Have you ever wondered what happens in your garden at night? The light fades at the end of the day and you draw the curtains and settle down in front of the TV. Your day is coming to an end. But for many creatures, this is the time that they are starting to stir… it is time for them to emerge and begin a night of hunting and foraging.
WWF’s Earth Hour is a brilliant opportunity to think more about what happens in your garden or outside your house in the hours of darkness. Foxes, hedgehogs, badgers and mice may pass through your garden, just metres from your patio door and yet unless they leave any evidence, you may be completely oblivious to these nocturnal visitors.
If you are interested in wildlife, then you may have wondered about the very different world that is in your garden at night. Why not use Earth Hour to get out in your garden with your kids at night and experience this familiar area, but in the dark!
Don’t take a torch… let your eyes get accustomed to the dark and then you will get an idea of how your nocturnal visitors see your garden. Take time to just sit in your garden at night and see what you can see and hear. Maybe you know of a local badger sett that you could visit? It is very special to see and hear them emerging from their underground homesett.
Nocturnal animals have much better night vision than us. They often have larger eyes, to allow as much light in as possible. Many have a special reflective coating to bounce any available light back into the eye. This means that they can make the most of any light available and trot happily around our night-time garden without any difficulty.
My garden is quite special, as I can watch the night time visitors, with a range of special cameras set up in lots of different locations. These cameras use an invisible light called ‘infra-red’. It bathes the area in a light that’s invisible to both us and the animals that visit, but the cameras can see it. The image is in black and white but it means I can watch all the visitors clearly. The cameras are all wired back to my office so I can watch them on my computer. I can record the footage and live stream it on the Internet so I can share it with people all over the world.
You can take a look to see what creatures are visiting my patch during Earth Hour, as my cameras will be live streaming. You will be able to see four night cameras set up in different parts of my garden to capture any visitors.
Four night cameras will be live streaming:
‘Burrow Box’ is a small wooden box lined with clay and bark, with a little set of lights on the ceiling. A nest box camera looks in at one end, keeping an eye on the visitors. The images are in colour as the box is lit up inside and the nocturnal animals that visit don’t seem to mind as there are always a selection of seeds available to eat. In this box you may see wood mice and bank voles visiting.
‘Clay Cavern’ is a small artificial burrow created out of clay. There is a small nest box camera inside and the area is lit by infra-red. This is an invisible light that the camera can see, but the creatures visiting cannot see it. Although clay cavern looks like there is a light inside, it is completely dark in there. Wood mice and voles regularly visit this feeding station and sometimes there are fights over who gets the snacks!
Fox feeding station
My Fox feeding station is in a field next to my garden. Every night, I put out some dried dog biscuits and I have several different foxes visiting. You can watch out for my pregnant vixens and you may see some of last year’s cubs. Sometimes the local rats take advantage of the food on offer, but they have to watch out for the foxes!
My ‘Prickly Diner’ is a hedgehog feeding station, although it is not just hedgehogs who visit here! Sometimes rats visit, or wood mice pop in sometimes. The hedgehogs emerge from hibernation anytime from March onwards, so we never know who might make an appearance.
I also use Bushnell trail cameras to film my night-time visitors. These cameras are powered by batteries so I can put them anywhere. They are great for watching badgers at my local sett. These cameras also bathe the area in invisible Infra-red light at night and in full colour HD during the day. When the sensor picks up movement and body warmth, it starts the recording and saves it onto an SD card inside. When I collect it the next morning, I can pop the SD card into my PC and take a look at what has been happening. It can be very exciting and I have captured some amazing footage with these remote cameras.
Deployed everywhere from fox earths to badgers setts, I even take them on holiday to find out what creatures may be around. At my local badger sett, I discovered that these badgers spend their night times collecting new leaves for bedding.
If you enjoyed being out in the dark during Earth Hour, why not check out what your local Wildlife Trust has on offer? You may be able to visit a Badger sett hide at night or even go on a bat walk!
The dark has so much to offer, yet we often spend it indoors. So to celebrate this year’s Earth Hour get outside and explore!
What are you doing for Earth Hour? Leave us a comment.