Our Patch: Things That Go Snuffle in the Night

By on Tuesday, November 18, 2014

our_patch_sj_jarmanAs lovely as the colours of the autumn are, catching our eye at the moment around our lovely patch, this column is a little monochromatic and necessarily so.

We have a lot of nature that is unseen, as it only comes out at night. Many of our mammals, a portion of our birds, and many, many invertebrates are mainly active when it’s dark.

It’s amazing to see how many critters are visiting our gardens when there is no one to disturb them. There are ways to see them though, and I’d like to share some of the fruits of our night-time investigations with you.

As I’ve mentioned before, we have a dog, and she takes exception to visitors entering the garden without coming through the front door.

She doesn’t differentiate between burglars, cats and other intruders, and is very vocal in her displeasure.

At the end of October, she was growling and grumbling out into the darkness of the back garden, and after a couple of minutes, my husband let her out, only to call her back in moments later.

This is what we saw…


We switched out the lights, brought the dog into the living room and looking 10 minutes later discovered our hedgehog has disappeared into the undergrowth.

We were delighted to see a hedgehog, particularly as they are in such a terrible decline (their population has decreased by approximately 30% over the last 10 years alone). We set our infra-red camera in the garden to see if it was a regular visitor – happily it is!  Once we knew we had a regular attender, we baited the camera and caught the following footage:

It’s such a treat to see a healthy living hedgehog, and as it visited too late for the children to see, recording its movements has delighted them, sparking even more of an interest in the natural world for them. They are often to be found in the morning searching the garden for ‘Sonic poo.’

We have caught other visitors on the camera, perhaps not always as popular as our prickly friend, this guy must live near our sheds as we have caught him several times in the same place. You will note how he totally disregards the big fat slug which he is supposed to be eating to prevent said slug demolishing our tomatoes…

Moth trap at nightNow, anyone who has left windows open overnight in the summer, will have inadvertently created for themselves a simple bit of nature watchers equipment, a moth trap. The moths are attracted by the light and end up trapped (often in the bathroom!) and have to be removed. Moth traps can set you back hundreds of pounds, but we have made our own for less than £20 and have had some excellent results.

If you’re planning to use a moth trap, there are a few things to consider. Firstly it must be a dry night, and secondly you will need to be up fairly early to empty it. Next when you do empty it, the moths will be cold and torpid (great for identifying them), but you will need to put them somewhere where the local blackbirds will not just gobble them up. Finally you can’t trap every night, or you may re-trap the same insects interfering with their eating and mating habits.

Buff Ermine MothWe tend to think of moths as drab thinking over those poor tired fellows we see fluttering at a light source.

There are some amazingly beautiful moths, some of which I know we have in the area but have not managed to trap yet, so I have shared some of the prettier moths we trapped this year.

When the children are older and can stay awake into to the darkness, we will drape a white sheet over a light for an ‘instant’ moth trap, where the children will be able to see the visiting moths in ‘real time’.

These are very simple ways of interacting harmlessly with nocturnal wildlife, so we can appreciate what is snuffling about in our own patch.



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