A Wild Utah Thanksgiving

Box Elder Bug on Milkweed Courtesy US FWS, Chelsi Burns, Photographer
Box Elder Bug on Milkweed
Courtesy US FWS, Chelsi Burns, Photographer

Perigrine Falcon Courtesy US FWS, Alan Schmierer, Photographer Perigrine Falcon
Courtesy US FWS, Alan Schmierer, Photographer

Northern Shrike Courtesy US FWS, Dave Menke, Photographer Northern Shrike
Courtesy US FWS, Dave Menke, Photographer

Robin with Chicks in Nest Courtesy US FWS, images.fws.gov James C. Leopold, Photographer Robin with Chicks in Nest
Courtesy US FWS, images.fws.gov
James C. Leopold, Photographer

Jerusalem Cricket Orthoptera: Stenopelmatidae Copyright 2013 Holly Strand Jerusalem Cricket
Orthoptera: Stenopelmatidae
Copyright 2013 Holly Strand

A Wild Utah Thanksgiving: Wild Turkeys
Courtesy Pixabay, Public Domain Images Wild Turkeys
Courtesy Pixabay, Public Domain Images

Wild Turkeys: Wild Turkey Tom Courtesy Pixabay, Biggles55 Contributor & Photographer Wild Turkey Tom
Courtesy Pixabay
Biggles55 Contributor & Photographer

Wild Turkeys: Rio Grande Turkey Tom, Meleagris gallopavo, Courtesy US FWS, Robert H. Burton, Photographer, images.fws.gov Rio Grande Turkey Tom
Meleagris gallopavo
Courtesy US FWS
Robert H. Burton, Photographer
http://images.fws.gov

I’m Giving thanks for a Wild Utah, which is all around us- in our yards, downtown, and even in our homes. I will make my case with the following vignettes.

Box elder bugs are my nemesis, reproducing numbers far beyond what their predators can control. But my grandkids adore them. Calling them “Boxies”, they are enthralled with their “cute” little friends. They will make a home for them in a jar, making sure they’re comfortable and well fed with collected leaves.

While sauntering through Temple Square on a lovely June day, I was startled by the kee-kee-kee call of peregrine falcons. One lit atop Moroni’s head, which adorns the temple, soon to be joined by another. The elder missionary who had begun his missionary pitch to me was aghast as I explained the peregrine coupling on their sacred figure.

My grandkids and I were keeping track of a robins nest which had been built over our front door facing. Checking the eggs, which were near hatching, we discovered a great basin gopher snake had crawled up the vertical house wall for egg soufflé, devouring all four eggs. How in the world did this reptile even know there was a nest with eggs in this unusual location, and make the vertical climb to eat them? A natural wonder!

Our bird feeder is quite popular with predatory birds. We noticed a darling little saw-whet owl sitting in the tree where the feeder hung with a junco in its beak. On another occasion, my wife alerted me to a stellar jay sitting on a limb outside the kitchen window with a fat meadow vole dangling from its mouth.

A few weeks ago, my daughter texted me a photo of a mystery bird that had slammed into their window. What is this bird? A northern shrike was the victim- a rarity indeed. Fortunately, it recovered, hopefully without serious injury, to hunt her birds another day.

When our children were young, a Jerusalem cricket was discovered in the basement. These Tonka Toy-like insects are marvels- and very scary. It kept our children occupied for hours. On another occasion, we came home to find baby skunks had invaded us. One of our sons had found them near their road-killed mother and adopted them. These cute little critters soon adapted to our presence, and no one was sprayed, but they did harbor a skunky odor for some time, probably from their deceased mother.

Given the Thanks Giving season, I’ll wrap this up with turkeys. Downtown Logan had four tom turkeys who were causing mayhem with traffic at the Center and Main intersection. Our fearless law officer were called out to remediate the situation. Following an hour of frantic scramble, the officers were defeated, as were the turkeys, who found an open door for refuge in a butcher shop. True story.

Wishing you a Wild Utah Thanksgiving!

This is Jack Greene for BAS, and I’m wild about this Utah!

