Lakeland Wildlife Oasis explains animal activities at night
Inspired by the animals and the work we do at the zoo, I tried to live more in tune with the rhythms of nature and this week I thought about the autumnal equinox.
In a poll of zoo visitors asked about the equinox, the most common response was, “something to do with the coming nights”, which is exactly what I would have said earlier.
In its annual orbit around the sun, the earth tilts on its axis, giving us our long, hot summer days and short, cold winter days.
However, at the spring and fall equinoxes, the sun illuminates the northern and southern hemispheres equally, which means that day and night are exactly the same length. And this year, it happened on September 23.
To make this worse, the clocks also went back on the weekends.
Nature responds instinctively to these rhythms – we see plants open their petals in the sun, and close them at night, and hear the birds sing at dawn. If the bats were out at noon, we would know something was seriously wrong.
With later dawns and longer dusks, these months after the autumnal equinox are the perfect time to appreciate the animals that use these secret times of day. This is also an opportunity to use the wonderful word “twilight”, which means active at dawn and dusk.
Many species of pets are naturally crepuscular, including hamsters, cats, rabbits, ferrets and rats.
More exotic twilight mammals include jaguars, red pandas, bears, moose, skunks, wombats, wallabies, and spotted hyenas.
Factors contributing to these behaviors can include predators hunting when their prey is available, or prey trying to avoid times when their main predators are on the loose.
The temperature at midday may be too high or at night too low – snakes and lizards living in desert environments, for example, are often crepuscular.
Keep your eyes peeled this time of year for native twilight wildlife, such as deer, foxes, barn owls and the wonderful nightjar.
Until recently, the pits were believed to be nocturnal because they were so hard to find in the desert.
However, recent studies show that they nap and hunt day or night, depending on mood or circumstances – well, our Mango might have told them that.