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Observation & exploration

Listen

Sometimes, you may not see an animal, but you might hear one! From the calls of birds and scamper of a squirrel to the rustle of mice as through leaves and grass, there are lots of animal noises to listen to. Once you get used to picking out certain noises, you may become aware of just how many animals there are around you that you didn’t realise were there.

Night Owl

Most owls are nocturnal, sleeping during the day and coming out after sunset to hunt. This works well for trying to hear one, as things are generally quieter after the hustle and bustle of the daytime has given way to the stiller evening – more chance to catch the hoot of an owl.

Tawny Owl

NHM.748-2017

The Tawny owl is heard more than it is seen. It can be heard hooting softly at night: listen to its call. You won’t hear this owl while its hunting – it swoops silently down on its prey. It has very sensitive hearing and eyesight which is how it catches prey in the dark.

Scientific name: Strix aluco

Average life span: 4-5 years

Diet: Small animals, rodents and birds, frogs, insects and worms.

Habitat: Woodlands, and sometimes urban areas or gardens if there are lots of trees.

As nocturnal birds, tawny owls are more often heard than seen. Listen out for the characteristic ‘hoo-hoo, hoo’ call of the male and the shrill ‘kew-wick’ of the female in response.

Tawny Owl (Strix aluco) – British Birds – Woodland Trust

Wood pigeon

NHM.747-2017

The largest and most common pigeon in the UK, its call is a very familiar ‘hroo-hroo, hoo hoo’ in rural areas: listen to this RSPB recording. Common in towns and the country, you are likely to hear this bird from your garden or near parks.

Scientific name: Columba palumbus

Average life span: 3-5 years

Diet: Leaves, seeds, fruit, crops

Habitat: Woodlands, farmlands, urban areas, gardens.

Nature sounds activity!

Who makes this sound? Match the description to the animal – you might find clues in some of the exhibits!

  • Distinctive huffing and puffing – this small mammal is surprisingly noisy!
  • Drumming on wood, and a chirpy voice!
  • A low croaking, heard near woodland ponds
  • This call sounds like laughing

How much can you hear?  

It may sound easy, but noticing nature sounds can be quite hard among all the noises of daily life – sounds inside the home, cars and aeroplanes outside, people’s footsteps and chatter. It takes a bit of focus to listen mindfully but is well worth the effort. It is a great way of connecting to the nature around you, to understand more of your natural environment. It also can be very calming, not just to focus on nature but also as a restful pause in your day.

Listen mindfully
Blue Tit, Parus caeruleus

Give yourself the best chance: remove distractions such as phones and if at home, turn off the TV.

At first you may hear lots of things; start off by gently acknowledging everything you can hear.

Start to pick out individual sounds; focus on sounds from nature, such as a bird call, rain falling on leaves, the wind in tree branches.

Train your focus onto one sound. Is it a regular noise, or does it start and stop or vary in tone, volume? What does it tell you about your immediate environment – is there nearby running water? Must there be a bird nesting in that tree?

If your mind catches other sounds, don’t worry; take notice of it then gently pull your focus back to your nature sound.

Green Woodpecker

NHM.GT.72-2017

This striking, colourful bird feeds from the ground and so can often be seen in parks or clearings. It has a distinctive laughing cry that can be heard echoing through woodland, where they nest in holes they make in trees. Funnily enough, despite their name they are rarely heard drumming into trees!

Scientific name: Picus viridis

Average life span: 2-5 years

Diet: Ants

Habitat: Woodland close to grassy areas, parks and gardens that are close to trees

Heard a bird?

Can you hear a bird call, but not sure what it is? Try this Bird Call Identifier from the Royal Society For the Protection of Birds (RSPB).


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