking the fermented juices. Docile and plum-drunk, a peacock lands on my hand. Its false eyes blink at me, as the wings, all tatty now, slowly open and shut.

I scavenge a couple of partly edible plums still hanging on the trees, making sure to check for maggots before biting in. Many of the fruit have been affected by the pinkish caterpillar of the plum moth, Grapholita funebrana, which burrows into the flesh to feed around the stone. When sated, they will spin a cocoon hidden away in the bark of the tree, to emerge as a dull greyish brown moth in May next year.

Looking up at the branches, rather than the ground, I nearly squish my summer-sandalled foot in it. There, beneath a tree, like vomit outside a nightclub, is a pile of dark purple excrement, dotted with plum stones and nestled in a scrape: a badger latrine. It has a musky, sweet but feral smell – to another badger it is a social message.

Badgers anoint their droppings with scent from the glands under their tail, typically to mark territory or indicate mating status. The badgers visiting this orchard were most likely from a sett about a mile away; their faeces will have marked this spot as theirs. Odour is an important part of badger communication and a community will also set scent on each other. Known as allo-marking, this enhances a combined, communal perfume that is different from that of other neighbouring clans.

The fallen plums signal the dying days of summer. This change of season always weighs heavily on me, like a hangover. Already, I miss the swifts screaming overhead. I look up, just to check, but they are gone. The third brood of swallows are nearly ready to leave too. All that is left is the alcoholic tang of rotting fruit and the sweet knowledge that badgers have been here. Now, I must turn my face to autumn.

decaying plums


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Enter Your Information Below To Receive Free Trading Ideas, Latest News, And Articles.

Please Enter Your Email Address:

Your information is secure and your privacy is protected. By opting in you agree to receive emails from us and our affiliates. Remember that you can opt-out any time, we hate spam too!


Change in the trading schedule for July 1 and 3, 2020

Dear customers! We inform you about changes in the trading schedule for July 1 and 3, 2020 for some instruments. July 1: HSI50-trading is...

Treasury’s ‘green recovery’ not enough, say campaigners

Environmental groups have reacted with disappointment to details of the government's Covid-19 economic rescue package released by the Treasury. On Monday night the government announced...

Britain has faced its toughest test for decades, but we will build a better tomorrow’

If ever a crisis proved that our fates are bound together, it has been the last six weeks. The state has asked many businesses...

Watch the birdie: why birdcams are the new box sets

On the webcam it is clear that Telyn is back. Sleek, powerful and yellow-eyed, the osprey has successfully raised a dynasty high above the...

FBS League Join and Earn Extra Money

Our Team has rebranded the FBS Pro contest to offer you more opportunities for additional income. From now, it is called FBS League and...