Noticing nature from dawn to dusk

It's the longest day of the year on 20 June 2020, so why not use these extra hours to have a nature adventure? Count the bugs in your garden, find out if you're a night owl or morning lark and make the most of those longer summer days to spot some wildlife and take some beautiful photos of your favourite green space.

This weekend, you could use the longer hours in the evening to find out what kind of bugs you can attract in your garden by using an old bed sheet and a torch. We've also got some fascinating facts about why different animals are more active in the morning or the evening, as well as some tips and tricks on how to take some beautiful photographs when the sun sets.

Our study on the value of nature also found that most of us are night owls, meaning we love staying up at night rather than getting up early. There are lots of things to do in your garden at dusk and dawn, so make the most out of nature on your doorstep this weekend.

These are fun activities for members and supporters. These activities have been designed so that they can be done safely in your house, garden or local area, so please take part responsibly and follow government guidance on social distancing.

activities for kids weekend challenge

Early bird or night owl? 

There are loads of animals that love early mornings, and others who prefer to come out when the sun's setting beyond the horizon. Save this sheet on your phone or print it out and see how many you can spot in your garden or on a walk.

Wonderful wildlife at dawn

Become an expert bug catcher

Have you ever noticed how moths just love flying towards the light, especially on a summer evening when you have your windows open? Observing these curious creatures is easy with our step-by-step guide.

Step 1: Hang a sheet

Hang up an old, light-coloured bed sheet vertically outside on a summer evening when it’s dry and not too windy. You could hang it up on a washing line, on a hedge or a tree.

Step 2: Find a light source

Any type of light works to attract moths. You could use a torch, garden lamp or the light from a phone. For best results, make sure that your light is bright enough to illuminate most of the sheet.

Step 3: Light up the sheet and wait for moths

Turn on your light and direct it towards your sheet – moths should begin arriving almost right away. You could bring a camera to take photos to find out which moths are in your garden.

We were inspired by similar activities from BBC's Springwatch and Science Friday. Check out their websites at the bottom of the page for more fun summer activities to get closer to nature. 

Moths of The Sefton Coast

Marvellous moths 

One creature to look out for during the sunset is the weird and wonderful moth. Find out how to make your garden moth-friendly to attract these great pollinators, learn more about fascinating facts – like how some moths use camouflage – and read up on how to become an expert at mothing.

According to our survey:

  • 93% of people notice the change in seasons
  • 36% of people would say they're an 'early bird'
  • 42% of people would say they're a 'night owl'

Figures are from Yougov Plc and the total sample size was 2,103 adults. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

" Spending time in nature is good for our health, and having a close connection with nature is good for people’s mental wellbeing. Both play an active part in managing our emotions and moods."
- Professor Miles Richardson, the University of Derby

Tips for taking great nature photos

Sunset over Virginia Woolf's cottage garden at Monk's House, East Sussex

Use the golden sunrise or sunset

Whether you're a morning lark or a night owl, when the sun rises and sets it's known as 'golden hour'. Take pictures of your favourite flowers, bugs and animals during these times to get a beautiful glow in your photos.

Harlequin ladybird on a leaf at Shugborough Estate, Staffordshire

Keep it simple

Try not to worry about capturing everything you see. You can focus on a small subject, like the leaf on a tree or a blade of grass, until the background blurs for an artistic effect. If you're waiting for creatures to come into shot, you'll have to stay very still and be patient. Some can be quite shy.

The tallest Grand Fir in Cumbria at Skelghyll Woods, near Ambleside, Cumbria

Try all angles

A tree is sometimes far more interesting if you lay beneath it and point your camera lens upwards, taking a photo with the bark in shot. Or you could try and take a photo from a bug's point of view. Most importantly: have fun!

Listen to our podcast on night-time photography

Please note, this episode was recorded before UK restrictions to stem the spread of coronavirus. Please check current guidance before planning any activities. 

Codger's Fort on the estate at Wallington, Northumberland

Podcast: Things that go click in the night

In this podcast episode, presenter Jo Dyson gets a masterclass in night time photography from astrophotographer, Steven Hanna. Listen to discover how you can use your camera to shed light on the secrets of the night.


Go on a dusk safari

Join our ranger, Toby Edwards, as he explores his garden as the sun begins to set. As the birdsong fades away, Toby discovers lots of new visitors. Why not have a go at filming your own dusk safari? You might be surprised at how much wildlife comes out as darkness falls.

Read a poem about the spectacular summer sky

So many poets have been inspired by the sky. The best place to start when writing your own poem about dawn and dusk is by looking up at the sky and noting what you like the best about it. Is it the clouds, the stars, the sun or the moon? We’ve shared some of our favourite sky-inspired poems below to inspire you to write about your own experiences.

I am the Seed that Grew the Tree published by Nosy Crow

Discover nature poetry  

I Am the Seed that Grew the Tree includes some beautiful illustrations and a poem for every nature lover. The book, published by Nosy Crow, has won several prizes, including the Big Book Awards in 2019.

Poems from I Am the Seed That Grew the Tree, a nature poem for every day of the year selected by Fiona Waters and illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon. Published by Nosy Crow.

Artwork © Frann Preston-Gannon 2018.

Man and two children playing a grass trumpet

50 things activities to do in your back garden 

Even bold adventurers don't need to go too far from home to tick off challenges from the '50 things' activity list. Here are our top ten ideas for activities that you can do in your own back garden, nearest park or outdoor green space.

Wonderful wildlife at dusk

Family-friendly activities

Find lots of inspiration for activities to do as a family. You won't be short of things to do at home or in the garden.