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A guide to identifying nocturnal nature sounds at the cottage

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Going to the cottage is a great way to escape the noises of civilization. No blaring fire trucks, no car honks, no rowdy teenagers hanging out past curfew. But being less on-grid doesn’t mean you fully escape from all noises, especially the nocturnal ones produced by nature. Spend one night at a cottage and you might hear a variety of sounds from mammals, birds, insects, and reptiles. Here’s a primer on how to identify some of the coos, hoots, and caws when you’re at the cottage.


The wildlife call of a bullfrog is far from the high-pitched “ribbit” that we were taught in elementary school. Their sound is marked by a low, repetitious drone, which is made by males to attract females during breeding season. They also make the noise as a defence mechanism.


Evenings are when you’ll most often hear crickets chirping. This two-tone attraction call is made when male crickets rub their wings together. It can be heard two or three times per second when it’s 25 degrees Celsius and above. The rate slows down when the temperature drops.

Burrowing Owl

Like most owls, most of their calls can be heard at night. These owls like to reside in holes dug up by other animals such as prairie dogs or skunks. They make two kinds of calls. Listen for a soft, two-note hoo hoooo—the last note trails a bit longer—which is known as their typical hooting call. The alarm call is used when they’re in defence mode and sounds more aggressive and high-pitched. It’s often compared to the chatter sounds of a rattlesnake.


These birds might be hard to spot but their sounds are easily identifiable by their three-syllable, sing-songy whistle. Accents are on the first and last syllable, with a rise in the last. Males often repeat it throughout the night, sometimes for hours, on warm summer nights.


The coyote howl can be a frightening sound for some cottagers, but these shy animals mostly avoid confrontation with humans. They’re considered one of the most vocal wild mammals in North America, so familiarize yourself with some of their common, attention-grabbing noises: a lone, chattering howl is used to contact other coyotes, a group yip howl is used to respond, and dog-like barking is used to warn their pups to retreat to safety.