Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

Tenants Harbor marsh sunset

Life feels a little better with a pinch of “good timing.” Be it in relationships, careers, or maybe with the tire that kindly waited until we got to the gas station before it went completely flat. Timing can make a difference just about everywhere. If you are ever looking for a silver lining, a dose of “good timing” might provide just enough shine to make a situation less painful and sometimes maybe even better. Good timing is always accepted.

Timing can be very important in nature observation. There can be a preciseness of timing as is the case with tide-pooling. Timing here can be the difference between seeing nudibranchs or periwinkles. Timing in nature observation can also have a certain apparent randomness, as in the numerous times a bird or mammal has appeared minutes after a person leaves. We all have undoubtedly come within hours of making great sightings but simply weren’t there when it happened. Timing.

Animal “sign” can give us a taste (not literally) of what’s happening in woods without actually crossing paths with a critter, and that is nice. Sign tells us that life was not only going on before we got here, but that it will most likely continue after we leave. Makes the phrase “you just missed it” seem funny. I mean, when are we not missing something? It’s a constant and a given. And if we are always missing things then we should, in theory and potentially, always be able to see things. This is also nice. If this is the case then an increase in the amount of time we spend looking should increase the chances of “good timing.”

Tracking animals in snow reminds me of how important timing is. In a perfect world, a tracker gets on the trails before the sun hits a track. In a matter of hours or less, the sun—with its harmful, warming ways—can melt away most details from the track or trail you were hoping to inspect. The sky would be overcast in a perfect, tracking world. Less heat and better for winter photos anyway (no shadows!).

Otter icebreaker

Tracking after the December 3rd snow storm was an example of such timing. I was able to get out and around the marsh early-ish the next day and the tracks and trails were crisp. A pair of river otter, I am assuming the two we call “Moe and Curly,” had belly-slid down the beaver dam, the same spot where they have slid the previous two winters. Then, as I made my way around the marsh I came to a second spot where the otters had come from the ice. Here the otters had dug through the snow and marked a couple of small leaf piles. They had left the water separately, but returned using the same slide, likely one not too far behind the other. Instead of going under the ice, the two created an “icebreaker” path along a 10-foot stretch of shoreline. Were they trying to get on the ice and it wasn’t able to support them? Or is breaking ice as fun for them as it is for humans? Either way, it was great to see sign of the two. The timing couldn’t have been better to track them.

I had to get back for responsibilities (work) and as I cut through the woods I came upon a fisher trail. The tracks were beautiful, the trail was fresh and since it was kind of going in the same direction as I was headed I decided to follow it for a bit. The trail curled around a couple of yards in the neighborhood, inspecting downed trees and squirrel scenes and before long I really had to get back.

A couple of days later I had time to revisit the fisher trail again. There was still plenty of snow, but the two days of sun had turned the tracks into ovals of varying sizes, and trail patterns were indecipherable for the most part. Picking out the fisher tracks was a bit of work, and following its trail took a bunch more. It was a good time, but the timing was not as good as before. Seems obvious, but sometimes those are the best epiphanies.

Timing can also be important with nature writing. While there is no “good time” for The St. George Dragon to cease, I am grateful for having two years of good timing in posting the Nature Bummin’ columns here. The entire Nature Bummin’ staff wants to extend heartfelt thanks and appreciation to Julie and Betsy, for all their hard work in keeping The Dragon going. In other words, we are “bummed” in the more traditional sense of the word. And so…. HEARTFELT THANKS! & APPRECIATION!

And while The Dragon is stopping, “nature” itself will continue to chug along, hopefully and of course. And strolling right along it will be Nature Bummin’! Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT) will continue its support for the column and has offered to post current (and past) posts on their website. It’s an offer too good to pass up—thanks MCHT!

With that, Nature Bummin’ is moving to a new home—mcht.org/story-tag/nature-bummin/. We’ll keep pumping out the column every two weeks (roughly) as with The Dragon. And who knows, if a new incarnation of The Dragon (or something similar) develops on the peninsula we’ll be ready to jump back on! The nature will be there, that is for sure!

PHOTOS: Kirk Gentalen

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