Sat 17 Nov 2007
“I have been one acquainted with the night.” — Robert Frost, 1928
Crescent moon at sunset Wednesday, along with an Oregon junco on my railing. Every culture I’ve encountered enjoys colorful sunsets but feels some apprehension when night falls, fearing danger may lurk unseen in the dark. Here are some more creatures I’ve recently managed to photograph with a flash around my cabin after nightfall.
A young but aggressive (toward other raccoons) male in my pine tree. The “waschbär (wash bear),” as a raccoon is called in German, is indeed in the same order (dog-like carnivorans) as bears, and it does like to wash its paws — although not necessarily its food. When a raccoon finds acorns in the forest, it makes no attempt to wash them, causing some zoologists to believe raccoons actually wash their paws to increase tactile sensitivity.
Judging from the amount of grit raccoons leave in my birdbath, however, I suspect that some of the washing is simply a matter of cleaning debris from their paws. Here my camera’s flash gives the raccoon both green and white eye shine. (Please see Posting 12 for an explanation.)
“Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night…. Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness” — Psalms 91
A roof rat gets a drink from my birdbath at night.
The rat, a native of southern Asia, is the same species (Rattus rattus) whose fleas spread bubonic plague throughout Europe in the 1340s, killing off half the population.
In West Marin, however, roof rats don’t transmit such pestilence, but they are a threat to dishwashers. (Please see Posting 13 for an explantion.)
“From ghoulies and ghosties/ And long-leggedy beasties/ And things that go bump in the night, Good Lord, deliver us!” — Traditional Scottish prayer
At 2:30 a.m. one night last week, I was working on this blog at my computer upstairs when I was startled by something that bumped loudly into the window next to my desk and then flapped up and down the glass before coming to rest on my window sill. A few feet from me, a stunned bird sat around long enough for me to shoot this photo, which I then showed ornithologist Rich Stallcup of Point Reyes Station.
To me the bird looked like a starling, and I assumed my desk lamp had confused it. But what was it doing flying around in the dark at 2:30 a.m.? “It is a European starling,” Stallcup confirmed. “Often when birds are migrating at night or when they are disturbed from a night roost, they are dazzled by — and attracted to — to artificial light sources like lighthouses and your desk lamp.”
Nonetheless, bumping into my window can’t have been any fun for the starling, and it may have decided, in the words of Lord Byron, “We’ll go no more a-roving by the light of the moon.”