Wild camping is a great opportunity to get closer to wildlife and for wildlife to get closer to you too.
Camping, very generally speaking, usually involves pitching up on a nicely maintained and manicured campsite with little in the way of interacting with wildlife. Apart from the sheep in the adjacent field and a few opportunistic jackdaws always on the lookout for a free snack, there will be little else to see.
Wild camping will take you to relatively undisturbed places where, if you are lucky, you may well be able to watch and enjoy creatures you have never seen in your life before.
I will never forget pitching up by a small lake and watching Daubenton’s Bats skimming the surface as they fed on insects as the sun went down. These are quite large bats with a wingspan of around ten inches. By the way, this was in north Nottinghamshire, so you don’t have to travel miles off the beaten track to see exciting and interesting displays like this.
Badgers and deer
If you are very quiet and downwind of a badger sett, you may be lucky enough to see a badger foraging though the woods. A badger’s eyesight is relatively poor, so they tend to stick to well worn trails. However, their sense of smell and hearing is acute, so if they hear you, or smell you they will be gone.
Badgers are noisy too and make a fair bit of a racket when they are rummaging and snorting around in the brush in the middle of the night. If you weren’t in the UK, you’d be convinced there was a bear outside your tent.
Deer can be comparatively noisy as they move through the forest as well. Also, who can forget the eerie shriek of a vixen in the small hours of the night? A truly terrifying sound if you’ve never heard it before. The sound of a rabbit being attacked by a stoat or weasel in the middle of the night can be quite unnerving too.
If birds are your forte, then just lying there listening to Little Owls calling to each other in the dark is really soothing. If you are good at doing owl calls and they are around you may be lucky enough to experience the amazing feeling of getting a Tawny Owl to respond to you. That is really interacting with nature.
If you pitch up near the gritstone edges of Derbyshire, these are great places to get up close and personal with Peregrine Falcons. Quite often when climbing up there, a Peregrine will whistle a few feet away past your head at a hundred plus miles an hour. Spectacular isn’t the word.
Whilst on the subject of gritstone edges and interacting with nature, be warned, this isn’t always a good thing. For example, if you were considering spending the night in Robin Hood’s Cave on Stanage Edge, then my advice is don’t. It’s an absolute midge fest during the summer months and even the strongest insect repellent doesn’t seem to deter them. Any exposed flesh is fair game as far as they’re concerned and they’ll drive you out of there in no time. I speak from experience.
Even if you don’t see a badger of a fox in the darkness, your hearing and sense of smell will be heightened. You’ll hear all the small sounds you never noticed before and be able to smell a fox (they really stink) even if you don’t see it.
It can be about the small things too, you may just find a moth fluttering around your lamp that you’ve never seen before.
Wild Night Out on June 30th is the perfect time to get outside and check out your own local wildlife, whether that’s in a secluded wood, a campsite or in your own back garden!
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By Tim Mellor, WildNightOut contributor