On the Marinelife ferry survey I did in December I spent the time docked in Dublin and some of the journey back to Heysham reading ‘Nightwalking’. This is the first John Lewis-Stempel book I’ve read. It’s not a particularly long book, being an account of four nocturnal walks he undertakes, but there’s no doubt it’s brilliant nature writing.

In the introduction Lewis-Stempel says:

“To walk the British countryside at night is to enter a dark, adventurous continent from which one returns with an explorer’s tales of wonder.”

The book as a whole, like much good nature writing, gets you thinking about the ordinary world around you from a different perspective. It galvanised me to do a bit more walking in wild places in the dark.

A couple of weeks ago I dropped Jane at the gym and walked between the park homes on Occupation Lane to the upper reaches of the Wyre Estuary at Little Singleton (pictured above). The soundscape was captivating, the river tiptoeing downstream to a backdrop of geese. Greylags were chuntering before some or all departed, Canadas were further away on the marsh and Pinkfeet passed overhead.

Tonight I went to Staining Nook and listened for owls and waterfowl. It was generally quiet save the odd cluck of Coots and Moorhens. Then a distant owl sounding note on the breeze. After a couple more notes I decided it was probably an Eagle Owl in someone’s back garden aviary rather than the expected Tawny.

Before I went out tonight Winterwatch was on. It used thermal imagery so that you could see in fine detail that birds feeding under cover of darkness were Woodcocks. Birders are using this gear to be able to see birds at night. Maybe it’s just me, but I think part of the appeal of nature observation in the dark is retaining an air of mystery and not knowing what every movement and shadow belongs to.

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