Nocturnal Journey

A long eared owl beside the road into Dumfries

In my role as an indulgent and dependable boyfriend, I’m often called upon to do things that are, frankly, quite irritating. This evening, I was called to pick up my girlfriend from a party in the town – when you’ve spent a day filling the woodshed and killing sitka spruce trees (a favourite pastime of mine), all you want to do is sit infront of the fire with a dog on your lap and read a book. Sadly, it’s not always that simple, so with a heavy heart, I headed off to the car.

It’s ten miles into Dumfries, and there’s always something to see when you drive the distance late at night. I routinely see barn owls and tawny owls, but I was proud to be able to identify a long eared owl on a fencepost as I drove past at twenty five miles an hour, and prouder still that I came away with a picture of it. I think long eared owls are great, and this is only the second one I have ever seen. Their eyes are the giveaway, and there is something sinister about the peculiar orange glow they have, even in dull weather or partial darkness.

Within a mile, I had stopped the car again when an awkward little shape shuffled out in the road infront of me. You very rarely see hedgehogs in Galloway, and it’s been a while since I even saw a dead one on the road. There are probably lots of reasons why we don’t have the hedgehogs we used to, even in my lifetime, but I think that badgers must have some part to play in it. I’ve found the remains of hedgehogs which were killed by badgers, and I’ve always thought that the predator/prey relationship between the two is a little unfair. All very well, a hedgehog’s spikes are enough to deter the effeminate approaches of a fox or a cat, but when they come up against an animal that is as brutish and ignorant as a badger, they don’t stand a chance. Badgers really are thoughtless, meat-head bastards. I picked up the hedgehog, which was quite a small one, and dropped it over the dyke so that even if it wanted to get back on the road, it would have a difficult job.

Neither of these species are particularly good news from the perspective of a gamekeeper, but it’s easy to forget that there’s a great deal more to the British countryside than gamebirds.

One of this year’s young ones?
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One thought on “Nocturnal Journey

  1. C Kent

    Badgers play a very large part in the decline of hedgehogs. As you say the hedgehogs spines are no defence against a badger. They simply roll them over and bite thru where the hedgehog tucks itself into a ball.

    I would happily swap 10 hedgehogs for every single badger on the place.

    What I want to know is how you managed to take the photo with both hands holding the hedgehog….

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