What is here though is dusk. I left the house at just before 6 tonight and came home an hour later still able to see my way around. In the winter it is so easy to miss the chance for a walk at the end of the day--a moment's distraction and the sun has dropped out of the sky. It was good to get out and really spend some time in deepening gloom. No birds but a pair of mourning doves, no mammals but the rabbit I startled at the bird feeder when I got back, but soon the evening will be full of sound again: robins, wood thrush, woodcock, and even some warblers.
I also needed to get out in the dusk because I needed to claim back my territory from a very active pack of coyotes. From the middle of January to almost the end of February there was an enormous amount of coyote activity in the fields and in the yard and streets of the hamlet. I saw track evidence in the fields of what appeared to be four animals travelling together. Many mornings I saw tracks in the yards of at least two. I heard coyotes howling off to the east, and then answered from just west of the yard. I saw a coyote come down the road and across the far end of the yard one night after seeing a coyote sitting in a field one the south end of the hamlet in the middle of the morning the day before.
Over the last couple of years, and particularly the last 12 months, I have run into a number of coyotes. Except for one occasion when the coyote didn't notice me the meetings have all gone the same way. The coyote looks then leaves. There has never been a hint of a threat, though the encounters generally leave my heart pounding, not entirely a result of the thrill of encountering the wild.
I've never met four coyotes, and I'm not sure I want to. I'd love to see four all at once--but maybe from a car, or at a great distance, not on the ground, in the field. I don't believe there's any danger from them to an adult human being, but this is probably because coyotes are smart enough to know that I might have a rifle with me, but not perceptive enough to be able to tell that I don't. It isn't because four coyotes would have any trouble taking down a lone human being--something they might not know, but that I'm unlikely to forget.
The intense activity has abated--my speculation is that the hamlet is on the border between the territories of two packs that were getting themselves in order for mating and raising new pups. On this theory, the activity has died down because the border has been established and the coyotes are deeper within their respective areas establishing dens, etc. There were fresh tracks out there tonight, but of one or two animals, not four. And if I'm right, it's unlikely that they'll be all together right around here again this season--too busy.
So the time was right to get out there in the dusk, when coyotes are most likely to be active, to shake out my nerves. And it was lovely.