Credits:
Picture: Peregrine Falcon, Courtesy US FWS, Alan Schmierer, Photographer
Picture: Northern Shrike, Courtesy US FWS Dave Menke, Photographer
Picture: Robin with Chicks, Courtesy US FWS, James C. Leopold, Photographer
Picture: Jerusalem Cricket, Copyright 2013 Holly Strand
Picture: Courtesy Pixabay, PublicDomainImages AND https://pixabay.com/photos/autumn-woodland-through-walking-387109/
Picture: Courtesy Pixabay, Biggles55 Contributor & Photographer,
Picture: Courtesy US FWS, Robert H Burton, Photographer https://images.fws.gov/
Audio: Courtesy & © Vince Guaraldi
Text: Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/
Additional Reading: Lyle W Bingham, Webmaster, and Jack Greene, Author, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading:

Jack Greene’s Postings on Wild About Utah, https://wildaboututah.org/author/jack/

Greene, Jack, Wild Turkeys, Wild About Utah, November 22, 2021, https://wildaboututah.org/wild-turkeys/

Bingham, Lyle, Read by Linda Kervin, Wild Turkeys – Recently Moved to Utah, Wild About Utah, November 19, 2009, https://wildaboututah.org/wild-turkeys-recently-moved-to-utah/

Strand, Holly, Boxelder Bug Poetry, Wild About Utah, March 3, 2009, https://wildaboututah.org/boxelder-bug-poetry/

Kervin, Linda, Shrikes, Wild About Utah, October 31, 2013, https://wildaboututah.org/shrikes/

Intelligent Tree Squirrels

Intelligent Squirrels: Squirrel Courtesy Pixabay
Squirrel
Courtesy Pixabay
Primates of the northlands. I consider tree squirrels to be on par with many primates for intelligence and agility. Those who have bird feeders may agree with me as they vainly attempt to thwart squirrel’s from invading their feeders. We have red squirrels visiting our bird feeder regularly. I’ve outsmarted them for the moment, but they continue to work on the problem I’ve presented them and feel a failure coming my way!

I’ve watched red squirrels manipulate fir cones with their front paws with amazing dexterity. Like myself eating a cob of corn, it spun the cone rapidly while shredding the cone scales to access the seed. Their tiny toes grip the cone identically to my fingers gripping the cob of corn. I’m amazed how they can unerringly navigate their way from tree to tree through our forest. There are many examples of squirrel intelligence witnessed by animal behaviorists.

Arboreal squirrels often build dreys that look like bird nests. Dreys are made up of twigs , moss, feathers and grass. All the items surrounding the dreys provide support and insulation. Chimpanzees exhibit very similar behavior.

Squirrels make use of several vocalizations to communicate with each other, they also create scents to attract opposite sex or communicate. They can create signals with their tails as well, by twitching it to alert other squirrels on the presence of a potential danger.

Tree squirrels display fantastically acrobatic movements, phenomenal adaptability to urban environments, and possess very cute little faces to boot. The 7th International Colloquium on Arboreal Squirrels was held 2018 in Helsinki, Finland. Studies routinely come discover new, amazing behaviors, especially involving the squirrel’s signature behavior, that it buries caches of its food to access later. One experiment found that they’ll try multiple tactics to open a locked box. Another found that squirrels remember the location of their caches without using their keen noses to locate them. Another found that they’re able to quickly learn from their peers.

A 2010 study found that squirrels actually engage in deceptive, or paranoid, behavior. When squirrels are being watched, they’ll construct fake caches, pretending to bury a nut by digging a hole, patting it down with their front teeth, and scraping dirt or grass over the top of it while concealing the nut in a pocket near their armpit, and will make the real cache somewhere else. Even while watching, it can be difficult to tell when a squirrel is making a fake or a real cache. How smart is that?

A study was conducted at UC Berkley in which students were placed in a competitive game to act like squirrels. They hid caches of plastic eggs, and then 15 minutes later returned to find them. This is a very squirrel-like test: memory, deception, location, observation, paranoia. Most students couldn’t remember their own hiding places. Squirrels bury about 10,000 nuts per year, making many different caches, and may not uncover them for months. They may dig up a cache and bury it somewhere else, and do that up to five times. Squirrels, unlike UC Berkeley students, are engaged in this intellectually draining activity while also avoiding predators and braving the elements.

