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Gardening is a daytime activity, done in bright light and (preferably) sunshine. As such, we think of garden wildlife as the birdsbees and butterflies that join us among the flower beds.

But once the sun goes down and we head indoors, a new world of wildlife wakes up and takes over. Meet the night creatures.

Hedgehogs

By far the most famous (and popular) nocturnal garden animals are hedgehogs. They are also great garden helpers, munching on slugs, snails and other plant pests.

But they have been through a worrying decline in recent years, and need all the support they can get. Their population numbers have fallen by 30% in the last decade, according the Wildlife Trust.

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One of the easiest ways to help is to create ‘hedgehog highways’ – small holes in boundaries that allow hedgehogs to roam freely. They can travel quite large distances at night, but not if they can’t get through your fence! Cut a hole 13cm x 13cm for easy access.

You can also put out food during the summer (April to October). Cat or dog food is perfect as long as it’s not fish. But please don’t put out milk – it’s far too rich for them to digest and can make them ill. Fresh water in a shallow dish is best.

Owls

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Most birds sleep at night, but owls are the exception. The most common in Britain is the tawny owl, which can be brown or grey. The males make that distinctive ‘hoo-hoo’ call. In rural areas you may also find white barn owls.

Owls are night hunters and eat mice and rodents, as well as small birds. Studies have shown that they can fly over a kilometre looking for prey. They live in holes in trees but also like to move into nest boxes put up for them.

Bats

There are not many bat species that visit our gardens, though they may move into bat boxes if you put them up. They are difficult to identify and studies show they fly up to three miles from their home each night in search of food.

If you see a bat perching on a ledge, it might be the long-eared bat, which has huge ears that are super-sensitive. According the Bat Conservation Trust, it can even hear a ladybird walking on a leaf!

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Foxes

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Foxes are a common sight in gardens in both city and urban locations. They venture out under the cover of darkness to hunt without being disturbed. They are very shy animals and difficult to spot, but you should be able to find their tracks and the grey-coloured droppings that they leave to mark their territory.

Foxes are scavengers and will eat many types of food, including insects, small mammals and birds. You can also feed them with dog or cat food as long as it’s not fish.

Moths

A typical garden may contain more than 200 species of moth. They visit looking for flowers that open at night so they can find nectar.

Hawk moths and angle shades moths are common species. The angle shades moth has distinctive brown wings that look crumpled when folded – ideal for camouflage among dry leaves.

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To see more moths, leave an outside light on against a white wall. Many of the insect species will be drawn to the light and rest on the wall, giving you chance to look at them.

Deer

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Many more rural gardens are visited by deer, which can become a nuisance because they munch through plants and trees.If you have deer in your garden they are probably fallow, roe or muntjac deer.

The muntjac deer are unusual because they are dog-sized and make a barking sound. They were introduced to the UK from China just over 100 years ago, but they will soon be the most common species according to the British Deer Society.

Most night animals don’t like light and will flee if you try to illuminate the garden to see them. But you can try covering your torch with red filters like cellophane sweet wrappers. Many night-time creatures can’t see red light. Look under hedges and around ponds during dusk and early night.

Plus, check out these great Christmas gifts for wildlife lovers!

For more on garden wildlife:

Or check out my Pinterest board for more ideas:

Attracting wildlife
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