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Sleeping Beauties

I love to go out at night looking for nocturnal creatures. Numerous frogs, snakes, katydids, salamanders, bats, rodents, sloths and more hide themselves away during the day, but can be much more easily found at night, as they move about feeding or searching for mates under the cover of darkness.

Some diurnal creatures are much easier to get up close and personal with at night. If you are a great photographer, flying hummingbirds and skittish butterflies may pose no problem, but for someone like me with more limited capability and definitely lacking a “hair trigger” when it comes to getting the picture, nighttime is a great time to see and photograph these animals. It is always good to have respect for sleeping birds and other animals: if you disturb them to the point that they feel obliged to move, then they may end up on a perch that is unsafe, and become dinner. Also a bunch of flashes can disrupt their sleep. So as soon as the subject starts to stir, I move on to leave it in peace.

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird

This Rufous-tailed Hummingbird is the most common and feistiest species in our area. I have a few blurry shots of it in flight. Once I found its night roost, I was able to locate it several nights in a row and quickly snap a few images. At Sylvan we have planted hummer-flowers, and soon we will have these and other gems zipping around right by the buildings. We will also work on hummer-plots at forest edge, so that this bossy garden specialist doesn’t drive off other species.

Sleeping Postman

The sleeping butterfly is a Heliconius species (two extremely similar species occur here, the Postman, H. melpomene, and the Erato, H. erato). I found it sleeping upside down in the hibiscus tunnel. It was exciting to discover that these butterflies require passion-flower vines for their caterpillars, as I have been looking for those plants on the property. Obviously I am not as good at finding them as the butterflies are. Most of the Heliconius butterflies are toxic – they use their bright colors to warn birds that have already tried one and found it distasteful. They use chemicals in other ways too: after mating the males place a repellent substance on the female’s abdomen so that other males will not mate with her. And they can take things even further to ensure their reproductive success: a male locates a female pupa and mates with her before she fully emerges – the ultimate cradle-snatcher!

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