I am having a lot of sleepless nights lately, nothing too unusual in that, but one of the things I notice in the wee small hours is the noise. Not that it is particularly noisy, quite the opposite in fact. We have none of the city sounds of constant traffic, people walking or talking on the streets, the buzz of many lives lived close together. But the supreme quietness of the countryside and lack of background hum magnifies every small sound that is made, and some sounds can be quiet eerie.
Recently the owls have started hooting again. Personally I love to hear the owls at night, we are lucky in that we have an abundance of Little Owls, quite a few Tawny Owls and even some elusive Barn Owls in the area, and every time I hear one nearby I am tempted to try to spot them. (We often manage sightings in daylight, especially of the younger owls.) But for some people the hooting of this nocturnal bird is ghostly and scary – too many horror films, I guess.
Yet owls are easily distinguishable. Other noises are less obvious. Cows can make an awful racket, especially when they have been separated from their calves, and the sound distorts over long distances into something alien. Cats fighting, hedgehogs snuffling, horses snorting and the unearthly screaming bark of foxes are all fairly common but not always immediately obvious. And then there are the sounds I can never quite manage to work out, that’s when I pull the duvet over my head and try counting sheep.