Speaking of books, I bought myself another good one recently. It’s called The Nocturnal Naturalist by Kelvin Boot. Published in 1985 it’s out of print now (I bought mine, an ex-library copy, for £2 on Amazon), which is a shame as it’s a good book. Let me quote you a paragraph from the opening page:
‘My interest in the night stemmed from a combination of curiosity and necessity – I wanted to study wild creatures but had to work for a living during the day. The result was a revelation. I was astounded at how much could be seen within a small radius and am now convinced that a thorough understanding of an area can only be gained by studying it at night.’
Here, clearly, is a man after my own heart. Not only does he share my desire to understand the wildlife on his local patch, but he also has no time to do it in daylight. The obvious course of action was to follow his example and make more use of the hours of darkness.
Tonight I put the theory into practice. Unfortunately the weather was filthy; strong winds – the tail-end of the recent gales – and a steady drizzle blowing sideways across the fields in the gusts. Not ideal for any wildlife, and certainly not ideal for me. Nevertheless, I wanted to put the whole nocturnal thing into practice, and besides, there is always a pleasure in being out when everyone else is tucked up inside.
It’s a good thing that everyone was inside, because I spent an hour and a half and a shuffling slowly around the local area dressed in my camouflage jacket and peering through my night vision scope. Anyone seeing me would have probably called the police. It’s a sign that I’ve grown soft lately, but I couldn’t face the mile-long walk up to the wood in these conditions. Instead, I settled for the circuit of the fields and copses behind my house – the same route that makes up my usual short tracking walk. I know from the signs that I’ve found here that there are foxes, badgers, a range of deer species and at least one stoat that all frequent this area, so it’s a good a place to start as any.
I decided to use the NV scope instead of a torch. Walking while using the scope was almost impossible, but I found it was easy enough to scan the area, walk a few yards and then stop and scan again. The infra-red illuminator meant that any animals showed up by their eye-shine, so it was quite an effective way of searching an area.
Did I see foxes, badgers, deer or stoats? No. I saw a total of 14 rabbits. I probably see more (and more interesting) wildlife on my drive to the station each morning, but that’s not the point. I was outdoors and I was enjoying myself.