Connecting with the wild

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Autumn is the time to delay your daily walk until the light begins to fade, suggests wildlife writer Jane Adams – there’s a whole new world at dusk

A badger on its evening patrol

Autumn is a great time to experience wildlife, especially at dusk. A walk in the countryside when the light is fading can add a whole new dimension to the way we perceive the world.
But don’t be surprised if it feels a little scary, that’s only to be expected. We humans are programmed to mistrust the uncertainty of darkness; no doubt a throwback to when our ancestors faced genuine risks from wild wolves and enemy tribes.
Nowadays, though, tripping and stumbling into a low-growing branch are likely to be your biggest hazards!
So accept the tingle of uncertainty that trickles down your spine and pick a clear, moonlit evening, when even a torch becomes unnecessary.

Look with your ears
Many wild animals relax a little as darkness falls. With less traffic and people, they become more confident when cloaked in the safety of darkness.
You might also hear sounds you don’t initially recognise. There could be a badger shuffling through the undergrowth, noisily scratching in the woodland loam for worms and slurping slugs from leaves.
Or in the distance, you might hear deer stags bellowing and groaning as they vie for the right to breed, rivals jousting like medieval knights.
In October, tawny owls will be patrolling their wooded territories. The hooo-huhuhuhoooing of the male and the female’s ker-wicking contact calls often haunt the cooling air.
Foxes will emerge, long-legged and agile, negotiating the ditches and fences, barely making a sound as they trot out to hunt over fallen leaves.

Barn owl (Tyto alba) perched on a post at dusk.

Sense it all
Take some time to listen, and breathe a little deeper. Find a tree trunk to rest against. Touch the leaves and soil beneath you, feel the texture of the velvet moss and iron-hard bark behind your head.
As summer dies, it feeds the earth, releasing the scent of autumn on the breeze. Reconnect with the natural world. Then, when the time is right, wander (carefully) home.

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