Songs of Spring

Songs of Spring: American Robin Turdis migratorius Finding a high point to sing and be seen Courtesy US FWS Peter Pearsall, Photographer
American Robin
Turdis migratorius
Finding a high point to sing and be seen
Courtesy US FWS
Peter Pearsall, Photographer
In the time of year which straddles Winter’s Ligeti and Summer’s Scheherezade lies Spring’s perpetual Peer Gynt Morning Mood. Spring is a unique juxtaposition of an ubiquitous ice patch in the sun, a gentle awakening from a static annual ablution. And the birds are back, too.Songs of Spring

For me, my first indicator of spring is the call of the male American Robin who warbles from the top of the nearest thing with a top to warble from, melting away the dark with his song. He will announce himself as Spring incarnate, and honest be told I think he really is. He is staking his territory, newly thawed, full of history and habitat and hope. Warble on, dude.

The air brings music too, our next sign of the season. It is always in harmony with the budding willow velvet, emerging daffodil spears, and wild bedheaded leaves which survived winter under the weight of its blanket. It’s the kind of music that sends shivers up your spine and reminds you that the sun is here, yes, but don’t have your sweater too far away. You’ll need it.

The last in the choir of Spring is the low basso profundo of good mud; that sound you can smell. It’s not the mud caused by summer rainfall which is dainty underfoot and easily run off, but the mud which strives to be that of the marshlands. It is not privy to splishes nor splashes, but instead grips you by the ankle like a playful toddler upon their parent, and when pulled up, if you’re lucky enough to still have your boot, releases everyone’s favorite sound to make in a packed van. It echos with each step. The juvenile earth cannot be quelled.

So this spring, keep your ear to the ground, upon the wind, and towards the trees for the music of the free world. It is the wellspring source of all our own imitated humanly scores, and so will always be true. Happy Spring everyone. Get outside and lose a boot. You’ll be glad you did.

I’m Patrick Kelly and I’m Wild About Utah
 
Credits:

Images: Courtesy US FWS, Peter Pearsall, Photographer https://digitalmedia.fws.gov/digital/collection/natdiglib/id/29913/rec/10
Audio: Contains audio Courtesy & Copyright Kevin Colver and J. Chase and K.W. Baldwin.
Text:    Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Stokes Nature Center, https://www.logannature.org
Included Links: Patrick Kelly & Lyle Bingham, Webmaster, WildAboutUtah.org

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Posts by Patrick Kelly

Stokes Nature Center in Logan Canyon, http://www.logannature.org/

Winter-Lux Aeterna, György Ligeti, A Capella Amsterdam, Daniel Reuss and Suzanne van Els, Posted December 9, 2009, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-iVYu5lyX5M
Spring-Peer Gynt, Suite No.1, Op.46 – 1. Morning Mood, Edvard Grieg, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Herbert von Karajan, Deutsche Grammophone Stereo 410026-02, Posted July 30, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fATAQtY9ag
Summer-Scheherazade, Rimsky Korsakov, Philadelphia Orchestra, Riccardo Muti, Posted April 10,2020 by Matthew Roman, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4rylqeyD5c
Fall-The Fall of the Leaf (1963): II. Vivace, Imogen Holst, Posted September 21, 2017, Thomas Hewett Jones, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llkFjUm3nPI
Also suggested by Patrick:
The Trout(Die Forelle), Franz Schubert transcribed by Franz Liszt, Evgeny Kissin, Recorded at the Salle des Combins (Verbier, Switzerland), on 26 Jul. 2013. © Idéale Audience / MUSEEC, Medici.tv, https://youtu.be/HkGcNt3ohog

A Questionably Lodgepole Pine

A Questionably Lodgepole Pine: Lodgepole Pine stand Yellowstone Collection Courtesy US National Parks Service, Bob Stevensoon, Photographer October 27, 1988
Lodgepole Pine stand
Yellowstone Collection
Courtesy US National Parks Service,
Bob Stevensoon, Photographer
October 27, 1988
Sometimes I have a hard time coming up with fun or fancy things to say for the radio. It’s just a thing that happens. A Questionably Lodgepole Pine

When that happens, sometimes I’ll just go outside and pick something happening around me, or something I think of when outside and write about that. Sometimes or almost always, creativity for me is not clean-cut. It can be kinda formulaic: talk about things you see, feel, and think in a way that hopefully helps folks balance listening, their imagination, and hopefully hope all at the same time. It’s at least an ideal.

But sometimes instead what comes out when you’re outdoors, is stuff that is kinda dumb and pretty funny. Truth be told, I prefer dumb funny things. I think stuff that is funny is better than stuff that isn’t funny. Funny stuff is fun.

