Tennyson's well-known description of nature as "red in tooth and claw" conjures up dramatic moments in the prey-predator relationship. But nature's palette is rich, and Lord Alfred neglected to contemplate the grays, browns, blacks, greens and even blues to be found along the trailside. My interest in rectifying the poet's monochromatic view recently led me to the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Boynton Beach, Fla., for an introductory session on the science of identifying scat.
If any of the 15 other attendees expected to be taught how to distinguish Ella Fitzgerald from Mel Tormé, they were sorely disappointed. There was singing, however. For the benefit of the six children in the room, workshop leader Serena Rinker warbled: "It begins with an 'S' and ends with a 'T,' it comes out of you and it comes out of me, I know what you're thinking, but don't say that, 'cause to be scientific we call it scat."
This article was originally published with the title Dropping By.