By Wendy Lutzke, Environmental Educator & Butterfly Garden Coordinator
With lots of talk about the change to Daylight Savings Time recently, my mind has focused on the joys of sunlight and specifically, its “coming up” and “going down.” You see, I’m crepuscular, and after reading this, you may realize that you are as well.
Crepuscular (derived from the Latin word for “twilight”) creatures are most active at sunrise and sunset. Those that prefer dawn are matutinal. Dusk lovers are vespertine. I am bimodal, enjoying both times of twilight equally. I share my crepuscularity with many wonderful creatures including deer, skunks, wild rabbits, ferrets, squirrels, possums, moose, and some bats. Moths and beetles like activity at twilight, and don’t forget the flies that join you on your crepuscular bike ride along Lake Michigan! Those of you with house cats or pet hamsters may even notice that they are crepuscular, too.
In other parts of the world you may spend your twilight hours with spotted hyenas, wombats, wallabies, and gliders. But let’s get back to our home turf. At Woodland Dunes, find a quiet spot for observation at dawn or dusk. You may be fortunate enough to see an American woodcock in spring along a woodland trail or chimney swifts in late summer by the nature center.
Why are some animals most active at twilight? One main reason is to avoid predators. Many creatures are nocturnal or diurnal, being most active at night or in daytime. Crepuscular creatures don’t have to compete for food with those animals and are also less likely to be preyed upon as food for something else, since they are harder to see in the waxing and waning hours of the day. For animals in warmer climates, the cooler temperatures at dawn and dusk also allow for comfortable movement.
And then there are the aesthetic reasons for being crepuscular. On countless mornings I’ve taken advantage of a beautiful sunrise over the calm, quiet waters of Lake Michigan or sat in the woods to allow my eyes the experience of naturally adjusting from dark to light. During a walk at dusk, have you ever been awed by crepuscular rays of sunlight beaming from behind a low cloud as the sun sets in the west? If you’ve never experienced moments like this, I highly recommend it. Join us, the crepuscular creatures, for the best time of the day. Like the rabbits, the deer, the squirrels, and many more animals, you will reap the benefits of life at twilight.
Photo by Wendy Lutzke