Naturalist’s Notebook: Night Shift, The Bold and Bizarre

Have you enjoyed looking for your nature neighbors? How many animals and plants live around your home? Have you met all of them?

Maybe it’s time for an assignment. Don’t worry. This isn’t something you’ll be graded on, and it can be pretty easy. How much time you spend is up to you. Ten minutes or ten hours. Hint: Ten minutes won’t give you a very big list.

I want you to do a biological survey. Some people call it a Bio Blitz. It can be done in your yard or in your neighborhood. It must be completed in one day. Your job is to find as many different types of plants and animals as you can. Write them down, and if you want to get fancy, maybe add a description. Do you think you could find 5, 15, 25 or maybe even more plants and animals?

I’ve been having a blast writing the Naturalist’s Notebook blog for several weeks now. The things I talk about here are very much like the stories I told if I came to your school or public library to present a Tennessee Aquarium program. After 27 years at the Aquarium and doing programs for over a half million people, I really miss being in front of a crowd, but I have a different audience now. 

I believe I am training future Aquarium Educators. Every day I share my experiences and offer pointers for observing the natural world. I have always been curious about nature and if you are too, maybe you’ll have a fun and rewarding job at the Aquarium one of these days.

You have met a few of the animals and plants that live around me, but I am always on the lookout for more. I never know when I might find something that will give me an idea for my next blog.

As part of my biological survey, I am on the hunt to see how many different insects I can find. During daylight hours I check flowers, which are magnets for certain insects that eat pollen or drink nectar. I’ve also learned plants with broad leaves are worth checking closely. You just never know what type of insect might be resting there.

I always make sure I have my cell phone, so I can take photos. I might use them for a future blog!

Daytime insects are only half the story. By using an ultraviolet light shining on a white sheet, many insects that are active at night show up to have their pictures taken. Using the flash setting with my cell phone camera, I get excellent photos to add to my insect photo library.

All the pictures with this post were taken last night at the black light sheet. I tried a new location and got quite a few new species I’d never seen before.

See if you can spot the Bird-dropping Moth. That is what it resembles. What hungry bird wants to eat bird poop?

Another small moth had very realistic eye spots on its hindwings and they look so real it appears to be an animal’s face. That would sure scare a predator.

Some of the moths are very beautiful, while others are quite strange. I hope you enjoy meeting some of the night shift at Mr. Bill’s place.

Remember that you don’t need a fancy blacklight set-up. Your porch light can do the same job. Have fun with your personal Bio Blitz!

Mr. Bill

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