Nightjar night walk

sunset on clouds

Have you ever taken your children out for a night walk? I’m not talking about times when you’ve trudged home in the dark on a winter’s day from an after school club or an evening event. For us, such walks usually entail carrying torches and dodging commuters driving home after their busy day at the office. Wishing that someone would hurry up and invent a Star Trek transporter.

No, I mean a walk that happens after the children’s usual bedtime. Usually off the beaten track. When it is seriously dark and the only light is from the moon slipping quietly through the tree branches and torches bobbing along as you walk. The aim is to see or hear nocturnal wildlife.

playing on the tree at dusk

First thing to note is the children will be over-the-top excited. The very thought of missing their usual bedtime is enough to bring up the noise level. Turn down volume by reminding them that all wildlife will be frightened away.

Second thing to note is they will insist that they have something to drink and snacks to eat. Stop somewhere en route for forgotten snacks and remind children that it is only a few hours not the whole night.

Third thing to note is they will dress for the Arctic but footwear may be more suitable for the beach. Suggest change of shoes to walking boots and remind them it is summer.

Fourth thing to note is, and this one is important, wear a hat. Dig out a winter woolly hat. Nothing like an attack of the wee bitey midgies to shorten a trip.toad in forest at night

Last weekend, we headed out to the Mendips to find a Nightjar. Migrationary bird that is in the UK at the moment. It has the most amazing continuous rapid churring noise. Non-stop. Did we hear it? Oh yes. Was it worth it? Oh yes. Do the children want to go again? An emphatic yes! The children loved the trip.

(Recorded the nightjar. You’ll need to increase the volume as its very quiet. I’ll try to get another recording.)

We also took a long walk in the forest. Listening to the tawny owls and tripping over toads. Children couldn’t resist picking up this toad and chatting to it. Turning off the torches, we walked by the moonlight, letting our eyes adjust to the darkness. I only just missed treading on the toad.

Other tips:

  1. Be ready to hold hands with the younger members as it can be quite scary. A bigger group can be a comfort for them.
  2. We chose a path that we knew well in daylight, but it can look quite different in the dark. Plan ahead. Probably best to stick to a well worn path. Our route was in a forest managed by the Forestry Commission.
  3. Also remind the children to stick to the path. Even more difficult to avoid treading on wildlife in the dark.
  4. Dress appropriately. If you need Hi-Vis jackets, then wear them. We weren’t on the road.

Any other tips on ensuring a good night time walk with children?


Joining up to the inspirational #CountryKids linky. Waves hand at all the other families getting out and about.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

28 thoughts on “Nightjar night walk

  • Friday 13 June, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    Thanks for the recording, that’s a first for me, I’ve never heard a Night Jar before.

    • Friday 13 June, 2014 at 12:47 pm

      Relieved that you can hear my recording! I seem to have picked up a bit of the village festivities going on a few miles away. The night jar is continuous. We stayed and listened for a while, but it was still going when we left. Non-stop.

  • Saturday 14 June, 2014 at 12:37 am

    So cool going out at night to investigate nature. We used to go out at night with my WATCH group when I was a kid. The best part of it was staying out ate.

    • Saturday 14 June, 2014 at 1:17 am

      Couldn’t agree more. So many things going on at night. If you don’t go out, then you never see it. (Nice to stay up late too)

  • Saturday 14 June, 2014 at 3:28 am

    What a great thing to do. We haven’t done a night walk yet, but it’s definitely on the list, especially with the boys, they would love it.

    • Saturday 14 June, 2014 at 6:38 am

      I love this time of year for night walks. Apart from the migrationary birds, also lots of youngsters finding their wings.Owls and bats. We have a spot near us where the bats teach their young to fly. It is fun to watch!

  • Saturday 14 June, 2014 at 4:18 am

    How fun! We have let little man stay up past his bedtime to howl at the full moon…as we did this evening, but I think a night walk is in our future. Thanks for sharing.

    • Saturday 14 June, 2014 at 6:41 am

      Love the idea of howling at the moon. Hope you make it on a night walk. We watched a tawny owl being mobbed by an irrate blackbird, last night. Drove the owl almost into our laps! Eldest was thrilled to see it close up.

  • Saturday 14 June, 2014 at 7:26 am

    oooooh how exciting to go out for a walk after bedtime – I would have loved to have done this as a child myself. and i think my two boys would find it equally as exciting . we must try this x

    • Saturday 14 June, 2014 at 8:11 am

      I’m sure they would enjoy it. Very exciting when you spot something.

  • Saturday 14 June, 2014 at 7:39 am

    What an amazing experience! Can’t wait until I take my two on night time adventures- I used to love it as a child. Been meaning to listen for nightjars on the Mendips for a long time – we’re you up in the woods on the back road to Wells?

    • Saturday 14 June, 2014 at 8:14 am

      Yes. It was Stockhill woods. We found the Nightjar on the opposite side of the road, by the pond.

  • Saturday 14 June, 2014 at 7:48 am

    My kids would love this hearing Night Jars and tawny owls! They had the best time in early spring when we went for a walk to see tiger and spotted salamanders in a vernal pond. These types of night nature adventures are brilliant for kids.

    • Saturday 14 June, 2014 at 8:19 am

      It is amazing how much goes on at night. Would love to see the salamanders. Hopefully lots of childhood memories being made. Opening their eyes through the experience.

  • Saturday 14 June, 2014 at 8:15 am

    I keep on meaning to go for a summer walk in the dark. I run a wildlife group and we went for a great one last year in November, but that’s much easier as it’s dark at 5pm. I do love this time of year though, great for evening walks and cycles. #countrykids

    • Saturday 14 June, 2014 at 8:21 am

      That is the only problem. Means a later night for the children, but the wildlife experience is different to the autumn. Just not on a school night!

  • Saturday 14 June, 2014 at 9:15 am

    What a treat for the children and a great activity to do. I love the tips, especially the hat, my head is a magnet for all things small and biting! That night jar is something I’m sure I’ve heard here on the farm and not known what it was. Thank you for sharing a great adventure on Country Kids.

    • Saturday 14 June, 2014 at 11:22 am

      A hat was the best bit of advice a neighbour gave me when the children were toddlers. She was right. Bizarre to take a winter hat, but being tight fitting it excludes the midgies.

  • Saturday 14 June, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    Wow, what a treat and what a wonderful idea. I must admit, it’s never crossed my mind to do this. Love the photo of the frog. #countrykids

    • Saturday 14 June, 2014 at 2:08 pm

      I hope you give it a go.

  • Saturday 14 June, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    We are going on a camping tonight and this tips you gave are going to be very very helpful for when we do it tonight =) #CountryKids

    • Saturday 14 June, 2014 at 2:08 pm

      Hope you enjoy your camping. 🙂

  • Sunday 15 June, 2014 at 9:13 am

    This looks like a lot of fun. We’ll have to do it in a few years time 🙂

    • Wednesday 18 June, 2014 at 10:27 am

      Easier with older children. Short walks, later in the year, are a good introduction to nocturnal wildlife for the younger members.

  • Sunday 15 June, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    Whoo this sounds like lots of fun 🙂

    • Wednesday 18 June, 2014 at 10:25 am

      It is! Children loved it.

  • Tuesday 17 June, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    We’ve been wanting to do this for a while, but I think we are going to wait until autumn, just because it gets dark so late at the moment! great photos 🙂

    • Wednesday 18 June, 2014 at 10:25 am

      The wildlife are forever changing. Makes it a good activity for most seasons. Hope you make it out this Autumn.

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