Thursday, July 28 , 2016, 4:22 am | Fair 64º

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Captain’s Log: Mysteries Unfold in the Still of the Morning

Stop and listen, and nature will often offer something memorable

I love being outdoors as shadowy gray coalesces into dawn and nature’s shift-change happens. The still of the morning is a sound-mask while dew is on plants and leaves underfoot are damp enough not to rustle loudly under padded paws. Critters are very much awake, but stealth reigns quietly. Hold very still, listen and look intently, and nature will often reward you with something memorable.

One morning recently I walked down the street to my local creek bed where trees, bushes and terrain conspire to create an admirable corridor of nature, snaking through our community. I picked a good point of observation and stood very quiet and still.

After about 10 minutes, the critters forgot I was there and went on about their shift-change business. Night predators padded off toward their lairs, and day critters emerged sleepy but wary. The food chain rattled loudly as dawn prevailed.

Two coyotes padded along near the creek bed, heading upstream after their successful nighttime hunt. One had a field mouse in its mouth and the other a small house cat. Nighttime outdoors — even in a residential neighborhood — can be dangerous for inexperienced cats.

Those coyotes seemed intent on their path, but when I moved one hand just a couple of inches, both critters stopped instantly and looked hard at me. I held motionless and their uncertainty was obvious. They stared at my shape for a long moment and began moving again. I purposely moved a hand one more time and the critters simply vanished into the bushes. It was like they went poof and disappeared. I have incredible respect for the skill and stealth of coyotes.

Birds were the noisy ones. Some seemed to want company and sang a lonesome song. Some wanted to complain because they didn’t like their new neighbor — an owl that flew silently into a tree and then announced its presence with a hoot. A flock of crows flying overhead issued their usual challenge to the world and began their daily rituals of hunting and foraging. They are like the coyotes of the sky.

I love a natural mystery, and periodic rustling bushes delivered just that. My eyes and ears naturally wanted to know all about what I could hear and sense but could not see. I could feel primal fight-or-flight instincts moving me. I accept those instincts because survival of ours species could conceivably require those instincts once again someday. Meanwhile, we are wise to carefully manage nature for sustainability.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help.

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