June – August 2016
We were setting up hedgehog tracking tunnels on the woodland edge when the sky lost its light and the land turned emerald.
We run, but the rain runs faster, and throws itself into hair and eyes with an almost human malice. I toss my beloved metal hiking pole into a bush because lightning couldn’t find a better conductor.
Somehow we reach the road, where the cows are waiting for evening milking and a foal grazes idly alongside his parents. The thunder and lightning are almost simultaneous. My boots have withstood the puddles but the insides are afloat. Camp is also awash, with students diving into puddles.
Morning brings sunshine – and bears, or at least their footprints, admired as we rescue my poor hiking stick. Richis is altogether rich in mammal sign. Roe deer, not least; unusually for deer, they scrape away leaves to create a sleeping space, leaving a bare patch about 60cm wide.
It is the roe deer’s rutting season, and at night their barks sound even over the endless yapping of village dogs. The early morning teams often spot them but most of my sightings are through the army of camera traps that I’ve deployed in these woods.
The cameras are also starting to catch some exciting carnivores. Pine martens are the larger of the two marten species that endlessly bounce, leap and climb through Transylvania.
Amazingly, the same camera caught an edible dormouse! This is found in Britain too – it was introduced to Cheshire decades ago. It is a much larger species than the hazel dormice that I study in Surrey.
Meanwhile, hawk-moths dazzle in camp.
Leaving Richis is difficult. But six more villages await.