This is Jack Greene for Bridgerland Audubon. I’m Wild About Utah and its amazing squirrels!

Credits:

Picture: Courtesy Pixabay, Alexas Fotos, Photographer, https://pixabay.com/photos/squirrel-rodent-animal-cute-nature-5158715/
Audio: Courtesy UPR
Text: Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/
Additional Reading: Lyle W Bingham, Webmaster, and Jack Greene, Author, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading:

Jack Greene’s Postings on Wild About Utah, https://wildaboututah.org/author/jack/

Utah Fox Squirrels, NHMU is studying Fox Squirrels, and we need your help!, Natural History Museum of Utah, https://nhmu.utah.edu/citizen-science/utah-fox-squirrels

Types of Squirrels in Utah! (3 species w/ pictures), Bird Watching HQ, https://birdwatchinghq.com/squirrels-in-utah/



Berries

Berries: Oregon Grape  <i>Mahonia repens</i> Producing Blue Berries in the Grand Tetons Park Courtesy Pixabay, Mike Goad, Photographer
Oregon Grape
Mahonia repens
Producing Blue Berries in the Grand Tetons
Courtesy Pixabay, Mike Goad, Photographer,

Red Raspberry Rubus idaeus var. strigosus Courtesy NPS, Yellowstone's Photo Collection, JW Stockert Photographer, 1972 Red Raspberry
Rubus idaeus var. strigosus
Courtesy NPS, Yellowstone’s Photo Collection, JW Stockert Photographer, 1972

Thimbleberry Rubus parviflorus Courtesy NPS, Yellowstone's Photo Collection, JW Stockert, Photographer Thimbleberry
Rubus parviflorus
Courtesy NPS, Yellowstone’s Photo Collection, JW Stockert, Photographer

Utah-Serviceberry Rosaceae Amelanchier utahensis Courtesy National Park Service, Lee Ferguson, Photographer Utah-Serviceberry
Rosaceae Amelanchier utahensis
Courtesy National Park Service, Lee Ferguson, Photographer

Rose Hips Wood's rose Rosa woodsii Courtesy NPS, Yellowstone's Photo Collection, J Schmidt, Photographer, 1977 Rose Hips
Wood’s rose Rosa woodsii
Courtesy NPS, Yellowstone’s Photo Collection, J Schmidt, Photographer, 1977

The berry season is upon us- huckleberries, raspberries, gooseberries, chokecherries (not a berry but close enough), elderberries, bearberries, while early berries have faded- golden current, serviceberries, thimble berries are now fruit leather.

Berry picking during my youth in the North woods of Wisconsin was a wonderful tradition that I, and our black bear neighbors, looked forward to with great anticipation. We often shared the same patch evident by fresh bear scat and tracks. Those rare occasions where brother and sister bear were with us are frozen in time. “Just keep picking and talking- they won’t bother us.” My grandmother’s refrain. I was enthralled, watching every move and sound they made, with an occasional “woof” from mother bear alerting the youngsters.

Now, so many years later, I take my students to the Tetons hoping for a glimpse of bruins harvesting berries, rose hips, and thorn apples along streams and roadsides. Black bears are efficient berry-eaters, consuming up to 30,000 berries a day in a good year. They gather berries quickly, using their sensitive, mobile lips swallowing them whole. The berries enter a two-part stomach, which grinds the pulp off the seeds which pass through unbroken and are able to germinate, making black bears important seed dispersers.

Our Bear River Range here in Northern Utah was once a stronghold for the bruin. Overharvesting by hunters and the government has left it wanting, but the berries remain. One berry favored by bears is the white snowberry. Don’t copy the bears on this one as it’s toxic, but a great medicinal. Another that I avoid is the buffalo berry, called soapberry in the northwest. It contains saponin, the active ingredient in most soaps. It’s much like biting into a bar of soap, applied in my younger years for mouth cleansing. And please avoid the voluptuous red and white fruit of the bane berry, and cute little mini tomatoes of deadly night shade. You will be all the better for it.

