Creatures of the Night

When the sun goes down and the night turns black this Halloween, there are plenty of wildlife creatures to send shivers up the spine.

Owls, our most famous nocturnal creature, have serrated feathers for silent flight. They can glide right past you invisibly and soundlessly…all you know is a faint breeze on your face.

The shadows of the rainforest can make the small creatures large…

and the large creatures gigantic.

And where would our scary nights be without bats? In Australia the bats are so big their scientific name is megabats. Here are two species of megabats.

In the Trinidad rainforest we discovered a steady stream of these Long-tongued Bats shooting out of the lodge basement every night at cocktail hour, like clockwork.

A walk through the Australian rainforest brings out animals most of us have never heard of like brushtail possums and sugar-gliders.

Even creatures who are not nocturnal, like this lizard, lurk in the night…they have to sleep somewhere.

One night while Athena was photographing sugar gliders, cicadas came in, attracted to the lodge’s yard light.

I was admiring their bright green color and thinking how much bigger their cicadas were here in Australia, than ours at home. Bigger than my thumb.

I thought they were very cool…until one landed in my hair.

I screamed. Panicked and beat my hands through my hair like a crazy person.

And Africa has a very animated night life when it comes to wildlife. Moths as big as birds; and of course all the nocturnal mammals that are out hunting–lions, leopards, hyenas, to name a few.

The African savanna at night is like no other place on earth. Bumping along in a jeep past the black expanse, at first you see nothing. But then you start to see eerie eyes shining back at you. Pairs of eyes. Everywhere.

The eye shine has to do with a reflective layer behind the retina that helps the animal see better in the dark.

We were cruising along when we heard a lot of sloshing. The guide whispered for us to get our cameras ready.

Here’s what the light revealed.

The most terrifying night sound I have ever heard was in the Amazon rainforest: the howler monkeys. I’ve mentioned it before, but will include a sound clip again.

Howler monkeys are territorial so when one starts howling, announcing its supreme existence, they all start up. It has a stereo effect that permeates the forest in the most haunting way, sounds like a combination of tornado winds and deep-voiced gorillas.

Imagine hearing this in the dark as you’re walking to the bathroom.

Howler Monkey Vocalization

Wild monkeys, hyenas, leopards, owls, bats…a great way to get your Halloween sufficiently spooky. And while these animals may get your heart jumping, erratically even, they’re really not interested in hurting you…well, some aren’t.

Written by Jet Eliot.

Photos by Athena Alexander.

105 thoughts on “Creatures of the Night

    • I am happy you enjoyed the night creatures, Hien, and that I could share some of the quirky antics that go on after dark. I am a morning person too, but the night adventures always energize me. Thanks for your wonderful visit, my friend.

  1. Nocturnal animals are fascinating. Those howling monkeys sound haunting. There’s no way I would venture out to visit the bathroom … nope, give me a bucket 🀣

  2. Awesome post, Jet. A perfect spooky theme for this weekend. Nocturnal activities of animals are mysterious and fascinating. Going out on a night safari was indeed a highlight of our trip. Seeing the huge eyes of the bush babies and hearing animals move around and seeing their glowing eyes was truly amazing. Athena’s images are super- not easy to capture.
    I admit, I laughed at the thought of you dancing around slapping your hair. That would’ve been me, with a little screaming. πŸ˜‚

    • I enjoyed your comment, Jane. You know how it is with hearing things moving around and glowing eyes in the night, all the shadows. My little cicada dance was pretty funny, I’m glad you laughed. And as a photographer, you know how difficult it is to take photos at night, espec. when the spotlight can’t stay on long. Thanks so much. I’m glad to hear from you today, because the fires in SoCal are so bad, I was hoping you had escaped the troubles. My warmest thanks and wishes to you.

  3. What a fantastic Halloween post. I think the bats and the howler monkeys win the scary prize. What an incredible noise they make. Thank you Jet. Do hope that you enjoy some halloween treats and maybe some tricks as well:)X

    • I am really glad you enjoyed the Halloween post today, Janet. I liked hearing your vote on who won the scary prize, gave me a smile. I’m glad you reminded me about Halloween tricks, all I think about are the treats. I’m going to think up some tricks…that’s fun. Thanks so very much, Janet. And Happy Halloween to you, my friend, may it also have tricks and treats.

