Tag Archives: nocturnal

Special Invitation: Blue Ghost & Moth Viewing Party!

Hey all and happy Monday to you. If you live locally in Asheville or western North Carolina, this post’s for you–a special invitation to come out and join me on Friday night to watch a special firefly. (If not, so sorry! I will feature another post after the party with some photos)

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As you’ve likely heard me say a time or two, my husband and I live in the woods in south Asheville. We discovered some years ago that we have BLUE GHOST FIREFLIES on our property. Don’t know what a Blue Ghost is?

Blue Ghost Fireflies are different from other species of firefly in that their light stays lit for 30-60 seconds, 2 to 3 feet off the ground. So watching them is magical–it’s like ghosts are carrying lanterns as they move silently through the trees.

The firefly is only the size of a rice grain but his light is bright enough to light up the night, especially when there are a bunch in one spot. Females also have a light but have no wings so remain stationary.

On THIS Friday, May 26th, at 8pm, my husband and I are hosting a blue ghost and moth viewing party. We will sit outside and have a drink while we wait for it to get dark, then will learn a bit about these fireflies before going on a short walk to see some.

We will also put out a black light and white sheet to see what moths we might attract. I will mix up a special drink for the moths and will put it out near the sheet. After we watch the blue ghosts, we can walk over and check out what’s on the sheet. You never know what we might see! Here are a few of my favorite moths that I’ve seen other years:

Luna mothVirgin tiger mothInside of tiger moth's wingsTulip MothImperial mothTulip moth,maleA luna moth with another smaller mothUnidentified mothMoths Polyphemus mothTiger mothPolyphemus mothMoth on sheetMoth attracted to black lightMothMothFirefly in daytimeOrange patched-smoky mothA beautiful luna mothMultiple luna moths

If you want to attend, great, I can’t wait to meet you! PLEASE wear comfortable shoes for this! And note that we will not be using flashlights for much of the time in order to allow our eyes to adjust to the night. The driveway is wide and mostly level and we will not be off-trail at any time. But to get the address and directions, you must RSVP at my meetup site   or send me an email saying you’d like to go– sharenaturemore@gmail.com. To avoid overcrowding, I am limiting this to 20 people.

If you want to learn how YOU can attract moths to your yard, see this post or if you want to read about one of our more beautiful moths, check out this Tulip Tree moth. Or, here’s a quiz to see what you know about moths.

Lastly, if you are interested in learning more about moths, such as how to identify them, here is a link to a fabulous book–a Peterson Guide to Moths. 

Posted in Animals, Call to Action!, For My Soul, Insects, Spiders and other Invertebrates, Just for Fun, Nature NOW | Also tagged , , , 4 Comments

Weekly Puzzler Answer #110

owl-2086A handful of people knew the answer to last week’s puzzler–were you one of them? The mystery “ball” was an owl pellet but I’m betting for some of you that doesn’t really answer the question. You may still be wondering what is an Owl pellet?

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A barred owl eating a crayfish.

When I’m doing programs with kids and I talk about owl pellets, most people in the audience think it’s owl poop. But that isn’t exactly correct. As you probably know, owls eat things like mice and voles and other small animals. Unlike other birds, they do not have a crop, which is the bag-like organ used to store food so they can digest it later. Instead owls’ food is swallowed whole and goes straight to their gizzard.  Know what a gizzard is? It’s an organ that uses bits of sand and digestive fluids to grind up and dissolve any unusable tissue from the animals they eat.

There is a lot of indigestible material like teeth, skulls, claws, feathers, fur, and bones. A hard pellet of this material is formed in the gizzard and then the owl regurgitates it–so it’s not poop because it comes out the mouth–not the butt!  In order for an owl to eat again, they must first get rid of the owl pellet. After feeding it can take 6 hours or more to form the pellet and owls expel one to two pellets after each night of hunting.

A burrowing owl

A burrowing owl

Owl pellets are full of information! Each one contains a window into the habits of the owl–the skulls and bones can be identified so you can learn exactly what the owl had for dinner. If you have kids or are a kid yourself and curious–this is a great thing to do! It’s interesting to dig through the pellet to see what it might contain.

Here you can see a rodent jaw bone

Here you can see a rodent jaw bone

Want to read more about owls? Click HERE or HERE to read about barred owls, or HERE to read about screech owls.

Or, click HERE to see what this week’s puzzler is.

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Weekly Puzzler Answer #94

Coyotes have red eyeshine

Coyotes have red eyeshine

Do you have any ideas about last week’s puzzler?

