There is a veritable abundance of wildlife in our gardens and parks, as well as in the wider countryside, at this time of year, but many of our native species live extremely secretive lives; hidden from plain view in the undergrowth or venturing out only at night. Thought you need only pop your head out of doors to see (or hear) birds and insects, you are less likely to come across small rodents, slow worms, frogs, toads and such like, as you go about your daily life. And unless you happen to be sitting outside in your garden, or taking a late evening or early morning stroll, you might not catch sight of nocturnal species like bats, moths, and owls, from one summer to the next.
During the first lockdown, my husband and I started going for our daily walks in the evenings, around dusk, rather than during the day. We did this, initially, to avoid adding to the ever-increasing numbers of walkers and cyclists in the little lanes around our home, but after a while it became our preferred time to walk. As we became more used to walking in the dark, our vision adjusted, and we started to notice things we hadn’t been aware of on our daytime walks. It wasn’t just sights and sounds, but scents as well, the most obvious being the intoxicating scent of wild honeysuckle growing in the hedgerows.
Through the warmer months there were night-flying insects (mostly moths) and wherever we saw these, we often found bats, at least two, occasionally three, different species at one time. The bats were silent, appearing suddenly from the darkness ahead, and disappearing again, in the blink of an eye. The Tawny owls, on the other hand, were far from silent – their hoo hu calls becoming so familiar that we were more likely to remark on the evenings we didn’t hear them than those we did. We rarely caught sight of the adults, but we stopped one evening beneath a veteran Oak, after hearing an unfamiliar call somewhere directly above our heads, and were enchanted, when we looked up to see two Tawny owl fledglings, huddled together on one of the branches.
There’s something incredibly peaceful and magical about walking outside in the twilight hours of dusk and dawn, as though an invisible veil has lifted and you are no longer separated, the way we humans have become, from the natural world. You should give it a go…
By: Brigit Strawbridge