  4. Hi – these are fantastic pictures. So many night creatures. Here in the northeastern US, I don’t think we have that much variety – just your regular deer, raccoons, rabbits, squirrels, foxes and mice. (I don’t know if bunnies and squirrels come out at night) I’m sure there are more, but those are just what we know about! Oh and we do have bats, but they are not huge like the ones you show – ack! Thanks so much for sharing these πŸ™‚

    • Sounds like you have plenty of wild critters in the NE US, Barbara. And if you have mice you also have owls. Could make for a fun night. If the moon is full like it is this Halloween, you can see more. Great to have you stop by, thanks so much, and Happy Halloween.

      • Hi Jet – I noticed when I got up this morning that we have a full moon. Perfect for Halloween. I’ll keep an eye out for owls. And if they keep the mice from sneaking in through the nooks and crannies of our house, all the better!

  5. Athena’s photos are incredible! Well when aren’t they?
    so many fascinating creatures and it seems like a treasure hun to see them at night. I almost spit out my coffee Jet as you described the panicked swiping at your hair. I would be exactly the same. I’m keen to see all creatures big and small but not so keen to have them jump on me.
    When we were in Australia we stayed with friends on their farm in Tasmania. One night our friend took us out in his open jeep and had a huge’ torch’ light. Their were hundreds of wallabies , possums and other creatures of the night. It is one of my best travel memories.
    All our best to your both. hoping you are well and safe.

    • I so love going out on nighttime adventures, and your Tasmanian night describes the attraction so well. Australia has glow worms and the Southern Cross, and wow, to see hundreds of wallabies, possums and others would be a dazzling adventure. Great fun, my friend, to have this exchange today. Thanks so much for your fun words and for sharing your night safari. Cheers to you both.

    • The Spectacled Owl with the Fer-de-lance was an adventure in itself, Gail. We were on a night drive and were still in the camp, driving on a gravel road through the staff housing. The driver saw the owl in the tree, threw on the brakes, the guide put the light on it, and Athena was on her feet snapping off a round of photos and it all happened in under a minute. A minute later the owl flew off. The other couple didn’t even know what had happened, we had to explain it to them. We all had a blast. My thanks, Gail, for all the wild outdoor adventures, day and night, that you have provided Athena and I. Thanks for stopping by, too.

  6. GREAT Halloween post. Nothing says TERRIFYING like the sound of those howler monkeys! (I’m afraid I frightened Bill by playing it while he was quietly working on the computer. ha)

    • He’s working away on the computer and wondering “What the heck is going on?” Gave me a fun laugh, Nan. I’m glad you had time to listen to the recording, because it’s authentically what they sound like. My love and warm thanks to you for your visit today.

  7. I remember seeing/hearing howler monkeys in the Yucatan. Noisy, eerie and surprisingly big for New World monkeys. It was sad to read that the howlers in the video were mourning… they aren’t all that different from us are they? ❀

    • I enjoyed your comment, Eliza. It’s true, the howlers are not all that different from us. I liked that you have heard them from your visit in the Yucatan…it’s a sound we don’t forget. I was sad, too, when I read they were mourning their infant. Such anguish in their voices. Sending you my thanks and happy wishes for a fun Halloween.

  8. I love this post. Creatures that don’t usually get the spotlight are some of my favorites. Around here we get to listen to a couple of kinds of owls at night. We are occasionally presented with the smell of another neighborhood resident with white stripes. Oh, and the frogs in the spring, can’t forget them.
    It’s a rare thing to see a bat these days. I think that’s a shame. They’re interesting and helpful creatures who’ve been persecuted to scarcity.

    • Isn’t it so fun to hear the owls at night, Craig? And smell the skunk, and yes, the frogs in the spring. In the spring I sit by the window and listen to them; it’s hard to believe those little bitty frogs can get together and make such an incredible and musical racket. And speaking of the creatures of the night, I am SO ENJOYING the Ballad of Mrs. Maloney. Great pace, wonderful and spirited characters on a good mission, with lots of fun adventures. And you have me thinking about my fist-sized stomach in a great way, forcing me to eat less. lol. Can’t imagine how this will all end…. You are a talented writer, my friend, and have much to celebrate. Thanks for your visit today.

