A Midsummer Night's Dreich
by, 22-06-2013 at 23:58 (5784 Views)
Ah yes, midsummer night. warm, sultry, dreamy, still, glorious.
Or not. 'Dreich' is a Scots dialect word meaning weather that is grey, damp and miserable. In this case you can add blustery to the list.
I had arranged to meet with a young friend of mine, Michael, and do an overnighter on my permission for the shortest night of the year. Michael is 16, a keen photographer, and wildlife enthusiast, and his fondest wish at the moment is to photograph a fox. There are foxes and badgers on my permission, and I hoped that the short night would bring them out where they could be seen.
We arrived on site a little after 7pm, Michael having been dropped off by his dad. A short wander for a likely site finished with us setting up in the relative shelter of a pear tree. Michael had just brought food and a sleeping bag, so I loaned him my 3x3 DD tarp and inflatable mat, and I set up my backpackinglight solo tarp, using a wool blanket as my base. I forgot to check the ground before pitching, so ended up on the world's lumpiest and most uncomfortable piece of ground, which necessitated some wriggling to get comfortable.
It is a reflection of our priorities that neither of us took shots of our set-ups. We were there for the wildlife.
A meal of pasta, curry and rice and naan bread followed (I'm still trying to get the baked-on rice out of the bottom of my titan kettle), a swig of sloe gin, and we grabbed the cameras for an evening foray to see what was about.
At this point it was still dry-ish, but the weather was closing in. Lighting conditions were not great for photography, so I had my camera set to 'vivid' mode to compensate. Sunset was 9.30pm or so, but there was too much cloud for a nice midsummer sunset.
We found little of interest, certainly no foxes, so we settled down for a while on the bank above the badger set. We sat for about 2 hours, hearing noises that might have been a cautious badger now and again, but saw nothing more than a tawny owl setting off on a hunt. We decided to retire back to our camp, but were distracted by a forage for bugs on an old wall. I found a spider or two, 4 sorts of woodlice, a big centipede, several millipedes, and this chap.
The weather started to close in then, so we retired for the night. Despite the weather, I slept well once I found a comfortable position.
I woke at 4.10am, 20 minutes before sunrise. Actually, I was woken by Michael walking past my pitch. Apparently he woke at 2am, having had the close and unwelcome company of numerous slugs on his sleeping bag, and after 2 hours of listening to foxes barking and calling he gave up and decided to go looking for them. Whereupon they disappeared, I joined him, and we spent several hours wandering about in long wet grass and light drizzle watching small songbirds and not seeing foxes. By which time we were soaked. Having breakfasted on choc-chip brioche rolls we called it a day, packed up, and went for the car.
Heaters on full blast to dry us out, we had a loo stop in Usk, and then headed in the direction of Monmouth to find orchids. This was much more successful, as we found twayblade, green-winged orchid, greater butterfly orchid, and literally thousands (probably over 10,000) common spotted orchids.
Common spotted orchid auditioning for a part in Scary movie
Greater butterfly orchid
A rather soggy bumble bee on a foxglove.
You can tell two wildlife enthusiasts very easily sometimes. I spotted a hobby overhead as we were crossing a field and we both stopped, transfixed as we watched it, both grinning like fools. First one for a year or two for me, but Michael had never seen one before. It was the highlight of the trip.
Michael using his macro filter on a foxglove
By 10am we were both shattered, having been up 6 hours on minimal sleep. We retired to my favourite farm shop in Raglan for some much needed coffee and a sausage sandwich each (garlic for me, wild boar for Michael). Our trip had been wet, windy, uncomfortable, tiring, and frustratingly lacking in foxes, and we both agreed that we had enjoyed ourselves hugely.