It's the summer holidays, which can only mean one thing – it's time for the Big Wild Sleepout! Take the Wild Challenge this summer and spend a night outside to discover what nocturnal wildlife is out and about in your area. Here are 10 things to see...
What goes on in your garden as the night shift takes over? (Chris Shields rspb-images.com)Badger paradeFor a truly wild experience to put your tracking and fieldcraft skills to the test, seek out a badger sett at dusk and wait patiently with the wind blowing into your face to keep your scent away from these super-sniffers and watch their fascinating behaviour.
Go batty for batsMuch easier to see than badgers, and just as much fun to watch, are our bats. There are several species in the UK, many of them rare and localised, but if you get a bat detector you should be able to identify several from their echolocation calls, that help them locate food. Common pipistrelles are easily seen around gardens and you might also find the rather brilliant brown long-eared bats with their Batfink style ears and habit of hovering at vegetation to pick off insects. Noctule bats are big and fly high across the sky on long wings. Find out how you can help bats in your local area here.
A kaleidoscope of mothsThere are around 2,500 species of moth on the UK list and they come in a tremendous variety of shapes, sizes and colours. From the angle shades that looks like crumpled leaves to the super shiny burnished brass; the colourful chunky hawkmoths to the ghostly swallow-tailed moth. If you thought moths were all small and brown, you’re in for a treat.
You might even get tigers visiting you at night (tiger moths that is) – this is a garden tiger (Tom Marshall rspb-images.com)
A quartet of owlsTawny, little, barn and long-eared – four owls that you could find near you if you tune in to their calls at dusk and through the night (there are no tawnies in Northern Ireland though). Barn owls have an unearthly hiss that will really make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. It doesn’t fit their cute, dewy-eyed appearance, or graceful look as they patetiently fly over a field or roadside verge looking for small mammals to eat or take back to their nest. Little owls are full of character. Look and listen for them before it gets fully dark.
Barn owls are surely on everyone's favourite night wildlife list? (John Bridges rspb-images.com)
Anyone for cricket?Have a listen at dusk between July and October for the "chirp" of crickets and you’ll realise it is one of those sounds you hear all the time, but perhaps have never checked out what’s making it. When you hear it, approach carefully and slowly, peer in and you should be able to see the cricket.
Take a moonlit walk along the beachWaders are returning from the Arctic throughout July, stopping off on our beaches and estuaries to rest and refuel on the abundant, often slimy, goodies that live in the soft sand and mud. Not all birds go to sleep at night, including waders who take the opportunity to continue feeding. You should be able to pick out several wader calls, from the excitable piping of oystercatchers to the "cour-lee" of curlews. Choose a still, moonlit night and enjoy.
Hedgehogs!The decline of the nation’s favourite animal has been all too apparent. Go on the hunt for hedgehogs this summer, and let us know if you see one!
Glimpse a goatsuckerNightjars look like nothing else you can see in the UK. There’s still plenty of time to enjoy these crepuscular crackers over the next few weeks, so head to a heath, moor or woodland clearing and peel your eyes and ears for the males’ churring calls and their erratic, graceful flight. They also have lots of spectacular alternative names, including the goatsucker!
Mysterious nightjars come out at about 9.30 pm at this time of year – well worth staying up for (Chris Shields rspb-images.com)
The sweet smell of honeysuckleThe night-time smell of honeysuckle draws swathes of night-time pollinators, such as moths. Just brush past a honeysuckle bush and you’ll be immersed in one of nature’s nicest niffs.
Stay up late for a stag partyLook for these amazing beetles around dead wood on balmy evenings. Read Mark's close up encounter for more tips.
For more ideas about how to make your Big Wild Sleepout special, take a look at our campout ideas, and don't forget to let us know what amazing nocturnal creatures you've seen in the comments below.
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