Night sights and sounds

I was out last night just before bed covering some heliconia flowers with mesh bags. I cover the flowers with these bags to prevent the hummingbirds from being able to access them. That way I can run experiments both with and without hummingbirds present depending on the experimental questions. I was covering them after dark since I wanted to leave the old flowers open to hummingbirds throughout the whole day and then have the new flowers covered before they opened the next morning.

The same clump of heliconia has a whole other suite of visitors at night. In the day there are mainly hummingbirds coming to drink the nectar. At night it seems to be when the insects come out. There are many species of Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets, katydids) that come to eat the flowers that were open during the day. They often eat any remaining pollen off the anthers and then the other soft parts of the flowers. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with these critters since they are really cool and I usually see new exciting ones each time, but they often eat my carefully treated samples rendering them useless!! I also saw a giant round beetle that was bright green (I couldn’t ID it unfortunately) and a neat frog. There were ants with very large and imposing mandibles patrolling the leaves in the area where I had set my bag down. I had to be careful not to irritate any of the fearsome ants since I know from experience that their bites can be surprisingly painful!

As I worked I could hear both a Mottled Owl (Ciccaba virgata) and a Black-and-white Owl (Strix nigrolineata). There are also a great many other noises that I can only imagine what they may have been. I noticed that the large hairy spider from a few weeks ago was still hunting in the spikes of a palm tree near one of the plants. On my way back a kinkajou crossed through the bamboo and I was able to get a great look at him with my headlamp. Back at the cabin a little anole lizard had slipped in and I spent about ten minutes chasing him around before finally cornering him in the shower and letting him out. All in all it was a good reminder that not everything sleeps at night and much of the activity takes place after dark.

Photos by Sarah Hadley

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