Tuesday, 15 September 2009

The Garden by Night

At night the garden becomes a very different place, the darkness shortening local horizons and the shadows shifting shapes and forms into unfamiliar contortions. Despite the darkness, I never find the garden or its shadows threatening. Instead it feels comforting, especially so on the last few warm nights of late summer, when a low cover of cloud deepens the shadows and softens the nocturnal sounds of this urban area. In a way the garden feels more private, less exposed and I am free to wander with my torch, searching out the army of small creatures that emerges with the setting of the sun. Dark brown spiders, almost black and somewhat flattened in their appearance, appear on the fence panels and the shed. They come in a range of sizes and it is interesting to see how they have divided up the vertical surfaces between them – the larger individuals well spaced, the smaller immatures less so. Examined more closely, their eyes burn bright in the beam of the torch and the subtleties of their colouration become clear.

Large slugs, pale mottled in appearance, leave trails of glistening slime across the patio that can be traced back to the shelters where they have spent the daylight hours, unmolested by birds or intrusive gardeners. Then there are the snails, also moving about the garden on trails of slime. Many of these have spent the day under the lip of the wall, seemingly not as secure from predators judging by the number of smashed shells left by the hardworking Song Thrush.

Moths buzz the light of the torch, while others can be seen working the last of the summer’s flowers in the cottage garden-inspired beds. Some of these moths are immigrants, such as the Silver-Y’s which have appeared in smaller numbers this year. Others are resident, many of which feature frequently in my moth trap on the nights that I run its bright bulb, tucked up against the wall to shade the neighbours. On warmer nights the number of moths in the trap is truly amazing, as is their variety of forms. Large stocky underwings sit alongside Setaceous Hebrew Characters, Garden Carpets and more delicate thorns, beauties and pugs (the names of our moths are a real delight).

Elsewhere in the garden there is a Speckled Bush Cricket. I cannot see it, since its call is too high pitched for my aging ears, but my bat detector picks up and amplifies the sound. The soft chirp of the male is intermittent but the detector suggests that it is sitting in the apple tree that overhangs the garden. From here it is calling for a mate, one of the few noises to break the nocturnal stillness.

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