The days are getting shorter, and there’s a chill in the air at dusk, as I call on my friend at the other end of the village for an evening hunting for bats. Paul goes out regularly with his bat detector throughout spring and summer, and even now, though the nights are getting cooler, there are still lots to be found, and plenty of insects for the bats to eat. Using a bat detector feels like cheating, but without one, they would be impossible to find once the darkness engulfs us. In the dying light we don’t need the clever little hand-held device to pick out the pipistrelles, but as darkness falls, and less are visible, the electronic age comes into its own as the number of bats increase. Noctules, long-eared, lesser and greater horseshoes show up, no doubt fattening up for the long winter hibernation. We find hot spots where dozens feed on invisible moths, then nothing, where all we detect is the distant call of a tawny owl, and a little further on, one peering down at us from the top of lamppost.
Being out in the countryside at night heightens the sense of contact with nature. With vision taken away, sounds and smells are enhanced, and the slightest movement is exciting, even though most of the time I haven’t the faintest idea of what it might be. A vixen calls, sending a shiver down my spine, and the rustling on the woodland floor ahead could be a badger. A late alarm call from a blackbird interrupts the damp silence; I know there must be other birds roosting nearby, but there’s no way of telling where they are. I’m in a secret world, but not party to it.