There was something weirdly exhilarating about attending an event so much later in the day.
I had only ever experienced Eycott Hill Nature Reserve during daylight hours; but this time, as I arrived and greeted the other individuals in the group, the evening’s darkness was steadily approaching.
Lit with fairy lights, we gingerly trod along the route, as sparks of excitement raced through my body for the possibility of capturing a glimpse of wildlife.
Wrapped up with hats and scarves, we stopped by a cluster of trees to switch on our bat detectors, in hope that we could identify some local species. Due to their high-frequencies, bats produce sounds that are usually inaudible to the human ear. Our ears naturally mature with age, affecting the ability to hear higher frequencies – so only those with ears that are young enough may have the gift to hear bats!
Alas, the rest of us must rely on bat detectors to make these noises perceptible. Unfortunately, besides some interference (of which we soon realised we were in fact causing), there were no signs of any bats.
We continued our venture across Eycott Hill to visit a badger sett to see if we could distinguish some signs of activity. Each of us perched upon a knoll to listen out for noises, where we were able to hear the whistles of the wind, a faint rustle nearby, and a squawk in the distance.
By this point, the night sky was drawing close, covering the surroundings in such a darkness that no step forward was safe without torchlight. We were expecting the presence of the common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus), so the bat detectors were out once again as a final attempt to capture any signs. As it so happened, a large bat flew overhead, so we adjusted the frequency on the detectors and picked up a noctule bat (Nyctalus noctule)! It was surprising how not even the slightest of flutter could be heard overhead, but everyone was so delighted with the discovery as the wait was so worthwhile.
As we began our journey back, we took a look at the moth trap that had been set up prior to the walk. The beaming light was so bright that it emitted a warmth that made everyone huddle closer; whilst the deep hum of the generator became the drumroll of anticipation for the results.
Cumbria Wildlife Trust guides, Jody and Imogen, discussed how planting pale, night-scented flowers could make their gardens more appealing to moths; and late flowering climbers, like ivy, would be ideal around this time of the year. As Imogen carefully picked apart the moth trap, there was a surprise that seemed to shock everyone… There were no insects in sight, not even a gnat! On that note, we soon made our way back to discuss the evening and return any borrowed equipment. Before leaving, we viewed some past footage from a trail camera, which showed the badgers out and about at Eycott Hill earlier in the week.
Although we were unable to detect many species this time, it was rewarding to know that both bats and badgers are present at the site; as well as understanding that so many more species thrive there.
On this occasion, we were a little less successful in our findings, but maybe you could be in for a chance to spot more at Eycott Hill… To learn more about the wildlife that emerges after dusk, visit http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/nightgarden or find more upcoming events at http://www.cumbriawildlifetrust.org.uk/whats-on.