THE rotation of our planet on its axis gives us the bizarre phenomenon of daytime and night-time and two separate communities of animals that are generally active in one or the other.

We humans fall into the diurnal camp, that is animals active in the daytime, but we do get a privileged insight into the nocturnal world during those two wonderful times of dawn and dusk.

There is something particularly special about sundown on a still, summer’s evening and I would recommend that everyone goes out of their way to experience it, in some wild place or other, at least once in their lives.

My most recent bit of nightfall therapy was in an area of scrubby heathland near where I live

Once managed for grouse shooting, this area of about 20 acres of monotonous heather has been forgotten about for a few years and in the intervening time has reinvented itself beautifully.

Much of the heather has matured into chest-high bushes and, in the absence of grazing sheep or deliberate burning, hundreds of self-seeded birch, pine and rowan trees have managed to get a foothold.

The land is in fact part way to reverting to what it was thousands of years ago, before humans altered the landscape; it is becoming woodland.

Wading through deep vegetation towards the centre of the moor I finally stopped and stood in a clearing as far from the distant traffic noise as I could manage.

It was about 10pm by this time and the sun was in the process of setting behind a stand of taller pine trees, their stark silhouetted outlines, if anything, more beautiful than normal against the salmon-pink sky behind.

As the light faded, colour drained out of the land and the soundscape also changed. The last of the daytime birds finally stopped singing (a blackbird as it turned out) and the nightshift took over.

First was the quavering voice of a male tawny owl drifting eerily across the moor – his half of the “twit-twoo” conversation. It’s only the female that calls “twit” with the male’s reply a long drawn out “hooo-hooo”.

The owl left to go hunting as the next night bird appeared – a woodcock performing its strange, evening territorial flyby called “roding”. It utters an odd double-toned call as it goes, which bird books describe as a whistle followed by a grunt.

Personally, I think it sounds more like a hiccup and a burp. Summer evenings are the best time to see woodcocks because during the day they are usually confined to dense woodland, probing soft earth for worms with their inordinately long bill. Shy and superbly camouflaged, they are rarely spotted.

With the air temperature falling and tendrils of mist beginning to creep into the hollows, I was just about to head homewards for supper when another faint sound registered in my ears.

It was a continuous purring noise more reminiscent of an insect than a bird ... but bird it was. The nightjar is a nationally uncommon bird which does rather well in Ryedale, especially in our moorlandy bits of forest (or foresty bits of moorland) where they feed on on night-flying moths, caught on the wing in their large gaping mouths.

The “churring” song of the males advertises their territories and has been poetically likened to a distant moped engine or broken fax machine. It is notoriously difficult to pinpoint and I never did track down and see my local “churrer”, despite him calling for a good 20 minutes without seeming to take a breath.

To be honest though, I really wasn’t that bothered - just the knowledge that these special birds are here on our doorstep is enough for me.