Plants and animals depend on Earth’s daily cycle of light and dark rhythm to govern life-sustaining behaviors such as reproduction, nourishment, sleep and protection from predators. Scientific evidence suggests that artificial light at night has negative effects on many creatures including amphibians, birds, mammals, insects, plants and marine species.
Many insects are drawn to light, but artificial lights can create a fatal attraction. Declining insect populations negatively impact all species that rely on insects for food or pollination. Nocturnal mammals sleep in the day and are active at night. Light pollution disrupts their nighttime environment.
Nature at night
The natural darkness of Mayo Dark Sky Park makes an ideal home for diverse nocturnal wildlife. If you are lucky, you may see or hear our animal friends in their natural habitats, but they are very shy, so try not to disturb them.
Become a nature detective at nighttime and look for clues on the ground such as tracks, feathers or nibbled leaves and nuts. By using a red light torch, you will minimise disturbance as well as improving your own your natural night vision.
What to look out for
Along the “Tóchar Daithi Bán” trail at Ballycroy National Park Visitor Centre, listen for the “tick, tick, tick” sound of Ireland’s largest bat, Leisler’s bat (Nyctalus leisleri), as it feeds on moths at dusk.
The Garden Tiger Moth (Arctia caja) is an important pollinator of plants as its hairy body picks up pollen from the flowers it lands on.
Did you know ? Artificial light draws moths away from their important role in pollinating plants as they confuse the light with the moon.
Whilst visiting the Claggan Mountain Coastal Trail on winter evenings, you may see the silhouette of a Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) as it flicks over stones on the shore at low tide searching for its supper of Sandhoppers (Talitrus saltator).
Did you know ? Nighttime migratory birds use the stars like a road map to help them navigate across the skies.
Using their excellent sense of smell and hearing, Badgers (Meles meles) hunt up to 200 earthworms a night. You may detect their tracks near the Robert Lloyd Praegar Bothy in Letterkeen. They are constantly improving their underground homes (setts) by excavating, cleaning and bringing in new bedding.
Overhead, the elusive Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola) flies out from the woods at dusk to feed on earthworms in clearings.
Did you know? Earthworms surface at night, providing an excellent food source for nocturnal wildlife.