Have you ever wondered what goes on in your garden after darkness falls? While nighttime is generally a period of peace and quiet for humans, the same cannot be said for the animal kingdom. A huge number of nocturnal species carry out most of their activity in the hours of darkness and many of these may find their way into your garden.
Read on to discover some of the nightlife that might be on your doorstep and learn what you can do to attract and observe these creatures.
While the majority of birds are active during daylight hours, a significant number of species are nocturnal. The most obvious example of these are owls. Five owl species live in the UK, but the most likely to visit your garden is the Tawny Owl, which can survive in urban areas as well as the countryside, provided there are enough large trees for it to rest in. You can try to attract owls to your garden by installing a nest box.
Another nocturnal bird is the appropriately named Nightingale, which is a migratory visitor to the south of England during the summer months. More often heard than seen, Nightingales are famous for their singing, which inspired the classic song A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.
With the exception of squirrels, it can be quite rare to see mammals in your garden. However, a much wider variety of species may be passing through once darkness falls. There's a good chance urban foxes are visiting your garden, with an estimated 33,000 living in the UK's towns and cities. Badgers can also survive in urban areas, provided there is suitable cover, and will sometimes visit gardens, especially if they are enticed with food.
The Hedgehog is another mammal that frequently visits gardens, although numbers of the species have declined worryingly in recent years. The exact reasons behind this sad development are not known, but habitat loss and disruption from new roads and housing developments are thought to have played a part. You can attract Hedgehogs to your garden and give the species a much-needed helping hand by leaving out food or providing shelter for the creatures.
Other mammals that visit gardens when darkness falls include the many species of bat that live in the UK. You can make your garden bat-friendly through the installation of a specially designed bat box.
In recent years, it has been discovered that deer are increasingly visiting the UK's towns and cities under cover of darkness to take advantage of the food available in gardens and parks. Herds of Fallow Deer have even been photographed roaming the streets of East London in the early hours.
Other nighttime visitors
What other creatures might be visiting your garden at night? The UK has more than 2,000 recorded species of moth and the vast majority of these are nocturnal. Insects might not be the most interesting of garden creatures, but they are a vital part of the food chain. If insects are present in your garden, there's a much higher chance birds and mammals will make it their home too.
One animal that feeds on insects is the Toad, which may find its way to your garden if you have a pond or other damp areas. A pond will also make your garden attractive to other amphibians, such as frogs and newts.
How to observe your garden's nightlife
So, how can you observe the multitude of animals that may be passing through your garden in the hours of darkness? The old-fashioned way is to simply sit and wait with a torch in hand, hoping to catch a glimpse of a visitor.
If you don't have the time, or patience, for this approach, you can invest in technology that will do the hard work for you. Set up a remote camera in the garden and it will record a video or photograph of anything that sets off its motion-sensitive sensor, which is an ideal way to capture natural footage without disturbing the animal in question. Who knows, you may even discover your garden is home to more nocturnal visitors than you ever imagined.
(Images from iStock)