Moonlit walk in Reffley Spring Wood

Walking along the streets of our housing estate under a star-strewn sky on March 25th, the stage was set for a magical evening encounter. And, sure enough, when we were within a few paces of Reffley Spring Wood we heard “hoo hoo”. Yes!! A good start. The call was repeated as we stepped into the woodland and then our excitement mounted as there was what sounded like a short, sharp, “ker-wick”. The two calls came again and intermittently throughout our 40-minute walk round the Wood, so there was no mistake! We had encountered a pair of tawny owls. I was delighted. Last year, we heard the hoo-hoo of the male, but to hear a female calling, as well, was really special. We thought we might see some muntjac deer, but although there was once a great crashing noise in some undergrowth, they remained elusive. Every now and again, we stopped, switched off our torches and remained still and as quiet as possible, soaking up the atmosphere. Towards the end of the walk, everything went quiet. Throughout the chilly evening, there was a brilliantly clear sky. Every time I looked upwards, the tree branches were entwined with stars. We could make out the plough, or “shopping trolley”,  or the Great Bear, to give the famous constellation some alternative names and also a silvery third of a moon. These produced nearly enough light for us to dispense with our torches, or at least  my daughter thought so, though I think her night vision is better than mine, and also gave the trees shadows. If only the sky had been as clear on the morning of March 20th for the partial solar eclipse! (I would love to get to know more about the planets and stars, too, but there is so much to learn!) The clear night of March 25th was cold enough to produce a shimmer of frost for a while, but that, thanks to the vagaries of our weather, later turned to rain: poor owls. This was a walk undertaken on the spur of the moment which turned out to be a real treasure.

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