Author Archives: Erin Willett

About Erin Willett

Photographer, writer, and environmental educator.

August Mystery Photo Revealed

Congrats, Lisa! You were right – the critter up in the tree was a raccoon. The sun was long gone and we were finishing up an afternoon of birding at Sweetwater Wetlands. So, the only other photo I have is not a very good one either but at least you can see that distinctive mask.

The photo I used for the Challenge was taken with my flash on (worth a try) and I was rewarded with a classic case of eyeshine.

Eyeshine is pretty common in nature since most creatures (except humans) have tapetum, a special membrane behind the retina that reflects light back through the eye. This light recycling feature helps nocturnal animals see better in the dark.

One of the neatest things about eyeshine is that the color differs between species. So, it could help you identify just exactly which critters are going bump in the night. As we saw in the Challenge photo, raccoons eyes glow yellow, deer eyeshine is white or bright yellow, cows and horses glow blue-green, coyotes and mountain lions shine greenish-gold, rabbits and bears reflect red. Obviously, you will need to consider other features such as size when using eyeshine. I would hate to mistake a bear for a rabbit, if you know what I mean.