Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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Nocturnal Animals
Nature Bulletin No. 151   April 17, 1948
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
William N. Erickson, President
Roberts Mann, Supt. of Conservation

When the sun goes down and dusk steals over the land, the animals of the day grow drowsy and seek some sheltered spot to await another dawn. Birds slip quietly to their nests or favorite roosts. The chattering squirrel curls up in his hollow tree or a summer nest of leaves. Butterflies fold their wings and bees creep into their quiet hives. Bats and whip-poor-wills and nighthawks zigzag expertly through the air to feast on flying insects. Then darkness comes.

Then the land becomes alive again as the animals of the night take over -- the hunted and the hunters. The cottontail rabbits come out to play and gorge themselves on fresh young clover and tender grass -- welcome food after nibbling all winter on the bark of hawthorn, willow, sumac and wild rose. Millions of mice scurry about. Muskrats emerge from the underwater entrances to their lodges and bank tunnels to swim and splash as they feed on tender shoots of cattails and sedges. Wild ducks and some of the shore birds feed regularly at night.

Around every pond and marsh, in spring, there is a symphonic chorus of croaks, grunts, chirps and trills as the frogs and toads sing their mating songs, accompanied by the high-pitched whines of the mosquitoes and midges. There, and in the fields and woodlands, the air is full of flying insects: soft-winged moths, beetles that whir and bump. May flies, caddis flies and katydids. The ground is alive with crawling earthworms and insects. You hear the monotonous rasping chirp of the cricket.

All night long, the raccoon prowls the shores of streams and ponds, dabbling for crayfish, snails, mussels, frogs and night-feeding fish. So does the mink, who also preys on mice and muskrats. Owls wing silently through the woods, hunting mice.

Skunks nose around, searching for insects, grubs, small snakes and meadow mice. Foxes trot through the timber and across the field to pounce on mice, rabbits, insects and occasionally a sleeping bird. The possum waddles along, eating anything and everything. The bloodthirsty shrews and weasels kill and kill and kill.

Hunger and fear rule the nightlife of the wildlife.

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