Scottsdale, AZ I love new, interesting words, don’t you? When reading about snakes found in Arizona, the word “crepuscular” appeared in the text, which of course triggered my overactive wonder muscle. I had never heard this delightful adjective, used to describe creatures who are active primarily during the most glorious time of day… twilight…gentle, soothing twilight. Not quite nocturnal or diurnal, the animals who prefer this time are unique.
Twilight is a golden package of fleeting moments, found like book ends on each side of the day. In the morning, it seems to embody the beauty and hope of a new fresh day, and in the evening, it gently wraps the day in a quiet, ethereal light, spilled alongside deep shadows across the landscape. It is a time for seeing and hearing animals in a way unlike any other. Many photographers prefer the soothing, natural light that descends in the hour near twilight, a time when our cameras seem to do their best work.
One notable crepuscular desert dweller is the Javelina, or Collard Peccary. I have only seen them during twilight hours. Unless sick, javelinas will travel in bands of 6 – 12 animals led by a dominant male. They have many incredible design features, such as their ability to eat prickly pear, spines and all. Javelinas derive most of their water from the plants they eat, so juicy prickly pear are among their favorite. Watch for prickly pear plants that look like they have been torn versus cut or barrel cacti that have been overturned with the flesh scooped about like a tunnel into the underside.
Javelinas are not considered dangerous if left alone, but an entire band can be aggressive and unpredictable, and if provoked, may attack when there are young or wounded among their members. They also have terrible eyesight, and use their sense of smell to communicate. They have several scent glands, which are located below each eye and on their back/rump. The glands release a strong odor when marking territory, members of their group, or when they become alarmed or excited, so you will usually smell the musky scent of a javelina before you see one.
The hour leading up to evening twilight is my favorite time to trek in the desert. The harsh mid-day sunlight softens into a warm glow, and as the air cools, a playful breeze carries the sound of owl hoots and cricket songs. Bats and Nighthawks dance overhead, cotton tailed rabbits and other small mammals disappear into the shadows like children heading inside after a long day of play. Although seen other times of the day, Bobcats, Black Tailed Rabbits, as well as some snakes and birds are also considered crepuscular. Many snakes are nocturnal during the hot summer, crepuscular in the spring and fall.
As you trek at twilight, watch for interesting crepuscular creatures, but remember that it is their feeding time, so try not to disturb them. In the dim light, gaze with wonder at the unique happenings found only at twilight.
Cultivate Wonder… Discover Design
References and Resources
Images: SPegany, ©2019