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Thursday, January 24 , 2019, 2:54 am | Fair 43º


Captain’s Log: Creekside Stroll on a Late, Bright June Evening

From the headline, some may begin reading this thinking I’m talking about a dance step at the Creek Side Inn on Hollister Avenue in Santa Barbara (a very popular nightclub). But no, I’m referring to a walk along San Jose Creek, near Kellogg Avenue, one evening in late June when it was still light out at 8:30 p.m.

Yet along the creek under the canopy of tall trees and among the bushes, dusk was beginning to encroach upon the daylight. That is a magical time for critters along the creekside. Well, it is probably a magical time for folks at the Creek Side Inn, too, but I’ll leave that story for someone else to tell.

To get a real education on animal life, I’ve always picked a spot on a rock or log where I have good vision all around me, sat dead-still, moved my eyes quickly and my head very slowly. Critters look for movement more than shape. Well, with the exception of coyotes who see everything, even my thoughts (at least it seems so!).

I have a great deal of respect for coyotes, and I saw two of them this evening, traveling silently together, except for an occasional “Yip,” which was returned by another coyote about a hundred yards away I’d guess from the sound. They break into smaller packs to hunt, but the sub-packs keep track of each other and are efficient at working in unison.

Most — but not all — other critters fell silent when the coyotes appeared, seemingly from thin air. The silent ones felt vulnerable. The noisy ones were either busy getting the heck outta there, or issuing a warning cry from a safe vantage point. The coyotes looked everywhere and seemed to know where the critters were hiding. They looked straight at me and stood motionless. I remained motionless, staring back.

Time seemed to hang motionless with us. I appeared to win that moment because instead of vanishing into the bushes, they continued on their way, hunting with noses, eyes, ears and keen perceptions. Ahh, but then just before they went around a tree at the other end of my little clearing, one coyote paused to look back at me in a very meaningful way. It was letting me know that my respect earned their respect, but it was a strained and tenuous agreement that cost them the hunting value of one clearing.

I live for these moments when critters of very different species (including us) show some respect and communicate with nothing more than a look.

— 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. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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