A Fun-Loving Guide to the Natural World for Kids and Adults

Crawlers in the Night

Two nights ago we were walking along our country road and were startled to hear something moving in the forest.  It took only a moment to realize that we weren’t hearing an animal’s footsteps — instead, it seemed as if the whole forest were moving.  As far as we could hear, dried grasses and leaves were creaking and crackling with movement.  It was soft but distinct.  Clearly, something — or rather, a lot of somethings — were moving on the forest floor.  We ventured out with flashlight and camera, hoping to discover the source of the sound.  But wherever we shined the light, the noise seemed to stop.  It took some patient waiting until we saw a leaf move.  We pounced, lifting the leaf to see what was underneath, but there was nothing.

Rebecca was the first to spot one, a quick shining of her flashlight reflecting off of a glistening body.  The noise was the sound of thousands of nightcrawlers.

These strange animals emerge only in the dark or when the ground grows too wet from rain.  We were hearing them as they emerged part-way from holes in order to feed on all the goodies in the leaf-litter.  When our light found one, there was only an instant before the worm pulled itself back into its hole with astounding speed.  We only got pictures by a process of quickly shining our flashlight at the source of a sound and then shooting as rapidly as we could — hoping for the best.

We stood there, surrounded by the sounds of the nightcrawlers’ movements, and wondered at their lives.  We feel pretty lucky to be sharing this planet with such amazing creatures.

6 Responses to “Crawlers in the Night”

  1. Hi Rebecca and Kenton, very lovely post and I saw your website too yesterday and I so love the work that you do.
    I am found of “creepy crawlies” but there are so many millions of their species that, its nearly impossible to know all of them and so many of them live underground that, it needs perceiverence like how you had just to spot them.

    Thank you for you comments on my post.


  2. Hello Delson!

    You’re right — the number of species can be overwhelming! It’s quite astounding to imagine the vast worlds, populated by strange and curious creatures, lying just under the forest debris.

    Thanks for the comment — we always enjoy visiting your site, and LOVE the photos =)

  3. Hi Rebecca and Kenton. Earthworms are way more fascinating than you’d ever think just looking at them. May I recommend a book? I just read Amy Stewart’s The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms. It’s a good introduction. Earthworms in forests can be a problem. They are non-native and they remove the leaf litter other critters live under. Check out the Great Lakes Wormwatch at http://www.nrri.umn.edu/worms/

  4. I’ve never experienced night crawlers quite like that before or on that scale. What an experience. Thanks for sharing. I can almost hear the forest floor rustling.

  5. Hello Shawna! It was quite eerie, actually. The sounds were everywhere, and when we picked up that first leaf and found nothing at all, it got even stranger. We imagine it would be a fun experience for kids to see if they can accomplish a catch-and-release of one of the worms. And just sitting among the rustling leaves was definitely an experience in itself.

    Thanks for your comment!

  6. Hello barefootheart!

    Thanks for the great info! We’ll definitely check out that book. Something about them (perhaps it was only the mysterious situation in which we met them) hinted that there was much more to them than we thought. Your link was also very interesting — a lot to learn there! Apologies as well for taking so long to get your comment up — for some reason (probably the link), our spam-catcher snatched your comment and wanted to eat it. From now on, your comments should be posted as soon as you make them.

    Thanks for adding your insight!

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