Night-time noises

If you’re camping out, you might be surprised by how many noises you hear: from hooting owls to mysterious snuffles.

What can you hear?

Things that go bump, snuffle and hoot in the night

Stop what you’re doing. What do you hear?

Now close your eyes. What do you hear now?

If you’ve ever noticed that a dripping tap seems much noisier (and more irritating!) at night, it’s because:

  • There are fewer noises to compete with it
  • When you take vision out of the equation, your other senses become sharper.

When it’s dark at night, many creatures rely instead on their hearing to find prey and detect danger. That’s why many nocturnal creatures, like foxes and bats, have large ears. 

If you’re camping out, you might be surprised by how many noises you hear: from hooting owls to mysterious snuffles from foxes or hedgehogs passing by your tent. Have a listen to these audio clips and see how many you hear during your Big Wild Sleepout.

Tawny owl

Red fox Vulpes vulpes, cub investigating fallen logs, London

Red fox

Why you should love the dawn chorus

Ah, the beautiful sound of birdsong. Pure, sweet, melodic... Wait, what? It's 4.30 am?!

The first time you find yourself woken up by the dawn chorus, you might be miffed that those noisy birds (and they really are loud!) have interrupted a great dream about scoring a goal for your country while riding a unicorn.

But don't groan and put a pillow over your head. Listen closely. Birds have been greeting the sun like this since the dawn of time itself - imagine all the other people through history who have heard what you're hearing?

Can you picture each tiny bird perched on its branch, its breath fogging the air and its tiny throat straining to produce its unique song?

The dawn chorus is the soundtrack to a truly magical time of day, when all the world's asleep, it would seem, except you and the birds.

 Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla, perched seen through branches, Hampshire
Male blackcap

Did you know?

Hear, but don't be heard

Barn owls are specialised silent hunters. The surface of their feathers is especially fuzzy, which muffles the sound of their wingbeats - perfect for sneaking up on a tasty mouse.

As well as flying on silent wings, barn owls have an excellent sense of hearing so they can detect that mouse rustling below.

The barn owl’s flat, heart-shaped face acts like a satellite dish, picking up sounds too faint for our ears to hear.

Owls do still have ear holes, hidden under their feathers. One hole is higher than the other so the owl can tell the direction a sound is coming from.

Barn owl perched on a beam in a barn
Barn owl perching