Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Creatures of the night

All kinds of interesting creatures live in our woods, but I would imagine we do not see, or know about the existence of, many of them because they only come out at night.

One of said creatures is the flying squirrel. When it comes to eating bird seed, these little buggers pick up where their larger non-flying cousins leave off during the day! Note that none of these photos are cropped. I'm always surprised at how close I'm able to get to them, and they really just don't seem to care. They seem pretty fearless of humans, from my experience.

"I'll be leaving now. I have to save some seed for later tonight!"

Preparing to launch off into the dark of night. Unfortunately I've never captured any images of them in flight.

"Gimme a kiss!"

We got lots of different moths at night, as I'm sure most of you do. I noticed this one clinging to the screen door the other night, but he got spooked as I opened the door and landed on the deck. This is a male Polyphemus moth.

I had to nudge him a little to get him to open his beautiful wings.

Either he was tired, or didn't feel threatened enough, because he still didn't show the big "eyes" in his wings.

A gentle stroke on his back got a little more of reaction. Isn't he fantastic looking? The wing span on this guy was probably 5" at the widest point.

These very large, fluffy antenna are what mark this as a male. They would be less pronounced on the female.

This close-up shows how fuzzy he looks.

And here's a cropped shot to show off those antenna.

A crop of the large "eye" in the wing. One of nature's finer examples of perfect beauty.

One website I came across when I Googled "Polyphemus moth" was Butterflies and Moths of North America, which is very similar to the Bird Guide on the Cornell Lab site in that it has occurrence maps, species accounts, checklists, and photographs. I checked out the range map for this moth in Ohio, and it does not show any record of Polyphemus moths in Athens County. As a result, I will be emailing the coordinator of such information for the state of Ohio to let him know of this sighting. This will be my first contribution to moth/butterfly citizen science! Cool!


Kelly said...

Oh Heather! Your little flying squirrel is adorable! Now I'm the one who's jealous. We don't have them at our house. You really were close...the photos are so cute and detailed. Night shots are always difficult but yours are great. Also...way to go with the moth. Like butterflies, I know nothing about them, but am starting to learn. I need to get a guide, but I'll check out the site you listed first! Very cool citizen science...

Ginnymo said...

Those Flying Squirrels are so cute!! I've never seen any. But I sure don't need any more critters! Yikes! Those moths are real pretty. I have a post of one on here. Mine died after it was back outside. Something ate it.

NW Nature Nut said...

Very neat! I have never seen a flying squirrel except in photos. So fun that you see them regularly! That moth is spectacular and to think it is
5"!! What a beauty!

Nature As Is said...

Oh my goodness beautiful post Heather love it! I for sure think that flying squirrel definately wanted a kiss...cool moth as well good for you for getting fab details.

Shellmo said...

I'm laughing at that "kiss" photo of that flying squirrel - perfect shot! Love that moth too with it's pretty patterned wings!

Heather said...

Kelly - OK, so now we're even on the jealous scale! I absolutely HATE using flash in my photos, but there's just no other option at night, and that's the only reason these turned out. I love the coloring in the squirrel's fur! I also need to get an "official" bug guide. I keep hearing good things about a Ken Kauffman guide.

Ginny - You certainly do have a lot of critters, so what's one more?! HA! Sorry to hear your moth got eaten, but these big moths don't live very long anyway - once they have reached this stage, they mate, lay their eggs and die within days.

Michele - The flying squirrels certainly are fun, even if they drive me crazy eating all the bird seed. They are very hyper when they move around, so they're even funnier than "regular" squirrels!

Crista - Thanks! I think I got lucky capturing that moth! I don't venture out looking for them often, so luckily he presented himself to me!

Shelley - The "kiss" photo was just a matter of hitting the shutter at just the right moment. Dumb luck!

MaineBirder said...

Very nice series!

We have a few Northern Flying Squirrels who raid the bird feeders occasionally, that is if the deer and wild turkey leave enough.

Heather said...

John - Thank you! Are you familiar with what the differences are between the northern and southern species of flying squirrel? Luckily we don't have any other night critters that invade our feeders (that we're aware of), which is lucky. Our feeders are many feet off the ground though, and tucked in the woods, which I think keeps most of the likely raiders away.

Kathiesbirds said...

Heather, what an amazing post! I love the moth!

RuthieJ said...

Great night-time shots Heather. I love that little flying squirrel and would love to see one for real someday. Thanks for sharing the gorgeous moth with us too.

Heather said...

Kathie - Thank you. I thought the moth was pretty cool, too!

Ruthie - I'm surprised you don't have flying squirrels coming around to check out your feeders. I wonder if the fact that our feeders are kind of in "mid-canopy", so to speak, makes it more likely for them to come in?