We called on the experts to give us the facts about all things nocturnal animals!
Inspired by the National Trust’s '50 things to do before you're 11 ¾' activities and the wildlife at their places, we’ve created an exclusive range for little ones to explore the natural world. Get ready to camp outdoors, take a night-time nature walk and meet our nocturnal woodland creatures!
This season our wonderful ‘Dusk Walk’ print has been inspired by the creatures big and small that come to life once everyone else has gone to bed… from happy little hedgehogs to busy bats - see which ones you can spot amongst the collection!
Hi Ben! Can you tell us a little about yourself and what you do for the National Trust?
Hi my name is Ben McCarthy and I am Head of Nature Conservation at the National Trust. This means that I help drive our ambition for restoring wildlife across our estate. This is really exciting as we have huge ambition to improve the quality of our land for wildlife, create and restore land for nature and overseeing the management of the many sites of Special Sites of Scientific Interest that cover about half of our estate and are nationally important for protecting wildlife.
How did you become the Head of Nature Conservation at the National Trust?
I only recently joined the National Trust having held various roles including working for an international wild plant charity, the government’s wildlife organisation, national parks and industry. This took me from corridors in government, through partnerships to develop big national projects to conserve some of our most threatened species, to muddy ditches and nature reserve management. It has been really exciting and gave me lots of useful experience of understanding how different people and organisations view the natural world and how we all have a part to play in improve wildlife for everyone’s benefit.
What is the best thing about your job?
I have always been lucky working with dedicated and skilled colleagues - the National Trust is no different. I enjoy the range of challenges that I’m faced with and although each day is different, the one constant is the good team. It is a privilege to work with them to care for wildlife across our estate, be that our internationally important seabirds or researching our native orchids or working to restore our sand dunes.
Why is conservation so important and what can we do to help?
I think more and more people understand that we are reliant on the natural world for all the things us humans rely on. At the moment it is clear we take more from the earth than it can naturally sustain and, as there isn’t another planet we can all move to, we need to ensure that we look after this one. If we do this properly and fairly there is every reason it will make us all healthier, happier and safer.
What nocturnal animals do you work with?
In my work I mainly work with bats but also badgers, moths and sometimes hedgehogs. A lot of National Trust places are really important for bats and we work hard to ensure they and other nocturnal animals are able to live happily across our estate.
Do you have a favourite, and why?
Ah that is really difficult to answer! I have always liked bats but moths are also awesome and very beautiful. As for badgers and hedgehogs their snuffling and rooting around always makes me smile.
Can you tell us a little about the bats in your care?
We have bats in many of the places we look after as they typically like big old buildings with their associated out houses as well as the parkland, woods and wetlands we look after. 16 out of 17 species of bat breed across our estate in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and we have records of all our species roosting at our places.
Do you have any advice for anyone who finds a hedgehog in their garden?
Generally the best help we can offer hedgehogs and other wildlife in our garden is to ensure that they have good quality habitat to live their lives to the full. Hedgehogs need a rich source of food that can be provided by having wildlife friendly areas in your garden or local park such as long grass with plenty of wildflowers, composts heaps and log piles are also good for supporting invertebrates like slugs that hedgehogs like to eat, whilst a wildlife pond with shallow banks ensures they have safe access to water. You can also feed hedgehogs wet meaty cat or dog food if you are concerned they are poorly.
Where are the best places to spot our nocturnal friends
Around sunset bats emerge from their summer roosts and are noticeable swooping to catch insects on the wing. Gardens, woods and parks all good places to spot bats especially if there is a pond or river nearby as flying insects are attracted to these same places.
Watching other nocturnal animals like badgers is more challenging: go on a daytime reccy to find an active sett (or you could ask a ranger) and return before sunset and settle in for a wait. Badgers have excellent sense of smell so ensure you are down wind of the sett, dress well to keep yourself warm and keep very still & quiet! Your night vision will develop so try to keep torches off. You will likely hear badgers snuffling around before you see them so keep quiet and still and with any luck you should be rewarded by these powerful animals slinking around looking for roots and invertebrates to eat.
