Crepuscular is an adjective used to describe wildlife that is primarily active at dawn and dusk. Since a large amount of truly diurnal wildlife has already been killed or has been scared into becoming crepuscular, dawn and dusk are good times to view a large percentage of the wildlife you have a chance of seeing. Nocturnal wildlife might also be reasonably easy to view, if our eyes worked better at night. Spotlighting at night can be a good way to view wildlife. Many areas with wildlife viewing do spotlight for wildlife at night. Many do not because of regulations about disturbing the wildlife. Either way, though this is a good way or even the only way to view many species, the viewing is not as good as having actual daylight.
One more advantage to being crepuscular is the possibility of getting views like this Adirondack sunrise photo taken from our canoe. Believe it or not, this photo was taken with film. The scan does not accurately represent the colors which were even more vibrant than this.
First, I should note that much wildlife does NOT truly get up at sunrise. However, you’ll be glad to be farther away from your car, and the place where you made noise getting set up, before the animals begin to get active. I tend to recommend getting to the trail head around sunrise or canoe/kayak launch about a half hour earlier. For the trail head, you are likely to be able to get on the trail more quickly than you can launch a boat, and are also more likely to be on a shady trail with less light. For boat launch, the time to put in will be longer and you are likely to launch where there are fewer overhanging trees, giving you more light in the early morning. Putting a canoe in the water, whether inflatable or hard shell, is also likely to make more noise. (When inflating my canoe, I cover the electric pump with a towel; it’s still pretty loud.)
So, all I need to do is set the alarm for some ridiculous hour and get up at the crack of
doom dawn, and go, right?
Mostly yes. However, there’s a little matter of biology. If you don’t mind digging a hole, you’ll be fine. However, if you plan for this a bit, you can become more crepuscular in your daily life, and make things a bit easier. (Sorry, not really any delicate way to say this and I mostly don’t care to be delicate anyway.) Start by not taking a dump after dinner or for the rest of the evening. This will help you get on a schedule to do so around the time you’ll be leaving home or your motel room. (Motel or hotel, not B&B; Few B&B’s will make you breakfast that early.) Make use of any facilities that may exist at the trail head or launch site. BTW, having a small shovel and toilet paper with you for hiking is still a good idea. You may do your best not to need it, but if you do, you’ll be very glad to have it.
Speaking of food. For a canoe, you can get a small cooler to pack your breakfast and lunch. Finding a nice spot for viewing wildlife, perhaps one that sounds particularly birdy, and either dropping anchor or pulling onto shore is a great way to have breakfast outside and hope to see some great wildlife while you’re moving around less and scaring fewer animals and birds away.
The same is true for lunch, but the wildlife is likely less active by then. Water birds tend to be active all day. Reptiles start to come out in time for lunch and bask in the sun. For hiking, you’ll need to find a way to pack it onto your back and will not likely want a cooler. It should also be noted that if you are someplace where wildlife is unlikely in the noon hours, you may wish to set up two activities, an early morning and a late afternoon through evening, and go back for a nice lunch and nap midday. We never do this. But, it often seems like a good idea.
What we do instead, especially at times of the year when days are long, is take along a good picnic blanket and eat our lunch and take an afternoon nap. Otherwise, staying out for 15 hours or so might be a bit much.
Many people in many guide books state that wildlife is as active or more active in the late afternoon or early evening. This has generally not been our experience. We tend to see much more wildlife early in the morning. So, I would generally recommend that if you can’t be out early and late, get out early. We’ve seen moose, beaver, loons, otters, mink, and much more, mostly in the early morning hours.
As noted elsewhere on this blog, always move slowly and quietly to maximize wildlife sightings. Also, IMNSHO, it is far better to keep a respectful distance from the wildlife. This will allow you not only to get a brief glimpse of the animal, but to observe behavior as well. I hope this helps more people gain an appreciation of the beautiful wildlife with which we share this planet. Enjoy.