“Harvesting berries can be a powerful meditation, centering us in the power of “now,” and is one of the oldest human experiences. This simple action can be an opportunity to revel in the abundance of nature. Tangibly interacting with food that is so wired into its life source is otherworldly, and it reminds us of a time when humans were more directly connected to the origins of our food. It is a grounding experience that demands every cell in your body resonate with the source of our food, catalyzing our connections to the universe.” Valerie Segrest quote

I strongly recommend “Blueberries for Sal” for younger generations. A delightful 1948 children’s book by renowned author Robert McCloskey. I recently visited the Blueberry Hill in Main’s Acadian N.P., the location for this story, and picked a few myself. Unfortunately, the bears had been replaced swarms of tourists!

Jack Greene for Bridgerland Audubon Society, and yes, I’m wild about Utah’s bears and wild berries!

Credits:

Pictures:
Oregon Grape Producing Blue Berries in the Grand Tetons, Courtesy Pixabay, Mike Goad, Photographer, https://pixabay.com/photos/blue-wild-berries-in-the-tetons-blue-3842367/
Red raspberry (Rubus idaeus var. strigosus); JW Stockert; 1972, Courtesy NPS, Yellowstone’s Photo Collection, https://www.nps.gov/features/yell/slidefile/plants/rosefamily/Images/08720.jpg
Wood’s rose (Rosa woodsii) hips; J Schmidt; 1977, Courtesy NPS, Yellowstone’s Photo Collection, https://www.nps.gov/features/yell/slidefile/plants/rosefamily/Images/06964.jpg
Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus); JW Stockert; 1973, Courtesy NPS, Yellowstone’s Photo Collection, https://www.nps.gov/features/yell/slidefile/plants/rosefamily/Images/08718.jpg
Utah Serviceberry, Rosaceae_Amelanchier_utahensis, Courtesy US NPS, Lee Ferguson, Photographer, https://www.nps.gov/arch/learn/nature/images/Rosaceae_Amelanchier_utahensis.jpg
Audio: Courtesy & © Friend Weller, https://upr.org
Text: Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/
Additional Reading: Lyle W Bingham, Webmaster, and Jack Greene, Author, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading:

Jack Greene’s Postings on Wild About Utah, https://wildaboututah.org/author/jack/

Valerie Segrest, Foods Still Matter: The Muckleshoot Food Sovereignty Project, National Museum of the American Indian, The Smithsonian Institution, 2018, https://americanindian.si.edu/nk360/pnw-history-culture/muckleshoot

Valerie Segrest, Food sovereignty, TEDxRainier, TEDxSeattle, https://tedxseattle.com/talks/food-sovereignty/

McCloskey, Robert(Author), Blueberries for Sal, Puffin Books, September 30, 1976 https://www.amazon.com/Blueberries-Sal-Robert-McCloskey/dp/014050169X

A Bear’s Menu, Student Activities, Educator Resources, Yellowstone National Park, https://www.nps.gov/teachers/classrooms/a-bears-menu.htm

John Muir and Wilderness

John Muir and Wilderness: John Muir at Glacier Bay Courtesy US NPS, Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve
John Muir at Glacier Bay
Courtesy US NPS, Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve

John Muir and Wilderness: Roosevelt and Muir at Glacier Point President Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir standing on rock at Glacier Point, Yosemite, May 1903; Yosemite Falls and cliffs of Yosemite Valley in distance. [RL012904] Courtesy US NPS Roosevelt and Muir at Glacier Point,
President Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir standing on rock at Glacier Point, Yosemite, May 1903; Yosemite Falls and cliffs of Yosemite Valley in distance.
Note: Muir visited Glacier Bay in Alaska and the Unita mountains in Utah to explore how glaciers formed Yosemite valley. [RL012904]
Courtesy US NPS

An aerial view of Margerie Glacier. The glacier begins high in the mountains and meanders down the valleys like a river of ice.  Courtesy US NPS, Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve An aerial view of Margerie Glacier. The glacier begins high in the mountains and meanders down the valleys like a river of ice.
Courtesy US NPS, Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve

