Northumberland: Day One

We arrived at the bothy just as the sun was at its warmest. We were in the Northumberland National Park, and as the car rumbled up the hill I craned my neck to see the valley opening up into a patchwork blanket of green, orange and brown. It was autumn at its finest; an explosion of colour with just the right amount of chill in the air. On the way up to the bothy I spied an abandoned tyre swing, which would be a great accompaniment to the stories about childhood memories, so I made a mental note to return tomorrow.

After the customary dumping of the bags, I headed out with Cain and Lequane to set up two camera traps. With a new area, you never knew what could be roaming the forests; red squirrels, even a pine marten perhaps. We followed the burn down the hill, which was a thick sponge of fallen leaves. A dry stone wall ran parallel to the water, and I could just imagine small mammals darting along it, so set up the first trap looking out over the wall.

The light was fading, so we made our way along the burn with torchlight. The wall had collided with a tangle of sticks in one patch, perhaps a resting place for voles or mice. I set the second trap up with a viewpoint over the wall.

We made our way back up the road to the bothy, and were very surprised to see bats zooming around over our heads. Cain told us how it was very late in the year for bats, and they were perhaps roosting in or around the bothy. Cain’s sharp ears picked up a redwing calling in the distance, and then we heard a tawny owl very close by, so decided to pursue it into the cluster of trees behind the house. It was tantalizingly close and we searched the trees in the gathering gloom for any sign of it. No doubt the owl could see us perfectly and was watching with a combination of confusion and amusement, as it stopped calling as soon as we reached the trees and we didn’t hear it after that.

After taking shifts to cook our separate dinners, we had a look outside and there was a series of gasps and excitable shrieks when we all saw the night sky. I don’t think I’d ever seen so many stars – the sky was pitch black, with not a single lamppost or car light to spoil it. We all hurried inside to layer up and grab cameras, then broke off in different directions to get started. Some wandered up the hill and turned towards the Milky Way, while others stayed in the car park and began a time lapse of Orion’s Belt.

I hadn’t done a great deal of night photography, but I began to experiment and soon I found myself quite addicted to it, especially with such a beautiful and flawless background. The camera picked up millions more white pinpricks in the sky, and I was very pleased to find that I’d caught a shooting star in one image.

After an hour or so, my fingers had begun to grow numb, and I found myself capturing the same photos multiple times just because they were so beautiful. For the sake of my memory card, I headed back to the bothy to warm up and have a snack before bed.

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Sightings

  • Barn Owl (Tyto alba)
  • Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)
  • European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)
  • Redwing – heard (Turdus iliacus)
  • Robin (Erithacus rubecula)
  • Soprano Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pygmaeus)
  • Tawny Owl – heard (Strix aluco)

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