It is 9:30 pm near our campsite in the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area in southwestern Kentucky. Sunset was a few hours ago and the moon is up and almost full. I am standing on a dirt road with a marshy area in front of me and a wooded hillside to my back. The recorder has been on for several minutes, capturing the exquisite early fall chorus of insects. There are also the plops of nuts that have been cut by a foraging flying squirrel and the snap of a twig here and there.
Suddenly I hear the lone wail of a coyote, and the hairs on my back tingle. Even though I know that coyotes prey mainly on small mammals like mice, squirrels, and rabbits, I cannot help feeling vulnerable. Then a second coyote joins in, and a third. Pretty soon there are several of them, calling back and forth. To me these are lonely sounds, but with their own strange beauty.
Coyote Interlude at Land Between the Lakes Kentucky_Bob McGuire_10 Oct 2009.
I recall that at this time of year the coyote family breaks up. The pups leave their home territory to go off and establish territories of their own. What am I hearing? Is this the final family conversation before the pups leave for good? I only wish I could actually see what is going on.
Just as suddenly as the coyotes began, they fall silent, and as I wait for more howls, a distant Barred Owl comes on to say “goodnight”.