Did you know that many vertebrates, especially those that are nocturnal or crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk), have a special reflective surface in the backs of their eyes, behind their retinas, that allow them to see better in low light conditions? This layer, called a tapetum lucidum,  (pronounced HERE) acts like a mirror, sending light back through the retina and thus increasing light available to the photoreceptors in the eye. It is often referred to as eyeshine and is just another example of Nature’s amazing adaptations! It makes sense that if you are an animal out in the dark, you would have an adaptation that would allow you to fully utilize ALL available light. Not all animals have this layer, including most primates, squirrels and many birds.

Squirrels do not have eye shine

Squirrels do not have eyeshine

Interestingly  according to Cynthia Powell, a veterinary ophthalmologist at Colorado State University. “Not all eyes animals’ glow the same color. This is due to different substances — like riboflavin or zinc — in an animal’s tapetum. Also, there are varying amounts of pigment within the retina, and that can affect the color. Age and other factors also can change the color, so even two dogs of the same species could have eyes that glow different colors.” The angle at which the eyes are viewed can also affect the color of the light.

I used to think that the red eye you get in people from using a flash was caused by this tapetum, but just learned this is not true, as humans actually lack this tapetum lucidum. Instead, the red eye happens because the light from the flash occurs too fast for the pupil to close, so much of the bright light passes into the eye. The camera records this reflected light off the ample blood in the connective tissue in the back of the eye, behind the retina. Hence, the red eye so visible with flash photography!

Cats usually have green eye shine

Cats usually have green eyeshine

If you go out at night with a bright light, you can sometimes catch a glimpse of an animal’s eyeshine. Fish, including walleye have white eyeshine. Horses and many mammals have blue eyeshine. Cats, dogs and raccoons have green eyeshine and coyotes, rodents, opossums and some birds have red eyeshine. I do not have pictures of the eyeshine of any of these! because I don’t usually take my camera out at night… you will have to go out some dark night and see it for yourself! It will be a fun experiment!

Have a fabulous weekend–did you get snow where you live? We did here in western North Carolina and WOW, it’s going to be a fun day playing in the snow! I can’t wait….

Click HERE for the next puzzler!

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Weekly Puzzler Answer #77

Was this a hard puzzler? I bet if I had mentioned the fact that this animal is nocturnal and a mammal, you may have guessed it. It’s not a bat though!

Those sounds were from a flying squirrel. In the United States we have northern and southern flying squirrels. I have no pictures of this animal! I have seen them a handful of times–mostly from years ago when I was monitoring bluebird boxes. Every once in a while I’d open the box to find a startled flying squirrel. He usually dove out the opening and scurried off out of sight, likely wondering why I was disturbing his peaceful nap. squirrel-1963

Flying squirrels do not really fly as their name suggests. Instead they GLIDE, from a higher place to a lower place. Unlike bats and birds, flying squirrels can not start on the ground and fly up into a tree. They CAN climb the trunk of the tree and then sail back to the ground or to another branch. They have flaps of skin between their front and back legs, like a person wearing a wing suit. images

These squirrels are common but since they are nocturnal, we seldom see them. Has your bird feeder ever been empty in the morning when you could have sworn it was fill the night before? Maybe a flying squirrel has been raiding it!

Click HERE for next week’s puzzler.

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Weekly Puzzler Answer #71

katydid-9714Happy August! Can you believe summer is almost over?

So last week’s puzzler was a picture of a small part, asking for the identity of the animal. I was impressed that one of my blog subscriber’s–a guy named Joe–was correct in his answer, which was “it is the fake eye of Cyborg The Destroyer. He uses it to wink at and seduce Sirens.” Actually, now that I think of it, this is NOT correct.

But he gets points for trying.

I would love it if more people used the comment box below the blog posts to offer your guesses to these puzzlers. Without comments I have no way of knowing if these puzzlers are too hard, too easy, boring or interesting. I would LOVE to hear from you!! The comment box asks for your email only so that I don’t get 1000 robots checking out sites to spam.

Ok, so on to the answer. Let me show you this picture:

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Do you know now?

This is a lovely Luna Moth. They are by far one of our most beautiful moths, and one of the largest at a wingspan of just over 4 inches! They have an incredible sense of smell, males able to detect the pheromones of females from several miles away (as my husband says, “Wow, that’s one smelly female!”)

