Harking back to the beginning of August, we had escaped our 4 walls and travelled the relatively short distance to the Lake District. We were anxious (or at least I was – so no change there!) about the COVID crisis and if locals actually wanted us there. Happily, we were warmly welcomed and there were plenty of safety measures in place to keep us all calm and able to enjoy our escape guilt free.
As well as the gorgeous scenery found in the Lake District which, in my opinion, is the epitome of freedom and escape, especially from modern day drudgery, there was the wildlife too.
Walking in the countryside around Keswick, you could easily spot Buzzards, Goldcrests, damselflies etc. But thankfully, one of my most random lockdown purchases, a pretty cheap camera trap from amazon, paid off and led to a magical wildlife encounter which will stay with me forever.
It was a particularly hot night, and we were all pretty hot and bothered and getting a bit irked. As the night drew in, I enjoyed a glass of wine and lemonade (I have a very sweet tooth – please don’t judge!) and decided that it would be a pretty good night to set up the camera trap. The cottage was relatively rural, it was in a hamlet, but there was countryside sprawled all around. We were treated to 3 Buzzards mewing earlier that morning, a haunting call, which I just adore.
So at around 11pm, before bedtime, we I set up my camera trap, ready to attach to the leg of one of the outdoor dining chairs, and a bag of peanuts and Sunflower hearts. After attaching the camera to the chair I carried it over to a corner of the open drive, which I thought would have best viewing potential of anything that made it’s way up to the cottage. I looked down to scatter the seed when my Dad suddenly told me to look up. And OH MY GOODNESS!!
A Barn Owl flew over so low, the detail we could see was amazing. It glided through the air right overhead, and nonchalantly turned it’s head down and towards us and looked directly at us. It then glided over the roof of the cottage and then down into the fields below, where, no doubt, it would be looking for dinner. Now after I had loosened the grip on my poor dad’s arm, and breathed out, it finally sunk in as to what I had just witnessed. I have only ever seen Barn Owls from a distance e.g. from a train hurtling up the country or captive birds (and sadly one hit by a car, but let’s not dwell), so to see one so close was fabulous. Now many of you reading this might not have been remotely excited to see a barn owl, but they are so magical to see. And I can now fully understand why back in the day people would often think they had seen a ghost, gliding noiselessly through the dark. I did not expect to see one, as they are normally crepuscular and it was pitch black.
But that is not all – oh no!
As the air was nice and cool, and the midges were not as vindictive as earlier (anthropomorphic I know, but I would like to see anyone try to describe them as anything else!) and yet another wildlife encounter ensued. This one was much quicker than the Barn Owl. A bat (we couldn’t identify the species) flitted up in front of us from the steep bank by the side of the cottage. We were sat at the patio table and just saw the dark wings against the inkiness of the sky. It was literally a split second encounter. But I guess the midges had a use after all!
And finally (yes there’s more) as I was sat preparing to go back inside and head to bed, I heard a grunt and a snuffle that was unmistakeable. I asked my dad if he heard anything, but he said no. But I was pretty sure what I had heard, so I grabbed the little torch we had and looked in the flower border, and straight away, I saw a little prickly visitor. A hedgehog, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle herself for all we know, was in the flowerbed. DAY MADE.
It made me so happy to see one, out at night, displaying appropriate behaviours as nature intended, as all of the other ones I have seen have been unwell or squashed (I hate it when I see them on the road, it gets me every time). After calling out the rest of the family to have a look, we left it in peace and retreated back to the cottage, but not before we sprinkled an extra handful of food or two on the ground. Yes, it was scattered strategically in front of the camera.
Here are the results: