Bluffton Packet

Tracks of nature

Two ‘hooty-who’ owls hang on to a tree limb in early morning.
Two ‘hooty-who’ owls hang on to a tree limb in early morning.

Nature surrounds us and if you love the outdoors as much as I do, you take note to the activities of birds and small animals as well as various wildflowers and plants that seem to pop up overnight, blossoming and leaving you wondering, now what kind of plant is this?

In cases like this, when dubious as to the name of a plant, I take a quick shot with my camera and zip it off to John Nelson, the retired curator of the A.C. Moore Herbarium at the University of South Carolina, for the answer to my “mystery plant.”

Animals, on the other hand are a different matter. They warrant a careful study of our own to learn their nature and their habits. I have found, from observation, that just like humans, especially myself, that upon arising in the morning when my feet hit the floor they motivate me to the kitchen; yes, coffee and breakfast, so that’s the way with natures animals too, except deleting the coffee!

Mornings will find animals and birds more active, waking up and in search of food, and that’s particularly why I love my morning walks to the creek, there’s more activity going on, especially the shorebirds checking out the waters edge for a minnow or two.

Some mornings, with luck, I’ll hear the “hooty-who” of an owl and catch a glimpse of it on a tree limb or another morning spot an inquisitive baby raccoon peering down at me from its home in a tree cavity. There’s always young squirrels playing tag, chasing one another around a tree’s trunk or one perched on a limb enjoying eating his acorn for breakfast, all-the-while fussing at me for interrupting his solitude.

Animals and birds also like to feed in the evenings, to get that last morsel of food down-the-hatch before they settle in for the night.

It’s in these early morning hours between twilight and daybreak these little critters start moving around and unbeknownst, leave evidence they’ve been out and about; their tracks. Armed with my camera when the sun comes up and before there’s any disturbance outside, I’m able to spot bird tracks, small animal tracks and yes, even a worm’s track left behind.

On the other hand, I have found, by taking several treks to the creek at midday, that there’s little if any activity of wildlife or birds when the sun sits high in the sky, like it’s their “siesta” time, just as we humans would like to take a nap after lunch, but most times can’t.

Also, I have discovered since I have several birdfeeders in sight of my kitchen window, that birds’ best feeding times are between 7 to 8 a.m., then they start in again beginning around 4 p.m. till just before dusk dark.

Of course, these hours were noticed during our summer Daylight Saving Time hours. Now, since November 3rd they will start feeding at an earlier hour with Eastern Standard Time getting daylight earlier. However, their internal clocks are built in and they take no notice to EST or DST.

In watching and studying the wildlife and birds around me, their daily activities and their tracks left behind set me to wondering, what kind of tracks or legacy as humans do we leave behind? Do we leave tracks of interest for anyone to follow? Hmmm.

Billy Graham said: “The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.”