Day 8 of 30 Days Wild started very early, and when I say early I mean EARLY! And the subjects of my nocturnal activities…hedgehogs and the International Space Station. Now there’s a combination you don’t see every day!

For those of you who have been following me for a while you will already know that I have another growing passion…astronomy.

It’s not a new interest. I’ve always been fascinated by the stars, planets and everything in between. In fact one of my very first childhood memories is being held in my mother’s arms as she runs down the road to my nans to get some bread. It was dark and I have no idea why my mum was so desperate for the bread but I distinctly remember looking up at the inky blackness of the sky sprinkled with sparkly twinkling lights in puzzled wonderment.

Fast forward forty two years and my interest has grown into a dabbling with astro photography. Only very simple stuff but I find it interesting and fun and enjoy sharing the images.

One of the easiest things to photograph is the International Space Station (ISS) as it passes over. To the naked eye and any standard camera set up the ISS looks like an incredibly bright star passing rapidly overhead from east to west. It only appears on certain days of certain months so it helps to know when and where to look.

I’ll write a separate ‘How To Guide’ explaining how I photograph the ISS and share it with you soon.

For 8 June there are two passes. The first would be at 00:11 and the second is expected at 23.18.

I was outside with the tripod and camera set up at the stroke of midnight. I like to do a couple of test shots before the ISS arrives just to make sure framing is correct and everything is in focus. I usually have my bat detector in my pocket too to listen out for any passing bats while I wait.

In order to capture the movement of the ISS as it tracks across the sky the camera needs to be set to take a long exposure. This will make the ISS appear as a bright line in the image.

Here’s an image I took a while ago of the ISS passing over Orford Castle. This is one of my favourite shots so far as I like the idea of space age technology passing over the centuries old castle below.

And here is a shot of the ISS passing over the garden in the early hours of this morning.

It may look like just a bright line on a photo to many but to me it brings the stars a little closer and helps me connect with nature on a deeper level.

Sounds of the wild

Another great advantage of standing quietly in the garden in the early hours is that you hear a surprising amount of nocturnal wildlife activity.

I regularly hear tawny owls and little owls calling from the other side of the paddock next door, the ducks on the local village pond, the occasional bark from a fox and surprisingly frequent midnight songs from robins or blackbirds.

I also love the sound of snuffling and grunting from under the hedgerow and in the long grass by my favourite garden visitor….the hedgehog.

We’ve worked hard to create a haven for hedgehogs by ensuring easy access, creating several hog homes and providing food and fresh water and all that hard work has paid off. We have a healthy population of hedgehogs in and around the garden and will regularly see four or more individuals each night.

One of their favourite spots in the garden is the ‘Hog Buffet Bar’. This is a feeding station where we provide a variety of food and clean water. It’s also overlooked by an HD camera linked to my motion detection software and my website. The live images are streamed across the internet and are regularly watched by hundreds of people from around the world every evening.

The early hours of this morning was particularly active. As the ISS passed over I could hear lots of munching and snuffling coming from the Hog Buffet Bar and sure enough, when I took a closer look, two hedgehogs were enjoying a midnight snack.

A special close encounter to end another great day.