Monthly Archives: August 2008

Stake Out

Observatory 5
Black Barn Mound TQ 771729/ Moonrise 11.52

Electric storms circle the observatory and shafts of silent lightning regularly illuminate this currently rain free site. It very humid though, and condensation is worryingly building on the tent, laptop, video server and on me. I have staked out a water vole hole hidden behind a bank of reeds, should one of my ratlike neighbours decide to brave the weather and come out to eat or to visit the latrine.

King Frog

Observatory 5
Black Barn Mound TQ771729 / Moonrise 10.36

A gust of wind carries a concentrated spatter of rain to the tent. In a fraction of a second it speckles the water of the ditch I’m observing on screen. It’s immediately a real, if shadowy window onto a six metre length of brackish ditch water with a metre high bank of reeds and grasses. The camera reveals scores of tiny Gobi fish, a large shrimp and the long shadowy form of an eel just below the surface. Marsh frogs however, dominate the night scene and link this underworld with mine.


Observatory 4
Cliffe Rocks TQ 771714 / Moonrise 09.18

Grainy predawn images flicker inside the tent at twenty frames per second. Fluttery mesmerising moths have danced on camera for the past half hour, like tiny ghosts. By day they are almost impossible to see. The camouflage on this goat moth is a perfect match for the concrete rubble were it has come to rest.


Observatory 4
Cliffe Ruins/ TQ 771714/ Moonrise 07.58

At first I thought this 25mm mite was a sick watervole pushed from inside a nearby hole to die. On reflection, I think its a tiny shrew. Though waiting for over an hour, no living member of the vole colony appeared and so I quietly padded away with just this image of a death.


Observatory 4
Cliffe Ruins/ TQ771714/ Moonrise 06.33am

‘You used to get grass snakes over there by the sea wall, and there’s edible snails on that bank over there’ It’s about eight thirty in the evening and John, out walking his dog, helpfully shares his knowledge of the local wildlife. This one looks like a common garden snail, but is it edible? I could never tell an edible mushroom from a poisonous one either. One the other hand, I am sure there are many birds, toads and hedgehogs here that would find any sort of snail acceptable fare – whose food and indeed whose environment is it.

Lunar Rabbits

Observatory 4
Cliffe Ruins TQ 771714/ moonrise 05.05 (new moon)

The Aztec moon god, was sometimes pictured as a rabbit, whilst Chinese, Japanese and Korean lore all feature a rabbit in the moon. Tonight’s new moon however, has been totally rabbit free. Ne’er a bushy tail nor quivering nose to be seen for miles.

These marshes are like a giant Swiss cheese, hollowed, tunnelled and undermined by the fervent digging of this wanton army. They have colonised so many a path and earth bank that it’s a wonder all the water in the lagoons has not drained away. Every twilight step is usually accompanied by a speedy blur as singletons and sometimes entire families, leg it at my approach.

Is their absence perhaps the result of some unknown effect of lunar gravity? With so many predators around, perhaps its simply a question of staying safe on the darkest night (When there’s no big rabbit in the sky to watch over them).