Seeing in the Dark: Tools Nature Researchers Use for Nocturnal Study

Many of us who enjoy nature, wildlife, or just being outdoors have one thing in common: We all love the sensory experiences that the outdoors provides. Like the view of the flowing river, the touch of the cool breeze in the mountains, the smell of the forest, the calls / songs of the birds, to name a few. They are rarely experienced in the confines of our homes, especially for the urban dweller, who is mostly locked away from nature while connected to laptop, mobile phone and headphones.

People have done various activities to experience the joy of being outdoors: hiking or trekking, bird watching, wildlife safari, etc. One would wonder, can we experience this buffet of sensory inputs even at night, when most of the world is sleeping? A simple answer to this question is yes.

There are countless creatures that are active at night and are rarely seen during the day. For those who live in the cities, one would notice the occasional break in the silence of the night by the screeching of the barn owl, the moths hovering around the bulbs, the bats flying around the Singapore cherry trees or the flash of the firefly. .

For the more adventurous and nature lovers among us, venturing into the dark in search of the nocturnal inhabitants of our planet (mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, frogs, to name a few) is almost like awakening our sixth sense. There is always a certain degree of surprise, a hint of uncertainty about what the reward would be for being out at night.

To make the experience of exploring nature at night more productive, you need to be well equipped.

Personally, I venture out at night in search of reptiles, insects, etc. In order for one to see in the dark, it is essential to have a good flashlight. Flashlights with more than 1000 lumens should provide sufficient range and brightness for viewing at night. Other things to consider are size, battery life, and battery type. A small, handy flashlight provides comfort for long-term use, and having sufficient battery life is critical, as one would normally be out in the open without a place to charge. Fenix ​​and Nitecore are the best-selling brands on the market, and both offer multiple models, each of which varies to some degree in the features mentioned above. The following models offer a good combination of these features: Nitecore (MH12V2, MH25GT, MH25S, MH12S) and Fenix ​​(UC35V2).

Some of these flashlights also come with the UV light feature, which is very useful if one is interested in seeing scorpions at night as they glow under UV light (as shown above).

A bamboo viper clicked on Kolar
Photo credit: Krishna Murthy

For those interested in keeping their hands free while hiking, Nitecore offers some of the best headlamp models like the HC60 and HC65, which can buy online too.

For those interested in observing mammals at night, a pair of binoculars (with objective> 40, which decides how much light the binoculars pick up) will be useful along with a flashlight that has a good range. Personally, I use the Carl Zeiss Terra 10×42, which is stylish and lightweight to wear with the accompanying harness. You also have to choose binoculars that are waterproof or waterproof, so that they can be carried even during the rains. Other models in the same budget range include the Nikon Monarch 7 (8×42).

Wait no more, prepare to be amazed at what the dark has to offer.


I am an engineer by profession and I work for a semiconductor chip design company. Outside of work, I try to find time to observe the natural history around us. With the advent of online platforms like eBird and iNaturalist, which are citizen science projects, I documented my observations by uploading the sightings to these websites. I also try to encourage others to do so.

I would like to thank Shankar for providing suggestions on various tools for night observations.


This series is an initiative of the Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF), within the framework of its ‘Nature Communications’ program to promote nature content in all Indian languages. To learn more about birds and nature, join The herd.


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