You can tell a male from a female by the antenna. Male antennae are MUCH more feathery. Here is a picture of both the male and female. Can you pick out the male? (They were conveniently mating for me so I got to see them both. Plus it was pouring rain, so they weren’t going anywhere.)

luna-7363

luna-7365

The top one is the male, bottom is the female. Here is another picture–check out the feathery antennae!

luna-7704 Have you ever seen one of these moths? If you have then you know how lovely they can be. Know what those eyespots are for? To scare off predators –when they see these spots they may be shocked enough to abandon the chase. Look how beautiful the wings are when they are brand new. I found this one when I was on my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. What a thrill to find her in the morning as I was packing up, nestled in amid the leaves, just a few feet from where I put my tent.

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If you want to attract moths to your yard, I wrote a blog post about this some time ago. Click HERE if you want to read it. Here is a quiz about moths if you are interested. Know how to tell a moth from a butterfly? Check back next week for a post about this.

And here, is the next puzzler!! Have a great weekend. Thanks for reading. I hope to hear from you soon.

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Weekly Puzzler Answer #70

katydid-3As you’ve heard me say a time or two, I live in the middle of the woods. Lately, the songs of the KATYDIDS have been deafening at night! It always amazes me that such a small insect can create such a loud noise!

If you didn’t already guess it, the Katydid–a nocturnal insect– is the animal responsible for the sound from last week’s puzzler. Have you been hearing them at your house yet? Do you like the sound? Have you ever actually seen one? They are very well camouflaged, usually on something green making it difficult to distinguish them from a leaf. If you’re looking closely though, you can find them! I often see them when I’m out in the mornings doing photography in one of my favorite fields.

katydid-9534

For me, I love to hear them, leaving the windows open at night to fully appreciate their chorus. The past few nights I have also heard the screech owl, which is an entirely different sound, but appealing in another way.

If you live in western North Carolina, you might want to join me in a few weeks when I give another program at The Compleat Naturalist–this one about Creatures of the Night on August 21st. In addition, I will be offering night hikes on several different dates that you will need to sign up for ahead of time. More information will be coming soon.

Hope you are having a wonderful weekend! Check out the next puzzler if you like!

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Moth Quiz Answers

A Hummingbird moth that is active during the day

A Hummingbird moth that is active during the day

1. All moths are nocturnal

False. Many moths ARE nocturnal, but not all. Some are out during the day–you may have seen them at your flowers–perhaps mistaking them for hummingbirds. There are several species that are called Hummingbird Moths just for this reason! There are also some brightly colored ones that show up at flowers just like butterflies, extending their long proboscis (Pronounced pro- baa- sis) and sipping nectar. Have you seen any?

 2. Some moths will eat holes in your clothing  False.

Moths–if they have any mouthparts at all (some don’t) they have tube-like mouthparts for sipping nectar from flowers. NO ADULT MOTHS eat clothing. Of the thousands of species of moths in the world, a handful will feed on the fibers in clothing. The larvae or caterpillars of these is likely how the myth came to be.

3. There are less moths than butterflies  False

In the world scientists have named 150,000 thousand species of what are called Lepidoptera–these are the butterflies and moths. They estimate that this number might be more like 250,000 – 400,000 as many species have not yet been named or discovered. Of the ones we know of, less than 20,000 are butterflies–making ALL THE REST moths!

So for every butterfly you see, there are 8 moths! There are MANY MORE moths than butterflies.

A beautiful Luna Moth

A beautiful Luna Moth

4. All moths are white or drab-colored

False. While many moths are white and drab-colored, there are many that are very colorful, even beautiful. Some on that list include Luna, Cecropia, Io, Tulip-tree, Promethea, Polyphemus, and many of the day-flying hawk moths.

moth--25. 5. If you touch the wings of a moth or butterfly too much it won’t be able to fly: False.

While it IS true that if you touch a butterfly or moth’s wing, some of the scales will rub off on your fingers, it is not true that the insect will then not be able to fly. Moths and butterflies lose scales all the time, shedding them as they fly, when they rub up against things, etc. You have probably seen examples of butterflies and moths that have really beaten-up-looking wings, sometimes with parts missing. Yet they can still fly. However, handling a butterfly or moth in excess is not a good idea!

How did you do? Want to attract moths to your yard so you can observe them and learn more about them? Then Click HERE. Want to read about a beautiful moth called a Tulip-tree moth? Or, maybe you want to test your skills on another subject? Here are a few more posts about myth busters: Praying Mantis, Spiders, Daddy-long-legs, Halloween Creatures,  Raccoons and Bats.

Posted in Animals, Did you know..., Insects, Spiders and other Invertebrates, Just for Fun, Myth Busters | Also tagged , , , , , 2 Comments