Under the cover of darkness, the vast hillside appears empty. As I sweep my nightvision binoculars across the gloomy expanse, I spot a single pair of eyes, glowing in the IR light cast upon them. At a distance of 300m, it’s impossible to tell what creature lurks in the undergrowth - it could be a rabbit or a small deer, but I like to imagine that it’s a fox.
I walk along to the second field and this time, the nocturnal inhabitants of Ashton Court Estate are out in the open. While the presence of animals is obvious to the naked eye, my Nightfox provides a clear view of the entire herd of deer. In the daytime these deer can normally be found spread out across the fields, lazily grazing for hours on end. However tonight, shrouded in darkness, they seem wary. As I zoom in, I can see that most of the herd are completely stationary, perhaps unaware of the type of company they have, but certainly conscious of my presence. I think they can smell me. I watch them for a few minutes. A few are nibbling half-heartedly at the grass, while others stand, guarded against any unwelcome visitors.
An owl calls from the woods behind me and its call is swiftly answered by another of its kind. I suddenly feel very alone in the dark woods and am glad that I can use a Nightfox to see my surroundings. As I walk back down the hill I scan the hillside again with my digital night vision. There’s still a pair of eyes in the field, watching me leave.