I'm regularly asked by people how they can see certain things. And "how come you have (seen x or y) Doug? You're SOOOOooo lucky!" (etc etc).
I suppose I am lucky generally, but very often this sort of thing is nothing to do with luck. You just need to put the hours in firstly and then make sure you've ticked certain boxes BEFORE putting those hours in.
Permit me to explain...
Commonly, if you want to see a specific beastie - and you set out on a day (or night) to see that beastie, you'd do worse than to learn about that beastie, compile a list of boxes to tick which would maximize your chances of seeing said beastie and try and tick as many of them as you can at the time of your trip into the wild to see that beastie. You'll still have to put the hours in mind, but fewer hours, MUCH fewer hours than if you'd ticked no boxes beforehand.
For example, if you want to see a nightjar (and who doesn't it, let's face it?), you'd tick the boxes below:
Box 1 - Find a suitable area (large if possible) of lowland heath with areas of heather AND birch/chestnut/pine trees.
Box 2 - Go there at dusk (or just before dusk) during a warm, still June evening.
Box 3 - Keep listening....
And if you want to see a toad (and who doesn't... etc etc?), you'd tick the boxes below:
Box 1 - Locate a suitable, nearby "toad crossing" on the frog life website.
Box 2 - Wait until there's a night time temperature of at least 9 degrees Celsius with a little rain (or at LEAST moisture on the ground) in February (or if February is too cold (rare these days) March. These figures, conditions and months are SPECIFIC. Honestly.... it's like CLOCKWORK.
Box 3 - Get to your local crossing by dusk on that specific night.
We as a family decided t'other day to go and "hunt" hornet moths - lovely big moths that look like.... you guessed it.... giraffes. *cough*
Now - the boxes that need ticking to see hornet moths are pretty specific too.
If YOU want to see hornet moths (and who.... etc etc) then you need to tick the boxes we ticked last week below and it would be even easier to tick TODAY. RIGHT NOW.
Box 1 - Find a suitable clump or gathering or well established poplar trees. (We have these in the garden, but I know of a MUCH better spot by the Thames, about ten miles from us). Concentrate especially on poplar trees that have no thick vegetation growing around the base of the trees (the hornet moths don't like that).
Box 2 - Look for the tell tale signs of hornet moth infestation at the base of the poplar trunks (see my photos below).
Box 3 - Wait for a warm(ish), sunny, still morning in early June (June 1st-15th ideal) and go to your poplar trees before 10:30am on that morning. (a morning like TODAY, RIGHT NOW, would be absolutely ideal.
Box 4 - Keep walking around your "holey" poplar trees looking at the trunks no more than a couple of feet above the holes. The moths should emerge on these mornings, climb a foot or so up the trunk to find a little more warmth, pump up their wings and fly orf.
Tick those 4 boxes grapple fans, and you can see these lovely moths too.
DON'T tick those boxes though... and you'll probably never see a hornet moth in your life.
(NB - I should point out that we DIDN'T see any hornet moths last weekend - as we ticked the boxes and set off for the secret spot on the Thames, the clouds rolled over and the wind got up (see the windswept willows photo at the top of this post - taken on last Sunday's hornet moth hunt) and all the lovely hornet moths thought "sod this for a game of soldiers" and kept under the bark of the poplars. Today would be a MUCH better morning mind - but we're all doing other things this morning. Are you?
Wotchoo waiting for?
It's early June. (9th). It's warm and sunny. You know where your local established poplar trees are don't you? And it's nearly 10:30am......