Into the Night Garden…with an Owl?

How many of us consider birdwatching in our garden at night? It might seem strange but there can be much to see and hear in the garden from dusk to dawn and you might see your garden in an entirely different light. As the light begins to fade in the evening many of our garden birds will break into song advertising their presence just before they go to roost.


Through Spring and Summer this can be a good way of discovering that which species are nearby and might be encouraged into the garden – Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and Robins are notable singers at dusk.

And in winter months, the end of day will often bring birds into roost in conifers or bird boxes. I always find the noisy repeated ‘chink-chink’ sounds of Blackbirds going to roost in nearby trees an evocative way to end the day.


When darkness falls, most garden birds roost but our gardens can be destinations for one bird family that is active at night – owls. My garden borders onto a small buffer woodland and farmland and I’ve been lucky enough to record three different species of owl over the years we’ve lived here: Barn Owl, Tawny Owl and Little Owl.


It might be very difficult to see any owl species in your garden but it can be much easier to hear them. Owl calls carry over fairly long distances and on a quiet night it may be possible to hear your local Tawny Owl pair calling to one another, the male’s long ‘hooooo’ followed by the female ‘tu-whit’ answer. In more rural areas the long, haunting screech of the Barn Owl can set the hairs to stand on the back of your neck as it reveals its presence. The local Little Owls here only seem to visit occasionally but think nothing of yelping and calling almost outside my bedroom window when they do.


This month sees the RSPB advertising a series of events called Big Wild Sleepout to encourage people to sleep outside for a night and see what wild things you can discover. Why not try sleeping out in your garden and let us know of any garden bird encounters you have?



Our Garden Birder’s Diary is written by Northumberland-based birder Alan Tilmouth who has been birdwatching for over 30 years and writing about birds in various guises for the last decade. A keen garden birdwatcher, he also manages to unearth the odd rare bird on his travels. You can find Alan on Twitter and his Facebook blog.