  9. Really interesting theme for the post and I really appreciate your effort, Jet πŸ™‚

    So good to see that there are entries from all across the globe …

    Thank you for sharing πŸ™‚

    • I really enjoyed hearing from you, Sreejith, and am glad you liked the Creatures of the Night post today. There are so many wonderful night creatures all over the globe, I’m glad I could share a few. My warmest thanks and good wishes to you.

  10. What a great post Jet. Athena has some amazing photos in this collection.
    Thank you for bringing a smile today … as we try to figure out how to keep our neighborly raccoon family out of the bird seed during their nocturnal adventures!

  11. Not likely to see any of these in our yard or neighborhood, so I’ll just enjoy yours. Thankfully no howler monkey screeches, either, but the dog next door barking at 5:30 am is probably just as annoying. 😦 When we lived in Ohio and owned our own house, we were going to put up a bat house, but my husband decided that when we tried to sell the house, it might not be a selling point. In a place with mosquitoes, I would think it would be, but people have weird ideas about bats.

    Have a wonderful weekend.


    • Really fun comment, Janet. Yes, I agree, the neighbor’s dog barking would be annoying. Maybe not as scary as the howlers, but more irritating. Loved your story about the bat house, too, and it’s so true, people have weird ideas about bats. My warmest thanks, and wishes for a happy weekend to you.

  12. You picked this theme precisely before Halloween, how did you like the feeling of having a huge bug on your hair? I have to tell you a anecdote that happened to me years ago. Once in a while we used to go back to Iquitos (Amazonic jungle, Capital) in order to buy some fresh fruit, vegetables and other provisions that we couldn’t find in our Camp in the Amazon heart. We went to the open market and bought a lot of stuff. Hired a cab to take us to the port and get our motor boat. We rode with all the fruit and packages in the back seat, we hardly had any room. When I noticed something on my arm, I was wearing a long sleeve Kaki shirt like Army’s when I saw what it was…the most hairy and biggest spider crawling up my arm, most likely came from the banana big bundles. I think I yelled something that the driver stomped on the brakes, I slapped the spider of my sleeve and my buddies jumped from the cab yelling hysterically. I couldn’t find the spider anywhere, she disappeared. We all looked for it all over and couldn’t find it. That was what happened! Our next trip we’d hire a cab only if we could make use of the trunk! Have a fun Halloween, my friend. πŸ™‚

    • I truly appreciate this story, HJ, in fact I’m still chuckling. The Amazon has some really big and hairy spiders, and it would be creepy to have one crawling up your arm while packed in a cab. Hilarious that your buddies all jumped out of the cab yelling hysterically. I am sure I would have done a similar thing. Good thinking, too, to put the groceries in the trunk after that. Warmest thanks for your contribution, HJ, and a Happy Halloween to you and your family.

  13. Great Halloween post, Jet! You had the exact reaction I would have if a cicada flew in my hair!! Zoids! The Howler monkey sounds made our dog go a little batty! πŸ˜ŠπŸŽƒ Happy Halloween!

    • hahaha. The howler monkeys made your dog go a little batty! I’m glad you enjoyed the Halloween post, BS. I have happy memories of tromping through the forest at night with your family, in search of an owl. My thanks and love for your visit today.

  14. That was a wonderful night crawl through the forests and wherever else these night creatures were “hanging out.” It’s especially interesting for us to see animals that we don’t have in our country. Beautiful post, Jet, and wonderful photos, Athena.

    • It is a true pleasure to bring you out into the night walks around the globe, Anneli, I am really glad you found them enjoyable. I would guess you’ve seen some fun night sights around your house, and I hope your Halloween brings you some fun, too. My warm thanks.

      • To be honest, I’ always glad when Halloween is over. I’m sure the animals are too (both domestic and wild). I do love the owls here and it was great to see the different kinds of owls on your post.

