Walking around through a forest at 0400h with a full moon is an unusual sensation. The brightness and the way that the light falls through the trees casting long shadows in the undergrowth, could be mistaken for daylight, but there is something missing... sounds. There is an eerie silence in the forest at night.
The eerie part of the silence in the forest at night is that the silence is not silent! The wind still blows, gusts still rustle the leaves and branches which occasionally fall to the forest floor. The feeling of silence is from the sound that is missing, the sound of life. The movement of animals through the forest, the birds chirping and gliding through the tree tops, small animals in the undergrowth and insects hovering and buzzing all around, other people and even the slight hum of cars driving in the distance. It's there ambient sounds that are there during the day, that aren’t always consciously taken in, that aren’t there, which creates the eerie silence. This one missing element also has the strange effect of making every other sound louder.
You listen intently, trying to hear past the rustle of leaves from the breeze, trying to hear the faintest noise. You take care that each step is placed slowly and gently, trying not to make a noise, yet each time the sound echoes through the trees. You start to breathe slower and deeper, widening your nostril and opening your mouth slightly in an attempt to lower the volume of the air flow from breathing. A single leaf that in the daytime falls silently to the forest floor, now crashes to the ground with a sound that is similar to footsteps moving through the undergrowth. Out of the corner of your eye you catch movement in the shadows, possible something hiding just past the edge of what you can see, watching and waiting for you go by so that it can carry on with whatever it was doing before you arrived, wondering why this creature is in the forest at this time.
The sensation is similar but much more eerie when there is a new moon. Everything is emphasised and everything is darker!
I still love it though!
Once you've got to your location, settled in and got ready, everything calms down, your thoughts turn to hoping that you managed to get to the location without being noticed, or at least not making enough noise to cause alarm.
From my last blog you may have read about my last hiding attempt, so this time I had some more camouflage with me. It won’t stop the noise, but I’ll definitely be more careful as to where I put any gear and what it’s next too!
The view from a bag hide is somewhat restricted. It’s basically a large sheet or cape with a viewing window and a hole to fit around your lens. Yes you can move, but every move could be noticed, so it’s better to move as little as possible.. Looking to see what is behind may be a move too much.
Now the wait begins.
I like to be in place at least an hour before I expect the subjects to be present, but it’s usually more like two hours before either sunrise or sunset.
- Two hours sat in silence, listening for any sign of life
- Two hours waiting and watching for any movement
- Two hours checking and changing camera settings as the light changes
- Two hours of anticipation
It may seem like a long time, but it passes by very quickly as I listen to that sound of the forest change from night to day. The bark of foxes and the back and forth calls of the Tawny Owls become less frequent and is gradually replaced by sound of the dawn chorus.
The first two images show what I actually saw while waiting, and what the camera could see. I haven't worked on these. I could have pulled out a lot more from the shadows in the foreground, but I wanted to keep the early morning light.
Shortly after 0600 and just before Sunrise I noticed a change to the meadow. I hadn't seen any movement, but there was a darker patch in the distance that wasn't there when I arrived.
I slowly turned the lens towards the spot, focused and saw a head poking out from the grass.
This fellow stayed around for a while, but wasn't joined by any other deer. He didn't stray too far from the same spot so the images don't vary too much either.
For that reason I'm not going to add lots of pictures that look very much the same, but I will add a video. Lesson learnt on this trip was to check the white balance before taking a video!
Although I only saw one deer, it's still a plus for me as I didn't scare it off. At around 0700 three people came along one of the paths through the forest. The deer, apparently not wanting to partake in polite conversation, decided to retreat into the undergrowth. I took this as an opportunity to move on too and made my way back to the car.
On my last trip to Waldweide, while driving up the forest road, I saw a rabbit. This my not seem like a lot, but after more than twenty years in Switzerland, this is the first one that I've seen here. Just in case this opportunity arose again I kept my camera on the passenger seat. As I drove around one of the bends, a deer was stood in the middle of the road ( A positive point of driving a hybrid). I grabbed the camera and was able to get this shot as she entered the forest and took a look back at me.
Three hours under a camouflage sheet, and one of the best shots of the day was from the car window!
And a final shot of the Waldenburg Castle ruins, before finishing this post.