Night Hikes – A purposeful walk along a path, playing a flashlight over leaves, branches and trunks will reveal wonders.
Darkness makes us uncomfortable. Our ancestors huddled around campfires, quaking at the crack of a branch or the snarl of a nocturnal predator. Our eyes aren’t adapted to low light and so when the sun sets we tend to stay close to hearth and home.
There are many animals, however, that are comfortable after dark, with vision that can discern shape and movement even in filtered moonlight. And some animals need no light at all.
Bats use echolocation to navigate in total darkness. Catfish employ taste bud-studded whiskers to hunt prey in the inky blackness of murky ponds. Many insects rely only secondarily, or not at all, on sight, using instead an acute sense of smell to get things done at night.
This means there is an awful lot going on in the natural world after the sun sets. For nature buffs this veiled world awaits discovery. It’s fun and exciting to seek the creatures of the night, especially in autumn when mosquito activity is at low ebb.
A purposeful walk along a path, playing a flashlight over leaves, branches and trunks will reveal wonders. Treefrogs, moths and spiders. And caterpillars. Cowering out of the sight of hungry songbirds during the day, they emerge to feed under the cloak of darkness.
A headlamp is a great idea, freeing hands for picture taking. For this I use an SLR with a Tamron 90 mm macro lens and a ring flash. Smaller point and shoot cameras with macro capability can also work well.
Splashing “moth bait” on tree trunks (a tasty brew of bananas, molasses and beer) can attract nocturnal tipplers. See inthehills.ca/2010/08/blogs/underwing-moths/.
An autumn night hike also offers auditory thrills. The air thrums with the calls of numberless crickets. Coyotes yip and yowl and owls hoot and whinny.
So, come over to the dark side. Nature’s dark side that is.