      • Owls are really tricky to photograph because it’s almost always dark and they don’t stick around for long. So I’m glad I could present this nice array of owls for you, Anneli. Many thanks.

  15. Spooky fun! Well, only because I’m reading about the cicada in hair incident and have never had that happen. These days, bring it on, cicadas, I’ve got no hair… The Howler monkeys sound fierce, would not want to hear them after dark. I love reading about your adventures – you’re both up for hair raising trips! If I had to bump into one of these creatures from your post today, I’d be ok with the brushtailed possum, I like the look of them, seems harmless enough!
    Thanks, Jet!

    • I love the night drives. Usually at these lodges they give you one or two free night drives as part of your package. I always sign up for the maximum. You and Mrs. PC would like them too, pc. And with no hair you’d have no cicada problems–voila! Great to share the night creatures with you, pc, thanks so much. Happy Halloween.

    • A great treat to hear from you, Wilma. I’m happy you liked the night creature post. It’s a different world outdoors at night and I’m glad I could share it with you. Happy Halloween!

  16. Great stories and photos, Jet (and Athena)! Our night outings in Central and South America have been memorable experiences, too. The sugar glider brought to mind the time a woman next to me on a flight was smuggling some of them in her jacket. Couldn’t get away with that today!

    My 3x Great grandfather described hearing the howler monkeys in Panama on his way to California in 1851. It must have been really wild there then.

    We have bats that roost here in the warmer months . They are always welcome. And the owls, too. Some of the night critters do get a bit pesky, though!

    I don’t know many people who wouldn’t have had your reaction to the cicada. Eek! Funny story!

    • I so enjoyed your comment, Eilene, thank you. Great story about the woman next to you on the plane who had smuggled sugar gliders. Thank goodness we can’t get away with that kind of illicit behavior anymore. But I’m sure it was really strange sitting next to her! And I loved hearing about your 3x great-grandfather’s Panama experience in 1851 with the howler monkeys. When I read that in your comment I gasped. Super cool. Thanks so much.

  17. Those bats are scary but I luv the owls. I can’t imagine anyone liking cicadas in their hair — especially giant ones. As for the hollering monkeys — that would be very annoying

    • I enjoyed your comment, Bill, because it is clear you read through and absorbed all the creatures of the night here. Yes to owls, yikes to bats and cicadas, and argh to the howlers. lol. Thanks so very much, I appreciate your weekly visits tremendously.

    • Thanks so much, Sherry, for providing these links about Jonathan Slaght and his owl-saving endurance adventures in the Russian wilderness. An owl with a six-foot wingspan! And the isolated frozen wilderness of Russia’s east. Sounds passionate and intriguing. And how exciting that you met him. The Linnaean NY meetings sound truly wonderful. Thanks so much.

  18. A very spooky tour of the dark, Jet! The owls are so beautiful. We have owl prowls at our nature center from time to time. I read about some of those Australian flying fox bats in “Spillover” by David Quammen. The viruses they sometimes carry are downright terrifying. Now I can picture better what the author was describing. On a lighter note, I think I would have panicked if a bigger than thumb-sized cicada landed in my hair, too. πŸ™‚

    • Hi Donna, yes, I agree, it is heart-pounding when you don’t see the animal. I can see you’ve had your fair share of night wildlife events. I enjoyed your comment, thanks so much.

  19. Pingback: Creatures of the Night β€” Jet Eliot |

  20. Those bats are really something aren’t they πŸ˜€ They are all amazing creatures of course and I love that lizard sitting on the tree trunk. I sympathise with you getting the cicada in your hair but I thought with all the travelling you do and creatures you see, that you would have been more relaxed about it. Nice to know you’re human like the rest of us πŸ˜‰

    • I enjoyed your visit today, Alastair, thanks so much. I’m glad you enjoyed the night creatures. Don’t have any excuses as to why I flipped out when the cicada got tangled in my hair. Just don’t like creatures in my hair I guess. lol. Always a pleasure, my friend, thanks so much.

    • Yes, it sure will be nice to travel again. I enjoyed your Morro Bay adventures today, Steve. In the fall they have terrific bird migrations there. Sending thanks and smiles.