John Muir at Muir Glacier Courtesy US NPS, Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve John Muir at Muir Glacier
Courtesy US NPS, Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve

I’ve known of John Muir much of my life. A recent kayaking trip to Glacier Bay in Alaska added to my appreciation for this remarkable early American naturalist, author, and Wilderness advocate. Muir first visited Glacier Bay in 1879, where he witnessed firsthand how glaciers transform the landscape, bolstering his prescient theory of glaciology. Upon returning home, I did a bit of research on his 1877 visit to Utah. Muir was taken by the wild beauty of the Wasatch Mountains as he so eloquently expressed.

“The glacial developments of these superb ranges are sharply sculptured peaks and rests, with ample wombs between them, where the ancient snows of the glacial period were collected and transformed into ice and ranks of profound shadowy canyons, while moraines commensurate with the lofty fountains extend into the valleys forming far the grandest series of glacial monuments I have yet seen this side of the Sierra.”

In addition to Muir’s contributions to understanding how glaciers sculpt landscapes, he used his political acumen to initiate the Wilderness movement, culminating with the 1964 Wilderness Act approved by the U.S. Congress. “A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” – written by Howard Zahniser, the principle author of the Act.

The U.S. Congress has preserved 110 million acres of the fifty states since the Wilderness Act, 1.16 million of which are found in Utah. About half are on National Forest lands, the remaining residing with the Bureau of Land Management agency. Another 3.2 million acres are managed as Roadless lands titled Wilderness Study Areas.

Other Muir quotes which champion wilderness- “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.” and “Wilderness is a necessity… there must be places for human beings to satisfy their souls.”

I’ve spent many years as a seasonal Wilderness ranger and Wilderness advocate here in N. Utah in the Naomi and Wellsville Wilderness. Managing these precious spaces to retain its wilderness character has become ever more challenging with a warmer, dryer climate enhancing wildfire, flooding, and loss to massive insect outbreaks. As Glacier Bay and Glacier National park glaciers retreat ever deeper into bays and meadows, their names may become a misnomer.

Although John Muir’s famous “Muir Glacier” had receded several miles away from where it once met the ocean, I feel blessed the few tidewater glaciers we encountered yet remain. And I feel further blessed that the U.S. Congress has seen fit to protect Utah’s wildlands by deploying the Wilderness Act- “…where the Earth and its Community of Life will remain untrammeled by man…”

Jack Greene for the Bridgerland Audubon Society, and I’m wild about Utah!

Credits:

Picture:
Audio: Courtesy & © J. Chase and K.W. Baldwin https://upr.org
Text: Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/
Additional Reading: Lyle W Bingham, Webmaster, and Jack Greene, Author, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading:

Jack Greene’s Postings on Wild About Utah, https://wildaboututah.org/author/jack/

Glacier Bay From Above(Video), John Hopkins Inlet, Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve, US National Park Service, https://www.nps.gov/media/video/view.htm?id=C16C2BB8-1DD8-B71C-0783F58C054561C2

Fields, Lauren, Here’s what John Muir — the father of national parks —thought about early Utah, The Deseret News, Apr 20, 2018, https://www.deseret.com/2018/4/21/20643789/here-s-what-john-muir-the-father-of-national-parks-thought-about-early-utah

John Muir in Utah, Utah Stories from the Beehive Archive, Utah Humanities, https://www.utahhumanities.org/stories/items/show/180

Public Law 88-577 a.k.a. Wilderness Act, Sept 3, 1964, U.S. Government Publishing Office: https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/STATUTE-78/pdf/STATUTE-78-Pg890.pdf

Biek, Bob, Willis, & Ehler, Buck, Utah’s Glacial Geology, Survey Notes, Utah Geological Survey, Utah Department of Natural Resources, September 2010, https://geology.utah.gov/map-pub/survey-notes/utahs-glacial-geology/

Hansen, Wallace R, The Geologic Story of the Uinta Mountains, Geological Survey(USGS), US Department of the Interior, 1969, 1975, 1983, https://pubs.usgs.gov/bul/1291/report.pdf