Discover secrets of the night
Head outside on your Big Wild Sleepout night and follow our tips to make the most of your senses.
If you can do without a torch, so much the better. After 10 minutes, chemicals in your eyes start working to help you see better than you could imagine. Your night vision improves the longer you are in the dark.
It’s rarely completely dark though - there are stars, sometimes the moon, lights from houses, street lights... enough light for you to see by.
Hunt or be hunted
Just like you, animals need to get used to the dark. They can use it to their advantage. How often do you see a mouse in the daytime? Mice come out at night and use the darkness to keep hidden. But then again, they can’t see a silent hunter creeping up on them.
Hunters, such as foxes, find it harder to see their prey. Instead they use their great hearing and their sense of smell. All of these animals have big ears for a good reason - they want to hear what’s about in the dark.
Keep your own ears alert - you might hear an animal move. To improve your hearing, try cupping your hands behind your ears. It really works! (but you do look a bit silly)
Sound is very important to animals at night. If you head out at dusk, you may hear bird alarm calls. A “tick, tick, tick” call that sounds like you’re being told off is a bird warning call.
It may be a blackbird telling you that you’ve been spotted.
Or it may be warning to other birds that they think you might hunt them. It doesn’t know you don’t eat blackbirds (or do you?!).
Here’s a skill that you probably have and your adults possibly don't. You may be able to hear high-pitched bat calls. Their shouts are so high-pitched that many grown-ups cannot hear them, but most children can.
Bats use what’s called “echo-location”. They shout at a moth and the sound bounces off the moth and comes back to them. The bats can then work out how close the moth is by how quickly the sound reaches them. Clever, eh?
Check what’s happening down at your feet. Slugs, snails, millipedes, woodlice and other minibeasts roam around when it’s dark and moist. There’s no sun out to fry them alive. Rove beetles and spiders are the night predators here – running over the earth to catch their dinner.
You might be surprised at the wonderful smells in the air. Some plants behave as if they’re in a perfume advert. They produce masses of sweet-scented nectar at night and for a very good reason - they want to attract moths.
These insects aren’t fussy about where they get their nectar. They’ll flit from flower to flower to take a sip. As they do so, they get covered in pollen and that’s how the flowers pollinate each other – in a moth pollen delivery service.