I'm writing this Blog on the day that Boris is about to tell us that the metaphorical prison gates are to be opened wide enough to let us out to play, hug and get up to mischief however or wherever (nearly) we want, inside, in the company of others, at day or at night .... hurrah!
With only an 'out out' all-nighter at a nightclub still verboten, perhaps it's time for a final celebration of how I've been amusing myself on a long dark night, rather than throwing some serious Dad Dancing shapes after one too many elderflower cordials!
The stars of this story are our wildlife neighbours going about their business under the cover of darkness, either here at Harris Acres or at locations away from home, permitted (probably!) within the dying embers of Boris restrictions.
Tawny Owls are true Nocturnal predators, with the hours of darkness their natural domain. This one however, popped in for a snack with almost indecent haste as soon as the light departed enough for it to qualify as 'night' .... cheeky!
Tawny Owl on a post
Such beautiful creatures of the night - a real privilege see them at close quarters; if only they would occupy the beautiful RSPB box I've installed at home, rather than hooting for England mere metres from our bedroom window instead .... hmmmph!
Next up a huge bird, happy to hunt in daylight, or even where some nutty wildlife photographers are waiting with some background lighting and flash set up to capture their evening meal.
I've captured better shots of Heron's at this location on previous visits, but the still calm conditions on this occasion allowed for some reflection capture ... quite nice ... 4/10 for each of these two shots.
The star attraction at Tom's Pond Hide location is the wonderful Eurasion Otter. I can't begin to describe the thrill of being so close to these incredible creatures as they go about their night time business, sometimes literally inches from your position at water level.
You can see Otters in the daytime on many UK waterways as their numbers grow, but it's at night that they are in their element, fearless, bold and dashingly handsome on the dance floor!
Closer to home .... ok ..... actually at home ... I've invested in some flash equipment to shed some light on the after dark activity of the Harris Acres wildlife club.
Regular readers of my Blog posts, will have seen my efforts at Camera Trap photography, which relies on the wildlife breaking an infra red beam to take their own picture .... a 'wildlife-remote-selfie' if you will?
It's much better if the photographer can choose the moment to press the shutter release than the animal itself and for this you need :
a) flashes carefully adjusted so as not to startle or disturb the subject and
b) flashes only to be used very occasionally (I'm working on once every two or three of weeks)
b) a discreet place to set up your camera where they can't see, or more importantly, SMELL you.
In my case the ideal location turns out to be the window of a downstairs bedroom with a view out onto the grassy area that leads to some woodland, from where our friends emerge as the light fades.
We have two different Foxes visiting within an hour of sunset .... every night.
I have concluded that they may be siblings from a 2019 or 2020 litter, because if one were a Vixen with cubs, we should have seen them by now and sadly, there are no cubs, just a couple of hungry individuals, enjoying the organic high quality dried dog food that is clearly helping to keep them in tip top condition!
Foxes are notoriously difficult to sex, so I can't be sure whether we have a band of brothers, a Sister Act or a mixed combination, although I believe that is less likely. Anyone with more expertise in these matters that can shed some light from looking at these shots would be welcome to help!
I'm sure we have two Foxes as I've caught two visitors at the same time on my trail cam and one developed (and then recovered from) a slightly lame front leg, enabling a clear distinction between them for a few days (nights!)
'full of beans'
... intelligent and acutely aware of its surroundings
so beautiful ... one of my favourite shots
I know wildlife photographers are supposed to be unemotionally committed observers, but it's been impossible not to get 'attached' to these truly wild, rural Foxes.
Earning their trust (mainly by keeping out of their way) and watching their confidence grow with each visit has been a real morale boost through the challenging lockdown periods.
In further news ... our resident Hedgehog has come out of hibernation and is making a nightly appearance on its way through to feast on the slugs and snails threatening our Delphiniums, with Sarah an enthusiastic Hedgie supporter as a consequence!
Finally .... how about a few clues as to the subject of my next project?
There's plenty of challenges ahead, as the Badger is a strong, determined and inquisitive creature of the night, with an incredible sense of smell!
My trail cam got a right seeing-to by one of the Badger Clan, as it first padded past, then reversed with a snort of indignation as it recognised my 'Human' smell on the trail cam itself, (listen for the Badger shouting its displeasure!)
So let's close (as Boris is busy imparting his good news to the Nation on my iPad !!), with a final shot of the wonderful Foxes that have added a dash of colour, style, and vibrant reality to the dark days of lockdown, hopefully now beginning to be left behind as a bad dream.
Roll on June 21st I say!
Keep safe and well in the meantime everyone.