Twilight, Oro Bay, Anderson Island, South Puget Sound

{Note: A bit of this is educational. A bit nostalgic. A bit describing the aural poetry of Oro Bay on Anderson Island. The educational bit: There are three types of twilight:

  • Civil Twilight: the time at which the sun is 6 degrees below the horizon. At this time, there is enough light for objects to be clearly distinguishable and that outdoor activities can commence (dawn) or end (dusk) without artificial illumination. Civil twilight is the definition of twilight most widely used by the general public.
  • Nautical Twilight: the time when the center of the sun is 12 degrees below the horizon, and only general or vague outlines of objects are visible. During the evening this is when it becomes too difficult to perceive the horizon, and in the morning this is the point when the horizon becomes distinguishable. This term goes back to the days when sailing ships navigated by using the stars.
  • Astronomical Twilight: the time at which the sun is 18 degrees below the horizon. It is that point in time at which the sun starts lightening the sky. Prior to this time during the morning, the sky is completely dark. During the evening, this is the point where the sky completely turns dark.

So what you might ask: “What’s your point?” Well, like most things, it matters to a lot of people, particularly those who live far from the equator when the sun’s rays are not perpendicular to the Earth… which in reality only happens at one particular longitude depending on the season and rotational axis of our dear planet. The farther North or South of the equator one is located, the longer the sun stays in the sky which in essence stretches out the time from dawn to dusk and… the amount of twilight.  That being said… I’m breaking you away from the civilian group who only knows one type of twilight. Some of you are nautical peeps and should know this, but perhaps never encountered the astronomical definitions. So be it… and Onward blog readers… onward}


Before Civil twilight took over from the brilliantly sunny and warm day, the Great Herons did fly-byes and squocked their pterodactylly antiquated and long throated voicings for the inhabitants of Oro Bay to hear and contemplate. The eagles had vacated the Douglas firs on the South bay shore and the crows that had been harassing them had retired to their nightly roost to plan the next day’s foraging explorations and eagle provocations.  The Kingfishers with their staccato cries were also silent, waiting for the morrow to commence their ambushing fishing techniques.  The ospreys were gone along with the mallards, pidgeon guillamots, cormorants, gulls and other feathered creatures.  They all had returned to their nestled hidey holes in preparation for the night to come.

In a final display of petulance, Civil twilight had given up hope for the sun to linger and reluctantly, opened the angular door for Nautical twilight to begin it’s short reign.  Astronomical twilight was still just a twinkle in Nautical’s eye.  The stage was set for aural magic.

It began with a short yip up in the woods on the South shore of the bay.  Not far.  Less than 500 yards from where Great Northern was anchored.  It was not a sound that a mere mortal dog can make.  There was a dog barking a bit down at the farm at the end of the bay.  Not the same.  Not the same at all.  This sound was different.  We waited.  Another yip from the same location and then a sharp, staccato, bark followed by a long drawn out multiple toned howl.  Then silence. Nothing.  The barking dog down the bay became silent as well.  Listening.  Several quick yips, and staccato barks and a multi-resonant howl from the South.  Another in the pack joined in.  A magical duet of woven howl tones.  They were lonely, joyous, enticing, yearning, acknowledging tones honed over the ages. 

The North side of our tiny bay erupted with the excited yips, barks and multi-toned howls of another pack.  Then silence.  A mile to the West, another pack responded. Clearly.  Easily heard.  Another faint reply in response far to the North.  Where are you?  I am here.  I am here…

The Coyotes are up…

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