Other nocturnal animals like hedgehogs are more difficult to see as they wander across relatively large areas so unless your garden is on a regular commuting route for your hedgehog it is normally luck if you bump into them.
Are there any nocturnal animals that are endangered or at risk?
Unfortunately, there are lots of nocturnal animals that are endangered or at risk which is why our work to care for them is so vital. Some animals, like the Otter, were so threatened that they changed their behaviour and only came out under the cover of dark but thankfully are no longer threatened and you can see them during the day in many rivers.
What are your top 5 pieces of advice for looking after nocturnal wildlife in your garden?
⭐ Keep it dark – nocturnal species have evolved to live at night and illuminating gardens unnecessarily can disrupt their behaviour
⭐ Dig a pond – it will attract all sorts of wildlife through the day and night
⭐ Have a compost heap and log pile – to create space for wildlife
⭐ Put up a bat box to attract bats into your garden
⭐ Grow wild flowers to attract wildlife into your garden
Do you have any advice for young aspiring conservationists?
I encourage you to take action at home to support our wildlife. There is loads to do from building a bird box or making a wildlife pond and that gives you opportunity to get up close and learn about the amazing life stories of our wildlife.
We asked the Frugi Family Facebook Group if they had any questions about nocturnal creatures and Ben has kindly answered them below!
Where do hedgehogs live? – Sam Snodgrass-Fay
Hedgehogs live in a wide range of habitats including gardens, parks and particularly like a mix of grassland, hedgerows and woodland which is why gardens are so popular.
How do bats catch insects in the dark? – Tara Dawson
Bats use echolocation to navigate and hunt for insects in the dark. This gives them the ability to fly through woodlands without crashing into things.
How do nocturnal animals see in the dark? – Sarah Humphreys
Nocturnal animals have special adaptations to allow them to see in the dark such as heightened sight and hearing of owls that helps them prey on small mammals hiding under the cover of darkness.
Is it true that owls are crepuscular not nocturnal? My eldest was obsessed with that word when he was little – Shannon Wrafter
Most owls are nocturnal or crepuscular depending. Barn owls for example normally best seen around dusk hunting along verges and grasslands whilst the Short-eared owl is typically seen during the day.
What makes them nocturnal and why? – Sarah McNicholas
There are advantages of only coming out at night such as there are less predators about so it can be safer coming out under the cover of darkness.
Why are some nocturnal animals more favoured than others?
I’m not sure! I like all animals (& plants & fungi!) and some of the nocturnal animals are very beautiful, like glow worms, and very impressive like bats’ ability to use echolocation to catch their prey.
What nocturnal animals are there in different countries? – (Seb 5yrs) Ann Bainbridge
There are thousands of nocturnal animals in different countries, for example there are more than 1,400 bat species globally.
The National Trust shares Frugi’s belief that encouraging children to spend time outside in nature has so many benefits! Making connections with the natural is good for us; whether it’s taking a moment to notice the twinkling stars above or listening out for the hoot of an owl, this can encourage mindfulness and improve wellbeing. We know that if people fall in love with nature they'll be more likely to look after it. That's why we're encouraging everyone to head outside and spend some time getting to know the beauty of the world all around them.
The National Trust’s '50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾' activity programme encourages children to get out in the fresh air and become closer to nature, and take notice of the environment around them through outdoor activities all year round, whatever the weather! Many of the outdoor activities can be done at home in your garden or when visiting local natural spaces, so they’re perfect for when the kids are enjoying the school holidays and you’re looking for something to keep them entertained.
With fun, family adventures and activities such as watching the sunset, going on a nature walk at night, stargazing and much, much more! What better way to enjoy these activities than ‘Adventure Ready’ in our Frugi x National Trust Outerwear!
You’ll be a seasoned adventurer by the time you’ve managed to complete all 50 activities, and it doesn’t end there! You can enjoy the National Trust’s ’50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾’ again and again, in all four seasons!