    • It is hard to tromp around the forest at night after a long day of adventuring, but even for a morning person like myself, the event is always charged with fun and excitement. I bet you, too, would find it so. Hey Sandra, thanks so much.

  21. These are wonderful photos by Athena, and great commentary by you, Jet. It is so lovely to pop by here and see nightlight wildlife in Australia πŸ˜€ A post well done, and Australia does indeed have quite a few notable nighttime animals. What an amazing capture of the Eastern Barn owl. It looks wide awake and haunting amidst the black night sky.

    Amazing you also managed to see bats and flying foxes. In Australia you don’t necessarily need to be in cave to come across bats…and you do not want to disturb any of them. Sorry to hear you got scared by the bright green cicada. Most of the time they are friendly and I think that one which landed on you wanted to be friends lol. Then again, they can be noisy and bite if one isn’t too careful.

    Really enjoyed this post. Hope you are doing safe over there.

    • It was a complete delight to have you drop by, Mabel, thanks so much. I so appreciated your take on the Australian night creatures, being a resident and familiar with them. Laughed at your interpretation of the cicada wanting to be my friend. I think so too. Sometimes we don’t recognize when someone wants to be our friend, right? It’s been awhile since we have connected, so I’m heading right over to see what you’ve been up to. Smiles and thanks for your visit, Mabel.

      • I am sure the cicada will welcome you back anytime πŸ˜€ I do think the only thing to be afraid of in Australia – day and night – are spiders. If you can feel a spider on your head, I’d be very worried! Very kind of you to pop over, Jet. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with next πŸ™‚

  22. A great series, Jet! These images are very special, they did get your heart jumping… Thank you for introducing these creatures. Just wonder if it takes some special gears to capture these fabulous images.

    • Glad you enjoyed the night creatures, Amy, thanks for stopping by. Athena doesn’t use a lot of equipment for the night creatures, because we’re usually moving and she has to carry it all. But I can tell you what her favorite night photography tool is, which goes with her everywhere and is not heavy: Better Beamer Flash Extender. It attaches to the flash attachment and extends the light sufficiently to reach the creature. Thanks so much for your visit and question.

  23. What a delight that you’ve actually had the opportunity to see these marvelous critters in real life! Hoping you’re getting as much pleasure in revisiting (through images) your great adventures all over again! It seems your followers agree!
    Hoping all is well in your world… (as always!)

    • While I welcome the idea of traveling again, it just isn’t the time now, of course. So the next best thing is visiting with the memories. I’m glad you enjoyed the night creatures, Gunta, and as always, I really appreciate your visit and words. All is well in my world, hoping the same for you….

    • Oh how wonderful that you had a chance to click on the sound byte of the howler monkeys, Bertie. Easy to get spooked out by that chorus! Thanks so much for your visit, always a treat to hear from you.

    • Hi Wayne, Yes, we have seen a good number of owls in our night adventures. We see them often here in our woods at home, too. Over the weekend our critter cam caught a funny series, recorded at the animal’s water tray. First a mouse went to the water and took sips. This has never happened, but it has been super dry. About two frames later, we saw a screech owl at the same spot. The owl had spotted the mouse at the water and snapped up the rodent opportunity. Owls are such cool creatures. Wonderful to “see” you, my friend.

      • Funny! I just read about the CDN Owl that was found in the Rockefeller tree! A friend sent me the link but it wouldn’t allow me to view it. It was suppose to be a tiny Owl. I wonder what kind it was?

      • this is the owl species they found in the tree Jet. It’s a Saw-whet. You ever run across one? I did once. I was in a thick original growth forest by myself. I sat down at the foot of a huge Cedar tree (largest on the west coast) just to take it all in when after a few minutes I noticed a very small owl watching me. I didn’t know it was a Saw-whet. It was only 10 feet away. So we both just stared at each other. I chatted with it for a while and left.

      • I figured it was probably a saw-whet, Wayne, as they are so tiny. But I’m really glad you found out the species and I so loved your story about seeing one. No, I have never seen a northern saw-whet, would love to. Thanks so much, my friend.

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