No tricks this Halloween, but I do have a treat for you. I’ll take you on some spooky night walks here, and you won’t get hurt because it’s only photographs.
You are perfectly safe, for example, from this hyena.
Going into the wilderness at night is a great way to see the nocturnal creatures. They come out of their holes and caves and hiding places, and start their evening hunt. It can, however, be a bit unsettling for humans.
Darkness adds to the fright factor, of course. When it’s completely dark and you can see nothing but beady eyes in the grass, it can put you on edge. Those bright eyes could be a harmless night bird…
or a pair of leopards hungrily searching for dinner.
When I first saw this creature (below) in Australia, I gasped, thinking it was a very large rat.
It is a bandicoot, in the marsupial family, and not Rodentia at all. They are nocturnal omnivores.
Whether you’re in a rainforest or on the open plains, if it is dark, the night sounds can be bone-chilling. High-pitched screeching, deep howls and roars are hair-raising.
Hyenas, with their maniacal whoops and growls and laughs, are the opposite of a lullaby.
But worse: the feel of a bat’s wings fluttering inches from the face. It’s happened to me twice.
Bats have excellent echolocation skills, and are not hampered by their poor eyesight. Both times I was outdoors in a very dark place and a bat came so close I could feel and hear the whir of its wings. Both times I had a similar reaction: I was momentarily vexed, then thrilled.
The truth is, I love bats. I like all these animals I have mentioned. They’re all a part of this incredible earth, and even when there’s a moment of fright, it passes quickly.
I find it a privilege to be in the presence of an owl; but they, too, can have some tricks up their winged sleeves.
Owls have specialized feathers and are truly silent in their flight. There have been times when I heard an owl hoot on one side of me, and then suddenly I heard the bird on my other side. It soundlessly and invisibly flew right past me.
While owls are relatively quiet, here’s an owl that can have an alarming screech.
While barn owls shriek, there is another bird I’ve heard that not only shrieks, it also squeals like a pig.
Enter a dark cave in a rainforest where oilbirds live, and this is what you’ll hear: press this link for a live recording.
Post I wrote Oilbirds in Trinidad
Even if it’s not nighttime, a forest is naturally dark due to the heavy tree canopy.
This big vulture gave me a start. I think I heard him shout, “Boo!”
And then there’s the Amazon, the rainforest of all rainforests. Camping there was a sleepless event, a place where daylight could not come fast enough.
I’ve had a rat come tumbling through the thatched roof into our hut, cockroaches as big as a chapstick scampering around my toothbrush, and howling monkeys that sounded like a Category 5 hurricane. All in the dark.
Big ol’ spiders in the Amazon too.
Even the trees in rainforests are threatening. Look at the thorns on this tree trunk!
They evolve with thorns for protection, which makes sense, but it doesn’t help if you are trying to steady yourself in deep mud.
So when the sun finally arrives, it is usually a relief. Because everything looks better in the daytime.
Except, maybe, for this marine iguana. Day or night, it has a look that will freeze you in place.
So there you go, my friends. A lot of spooky nights for you this Halloween, with none of the heart-thumping frights and gasps. Always remember, daylight is just around the corner.
Written by Jet Eliot.
Photos by Athena Alexander unless noted.