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Head Outside This Summer for After-Dark Scavenger Hunt

Have you ever completed a scavenger hunt? They are a great way to slow down and focus on all the details while on a forest preserve hike or neighborhood walk. But have you ever done a scavenger hunt at night? As the sky darkens, what we see changes. Most things are harder to see, but some can only be seen at night. Can you think of anything only visible at night?  


A child wearing a night hat looking at a map while shining a flashlight at it.
(Photo via Shutterstock)

Nocturnal animals wake up in the evening. Look for bats zipping and flapping through the sky at dusk once the sun has almost completely set. You’ll know them by the pointy shape of their wings and their darting pattern of flight as they catch insects right out of the sky. 


After dusk, when the sky goes completely dark, twinkling stars appear. They shine all day and night, but we can only see them in the dark. Can you find the bright North Star? How about a constellation or two? Sometimes a planet is even close enough and bright enough to see! 


Some nocturnal animals have a special part in their eyes called a tapetum. The tapetum reflects light back into their eyes, helping them see — and hunt — in the dark. It makes coyotes’, cats’, spiders’ and other nocturnal animals’ eyes seem to glow in the dark. Shine a flashlight in the grass or leaf litter. Can you find a spider eye shining back at you? 


The bright eyes of an owl shining in the dark from the owl's perch in a tree.

In the middle of summer, fireflies blink on and off in search of a mate. Some species flash different colors. How many colors of flashing lights can you find? 


Night brings more than just changes to what we see. What we can hear also changes. Listen for the chorus of frogs croaking for a mate. An orchestra of insects buzzes through the night. Count how many different insect calls you can hear. Maybe you’ll get lucky enough to hear an owl calling out too! 


Get out your flashlights and use the scavenger hunt sheet below for some fun after dark. Or make your own! 



Increase the fun by turning your scavenger hunt into a team challenge! Who can find all the items first? Who can find the most items in the least amount of time? Do you need to take pictures as proof? Have fun taking silly selfies with the found items! Can you think of more items to add to the list for next time? The possibilities are endless! 


Watch for after-hours programs at the Will County Forest Preserves on the event calendar. Or try camping at one of the Forest Preserve's campgrounds to explore overnight.


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