Well you certainly can't control the weather!
After what was shaping up to be a long hot summer we originally scheduled of first ever Big Wild Sleep Out for the end of July.
What could be better?
Long summer days, the chance to sit on our meadow enjoying the plethora of wildlife surrounding you, before heading off to explore the reserve, maybe some sweep netting in the long grass as the warm summer breeze wafts through your hair. Then back to base camp and the open fire for some campfire cooking and so on and so forth. Who could have imagined that on the very weekend we had all that planned we would be hit by some of the worst thunderstorms I've ever seen - so bad in fact that our event (and many others) needed to be cancelled due to the extreme weather.
Time to reschedule!
After much deliberation we rescheduled for 18 August. Everything was set and the weather was looking.....OK.
But as the big day approached more rain was on the horizon, we had to make it work as we were running out of summer, so we stuck with the plan.
Saltholme's always a windy place, which makes putting a tent up...interesting! But nevertheless our intrepid campers got stuck in and the tents were up in no time, whilst adults were pitching tents the children got started with sweep netting through the long grass at the edge of the meadow, we were also treated to a pair of boxing hares right in the middle of the meadow just 20m from where we were camping.
Time for a short guided walk to see some of the reserves highlights at dusk - Snipe, Common Sandpiper, Little Egret and Marsh Harrier were all seen along with some great views of geese and ducks.
With pitching tents, sweep netting and a walk everyone had really worked up an appetite - time for dinner. By this time the wind had died right down and it was turning into a beautiful evening. So out came the camping stoves and disposable BBQs and the smell of hot food soon filled the air. It was also time to get the fire going!
Once fire was lit all everyone quickly migrated to sitting around it and enjoying the atmosphere, with campfire cooking and toasting marsh mallows it was a great way to spend an evening in such beautiful surroundings.
With a bedtime story after dark it was a wonderfully relaxed and fun filled evening.
With everyone on the way to bed, it was time to setup the camera traps for the mornings activities.
From midnight.....it rained and rained..... and rained.
It was a soggy start to the morning but that didn't dampen our spirits. The hides were open early for those who wanted to use them and after packing up we headed to the visitor centre for breakfast and to check on the results of the camera and moth trapping set up the night before.
The feeders gave some lovely footage of hedghogs and amongst other species of moth in the moth trap was a beautiful Red Underwing.
So our first Big Wild Sleep Out was a success all be it a slightly soggy one on the morning. We had lots of happy campers, they got to see first hand the arrival of our roosting birds like Little Egrets and and our large numbers of waterfowl and waders, they got to take part in some great activities, but the important thing was that our visitors got the chance to spend an evening on a stunning nature reserve surrounded by its magnificent wildlife at a time when nobody else was around.
Unfortunately some of those people originally booked just couldn't make the new date, so we really hope they can make the next one, as I'm sure we'll be running another Big Wild Sleep Out next year.
We spend 90% of net income on conservation, public education and advocacy
The RSPB is a member of BirdLife International. Find out more about the partnership
© The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity: England and Wales no. 207076, Scotland no. SC037654