To begin. The time is the witching hour, 12.00 midnight. Or perhaps the bewitching hour. The dead of night sounds rather like a sinister horror flick with hints of zombies or the like. I prefer silly o’clock. Right. The location as we already know is Dalkeith Country Park, Midlothian. Restoration Yard to be precise. Turf is the name of the game and unofficial turfing medals are being sought. One is the Nature Watch medal, where the participant must identify 5, 10 or 25 different species of animal from within a turf zone.
So, our first zone of the evening, or is that the middle of the night, is Restoration. The time 00:00 or in military speak 0000 hours. A quick sweep round with my Ledlenser MT14 torch reveals, wait for it, absolutely nothing. Not even a bunny rabbit. So, nothing to add for the Nature Watch medal here. Oh, I forgot to mention, we are on the Swifty Air kick scooter this fine but chilly night. With no wildlife embracing the night air, so to speak, at zone Restoration, we scoot off down the tarmac road towards our next zone, DoNOTCrossEsk.
Here, the mobile phone starts playing silly buggers and the GPS does a wibbly-wobbly. I try ascending the steep gravel track to the dirt road above and finally get a decent signal. Taking zone, says the lady on the mobile. And, we are in luck here, a fine specimen of Equus caballus, to use its scientific name. In common speak, a horse. Quite possibly responsible for the manure I scooted through earlier. Yuk! One more tick towards the Nature Watch medal which gives me the Nature Watch 5 with dog, rabbit, bat, hare and horse. Yippee!
Into the unknown next, or rather towards zone TheUnknown and as well as zone YouAreTheAce. It’s a difficult path this one, even at the best of times. More often than not muddy, even in summer, and always churned up by horses. And I forgot to remove the mudguards on the Swifty Air kick scooter as planned and before long the wheels are no longer turning as the mud builds up between mudguard and tyre. A poke with a sharp stick does the business and I’m moving again. Annoying but at least no aggressive horse riders to bother about. As for wildlife, nothing at either zone. Now, I going to take a break here and remove those mudguards from the kick scooter, while I remember to do so. Back soon.
Back again. Mudguards removed, scooter cleaned and brakes adjusted. Our next zone is BridgeOfFaith, likely named for the dodgy looking timber deck. Good to see the path open again having been closed to allow repairs these past few months. Sign says no bicycles. Fine, I’m not riding a bicycle. Again, no wildlife seen or heard. Much the same at the next two zones, ToEdinburgh and ParkOfSteel both with no wildlife within range of the torch or within earshot.
Zone HowlandsPark was more fruitful with my torch revealing two roe deer further along the trail. Another good tick on the list. That brings my total to 6 different species of animal. I think getting to 25 will be a long time in the taking. Zone LugtonCross offered up more roe deer but sadly, already on the list. Love my Ledlenser MT14 torch, seems as good as car headlights. The final two zones in Dalkeith Country Park were LugtonBrae and SneakyPlace, and any wildlife in the area was keeping out of sight.
And that was the end of my nocturnal visit to Dalkeith Country Park. It may be worth noting that the gates to the park are locked at night but you can become a Friends of Dalkeith Acorn Member for £12.00 a year. This gives you swipe card access for the Dalkeith pedestrian gate out with the normal opening hours of 07.00 am– 19.00 pm.
Picked off a few more zones as I kick scooted back through Dalkeith heading for home in Bonnyrigg. Not much wildlife other than rabbits at zone Slytherin but zone WaverlyPark gave me a fox, albeit a brief glimpse but enough to identify the thick bushy fox-tail and be added to the list. Overall, a fine night’s work. Enough wildlife spotted to give me that first Nature Watch 5 medal with another 2 species, namely roe deer and fox, identified towards the Nature Watch 10 medal.
To finish, a quite reminder of where we are, though more of an aide memoire for myself, which I should have done for the three Birding medals. Much easier to keep track of what has been sighted.
Nature Watch 5
- Rabbit – zone Pittendreich
- Dog – zone LadyMarion
- Bat – zone Wishart
- Hare – zone UpperDalPath
- Horse – zone DoNOTCrossEsk
Nature Watch 10
- Roe deer – zone HowlandsPark
- Fox – zone WaverleyPark
Back soon with more exciting animal encounters!
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