Take Part in The RSPB Big Wild Sleepout!

This month the RSPB are encouraging us all to swap our comfortable homes for nature’s home for a night and discover a secret world of wildlife by taking part in their Big Wild Sleepout between 29th and 31st July. By venturing outside to kip under the stars, you’ll get to know more about wildlife at night, spotting nocturnal animals going about their lives under cover of darkness.

To help you make the most of the evening, we’ve put together some fantastic ideas from Hattie Garlick’s Born to be Wild about how to have fun under the stars

shaddow puppet


  1. Draw the basic outlines of some nocturnal creatures onto a piece of card. Before it gets dark, or else by torchlight, cut them out.
  1. Find some sticks and Sellotape them to the backs of the animals.
  1. Hold them up against a tree trunk, wall, fence or the ground, and shine a torch on them to project shadows onto the surface.
  1. Make the puppets hop around, play together, fight, adventure, nibble on leaves… whatever theatrics your imagination dictates.


Clearly this is more authentically and cosily undertaken by firelight. You can’t, after all, toast marshmallows on a battery-operated torch. If you are good at building fires and have, to hand, the space in which to do so and the materials with which to do so, I applaud you. If you’re like me, use a torch and eat chocolate instead. Reading aloud in the outdoors is pretty magical whatever the light source.

  1. Find a sheltered space in which to make yourself comfortable. This could be a bench, a fallen tree, a log, some garden chairs or a cushion on a balcony.
  1. Sit down with friends or family, warm clothes, sustenance, a torch and either a book or a story in someone’s head.
  1. Nominate someone to tell the story. They get the torch, of course, with which to read and gesture.


Note You can also pass a book around the circle, so that everybody reads a page, or make up a story together, so that each person adds a sentence in turn.


There is a whole other world, right under our noses, whose inhabitants walk the same streets, sniff around the bins we use every day, and stretch out and play in the same gardens and parks in which we stretch and play ourselves. All you have to do to access this universe is come out after dark. Keep quiet, keep still and keep warm, and you’ll see this other world come alive around you.

Don’t use a torch or make lots of noise. You’ll scare them off.

Do wrap up really warmly and listen carefully – you might well hear animals that you can’t see.

Note You don’t even, necessarily, need to go outside. If you turn off the lights in your sitting room and sit still you might get lucky.

What to look for

  • Badgers
  • Hedgehogs
  • Foxes
  • Mice
  • Voles
  • Bats
  • Moths
  • Owls
  • Deer (yep, even in some urban and
  • suburban areas)


Ideally, you need a clear, dark sky, somewhere far away from street lights, strip-lit shop fronts and office buildings that beam brutally into the nightscape. But for the small astronauts who dream of rocket trips from the fifteenth floor of a concrete jungle or the safety of their suburban semi, there is still plenty of hope. In the winter, when it gets dark earlier than in the summer, the possibilities to explore the night sky are endless. All you need is a clear night, this book, an outside space (a garden, park or even a balcony will do), warm clothes, hot drinks, imagination and sparkling eyes. Done? Okay, now can you spot any of the following?

  • The Plough (or Big Dipper)
  • Gemini
  • Orion
  • Cassiopeia
  • Pisces
  • the Pole Star n Venus

Note The night sky looks different depending on where you are in the world, but you can always find guides online. Wherever you stargaze, don’t forget to look for shooting stars and other planets, too, and notice what phase the moon is in.

Discover more nocturnal activities in the rest of the book – Born to be Wild by Hattie Garlick

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