And if that didn’t scare you, nothing will. It is, of course, Halloween here in north Hampshire. Plagues of small children scuttle to and fro, cunningly disguised as comedy skeletons or white-sheeted ghosts, hauling bags of organic chocolate cookies and tangerines. Two and a half hours after the sun’s miserably early descent, I braved the pitch dark gloom and the depths of the local shop, dodging past a flock of ravenous zombie ducks by the pond. ‘Breeeead! Breeeeead!’ they seemed to quack. Yes, not-so-remote commuter villages are pretty hairy places at this time of year.
Joking aside, many of my best wildlife experiences of 2011 have been in the half light, or the gloaming. When our familiar, comforting dominion over the waking world seems, for a few hours, to subside, and we revert from hunter to hunted, predator to prey, namer and keeper of the animals to what in truth we each are, taken alone: small, vulnerable, fleeting.
Whilst in truth very few creatures abroad in the night hours will do us any real harm, darkness brings disorientation, and the slightest noise becomes seriously spooky.
And what better festival could there be to celebrate the power of night-life than Halloween?