Mice, bats & badgers: night visitors
Most of us are familiar with the day-time visitors to the garden - but once we draw the curtains we have little idea of either the numbers or variety of nocturnal visitors.
Yellow-necked fieldmice frequently visit bird tables and feeders under cover of darkness. Unlike the unwelcome house mouse (usually only a problem in urban areas), the yellow-necked fieldmouse is a delightfully dainty and agile animal, capable of climbing trees with ease.
We are used to reading that dormice are rare and endangered, but they are also shy and seldom seen, even where they are quite common. Recent surveys have shown that in some areas in southern England, these charming creatures are not nearly as rare as had been thought. If you have a large garden with some hazel, or if your garden adjoins woodland, then visits from dormice are by no means impossible.
Most rural gardens, and some even in urban situations, provide aerial hunting grounds for bats. Research has shown that even our smallest bat, the pipistrelle, will consume as many as 3,000 insects in a single night.
We all wish that hedgehogs would do their best to consume as many slugs and snails a night; though this prickly mammal does indeed eat these garden pests, it prefers invertebrates such as beetles, caterpillars, centipedes, spiders and earthworms.
The latter are a favourite diet of the badger. Many people wake up to see where badgers have dug for worms on their lawn but sightings of the animals themselves can be surprisingly rare. Foxes, in contrast, are far more likely to be observed, as they are generally much bolder and often about at dawn and dusk.