A night of talkative grouse. Spurts of chattering. My reaction, to burst out of the tent on my knees, shining the torch in their direction. The aim, to scare away a fox. If there is one. Then scanning with the night vision lens checking for anything lingering.
6am and the Roe deer are noisy. Not quite their nocturnal werewolf like bark. Much softer. I hear two, hidden in the gully. I wonder if they are a male and female courting. Eventually I see a doe running away.
A frog, hops along the top of the heather. Clearly easier than attempting to get through the dense vegetation beneath. Risky though, I’d have thought, with the aerial predators around here!
After a good and busy dawn hunt. The Short-eared owl relaxes on his favourite post in the sunshine. He scans for danger, he bathes, he preens. Seeing him preen those thickly feathered legs is like watching someone do pilates in pantaloons!
A mystery bird, sporting a dashing cream moustache. I kneel, binoculars in one hand, bird book in the other. I finally deduce that it’s a juvenile Winchat. All the while someone has been watching me from a tumble down stone wall two metres away. A perfect, very ginger Wren. In sparkly new feathers. If I’m birding, what’s the Wren doing?
A bird on the track ahead. Bigger than a pipit. Wagging his long-tailed rump at me. And then he flies, and there’s the wonderful white rump. A Wheatear.
Sunshine. Warmth. Things I’ve not yet experienced here on the moors. From seemingly nowhere emerges a carpet of flora, and with it an abundance of flutterbies. Small heaths, green-veined whites, Orange tips, Ringlets. Bilberry and White-tailed bumblebees.
On the rocks above the river, two Grey wagtails spread their tail feathers and absorb their vitamin D.
A night of blustery, noisy, strong winds. The whole hut shudders and moans. I have visions of pieces flying off across the moors, or the whole hut blowing away ‘Wizard of Oz’ style (with me in it!). Somehow the hut endures the night, and incredibly I manage to grab a little sleep.
5am, 6am, 6.55am, the Short-eared owl hunts, preens, bathes, and scans. Three Kestrel hunt all around the hut and Hen harrier nesting area. Meadow pipits mob the Kestrels. A pigeon flies backwards and forwards. Grouse chat. And the Hen harriers? 7am, they finally arise! Mrs HH swoops, one, two, three times at groups of Red grouse. If her intention was to catch one for breakfast, big fail. If instead she just wished to scatter them panic stricken, mission complete.
It’s sunny. Pleasant. 8am. A black cloud comes from nowhere, covering this hill in utter darkness. Daylight snuffed out. I have to use a torch. With the black cloud comes the wind and a ferocious downpour of rain I’ve never experienced the like of. The black cloud passes, leaving the landscape a little bewildered.
The pattern of rain and mist has returned. The journey up to the watch point is again soggy and boggy. The flowers and butterflies have vanished. Like they were just a fairytale dream.
Our harriers behaviours are changing. Instead of accepting food from he, and taking it away from the nest to eat, she now has a nibble and then takes the food to the nest. Why? To feed someone else of course! So, we have at least one chick hatched. One wee chick of one of the rarest breeding birds in Great Britain.
Four Crows hang about not far from the nest. As the female harrier emerges, they all mob her. She performs aerial acrobatic magic, out-manoeuvring them and escaping. Returning just a few minutes later, she repeatedly lands in different areas around her nest, before finally ending in the real one. All to confuse the Crows?
A Roe deer doe and her very sweet fawn pass behind the nest. I watch them move across the terrain. Mother always moves first. She scans around a while. When all his clear the calf skips and bounces to join mum. At this point there is often nose to nose greetings and a little affectionate facial grooming. They repeat this over and over until I can see them no more. A male appears. He excitedly follows the scent of the doe, ground pawing and scent marking along the way. I feel for him. The dimwit is going the wrong way!
Attempting sleep, in the hut. I can hear movement somewhere close to my head. It must be a mouse. Again and again I switch on the torch and seek. Eventually I spot him. Marching across my makeshift pillow. He must have been beneath my hair. The largest, cheekiest caterpillar I ever did see. He stopped marching when he reached the torch light… Attracted to the light, he’s got to be a moth! In fact, he was an Oak eggar moth caterpillar. The Hungry caterpillar? Nope, the Noisy caterpillar. He was placed outdoors.
Dawn twilight. Sitting outside the hut, listening to the grouse chorus. A Wren lands with a dainty thump on the wooden rail one metre in front of my nose. I squint my eyes to nearly shut. It works. I think he thinks that I am asleep. He hops about looking here and there. Hops along a bit. Dances about quite a bit. Peers into the hut. Hops and dances along a bit more and then flies off. Sadly he clumsily flew into the camo mesh that works as our hide. He was fine. Although I’m sure his ego was a tad bruised.
It occurred to me later on that perhaps he was looking for more big fat Noisy caterpillars!
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