And so, here’s me sitting in a big gold puffy coat and well-napkined Carhartts in a foldable lawn chair under gray winter sky, and jack is happening around me. No birds tweeting. No fresh tracks. Not even no dim ray of sunshine. Just hands as cold as cold hands can be. Then I see a dead skyward and questionably lodgepole pine. I thought it could maybe have a second life as a flagpole, the name I thought it could be and all. And then I wondered…

If trees wove a flag
What color would they fly
Regardless I doubt they’d much care if it was green
Beings they’ve got no eyes

No eyes no ears no tongue no nose
Not even fully developed human hands which spring from their roots so

And then I thought…

If ducks could sing opera
Like dark Verdi arias
I think they’d quack less good
But dig in no less mud

No lips no fur lays eggs webbed toes
Brains like walnuts, only knows where south goes

And then…

If clouds could pick
What unit of measure that they preferred
I’d reckon volume’d be tricky
Be hard to pin down where the mass does now occur

No lungs no feet bring snow turns sleet
Don’t even got clocks to keep time.

And that’s where it ended. Stream ran Utah dry. And that’s ok.

And even though when I read what I wrote to my partner she gave me that look of, “you sure?” I couldn’t help but think, “yup!” so I laughed and smiled wide.

So here’s me saying to you that sometimes, when you go looking for inspiration about the world from that old all-about-us well that is the world, don’t turn up your nose on silly things. Funny things that pop into your mind, even if they are dumb. Because once, someone probably thought something wild and dumb that ended up being kind of neat. Or something that they thought about. And who knows, maybe one day we’ll have to ask ourselves again…

If trees wove a flag
What color would they fly?
Would they measure it in cubits,
Or some other unit from the sky?

I’m Patrick Kelly, and I’m Wild About Utah.
 
Credits:

Images: Image Courtesy US National Park Service, Yellowstone Collection, Bob Stevensoon, Photographer https://www.nps.gov/features/yell/slidefile/plants/conifers/pine/Page-3.htm
Audio: Contains audio Courtesy & Copyright Kevin Colver https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections
Text:    Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Stokes Nature Center, https://logannature.org/
Included Links: Lyle Bingham, Webmaster, WildAboutUtah.org

Additional Reading

McNally, Catherine, How to Cure Writer’s Block: Go Green, Medium, October 7, 2019, https://medium.com/@catherine.mcnally/how-to-cure-writers-block-go-green-e0c00e8e614

Lodgepole Pine, Range Plants of Utah, Utah State University Extension, https://extension.usu.edu/rangeplants/shrubs-and-trees/LodgepolePine



Duck Tornados

Duck Tornado: Male Mallard, Wings Set Courtesy Pixabay, Ilona Ilyés(ilyessuti), Photographer
Male Mallard, Wings Set
Courtesy Pixabay, Ilona Ilyés(ilyessuti), Photographer
If it flies like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, but there’s hundreds in a maelstrom whirlpool whose torrent of wingbeats make your ears mute and skull hum, it must be a Great Salt Lake tornado a la duck.

This past waterfowl season, I saw them out in some of the flats not yet trammeled by cover brush in the wetlands which drain the Bear River to the Great Salt Lake. The experience was possible because my friend, a well-seasoned duck hunter, had “a spot” he wanted to check out. We headed out at 4:30 in the morning from town, drove to the icy ramp, and put in his boat. We navigated the winding canals lined with irreconcilable phragmites in the black until we reached an end. When he cut the engine, nothing but the sound of water trickling from unnamed subfoliage passageways could be heard. We unloaded our equipment, moored the vessel, and took off on foot for “the spot”.

We hauled floating coffins with our gear: decoys, grass blankets, some food, and our hunting tools. The air was cold, but hauling sleds through muck and knee deep water is warm work. We could see the delicate prints of yesterday’s game puttering in the mud, foraging for fuel. Our heavy feet cratered their Pollack art, mud streaking behind and steam rising as we trudged on.

When we found the spot to set up near a small patch of open water just deep enough, we set out the decoys, took our positions, hid, and waited until the clock struck the shooting hour. With the sun yawning from behind the morning’s dense clouds, the tornados began.

They started to the west on a rest pond and slowly rose about a half mile out, an acrid steam swirling along magnetic edges of lazy morning thermals. Slowly, the steam became more dense, a heavier molecularity, and yet somehow like the paint stretching off a worn artist’s haggard brush, harnessed a fluid winged chaos into streaks of prehistoric migratory cosmos.

Once a feathered mass rises and begins its molasses churn about its night’s pond, it is as if an intuition shoots through the birds, and they become an it, and suddenly strike off unified in a particular direction on the morning flight. One such wave comes our way.

You don’t hear the mass at first, but when you do it begins with quacks. Their distant airy rasps build as they approach and eye our decoys and open water. It gains slowly, like Holst’s Mars, or Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries, a romantic era symphony of avian legions unified by the course of cacophonous time. It’s epic and deeply beautiful.

Soon, they decide to give our hole a scout and the whirlwind aims itself at us. The squadrons of drakes and hens give passing dives. This is where the real magic lies; nothing makes your hair stand on end like the sound of cupped duck wings catching air, braking in the atmosphere with such force, and then throwing on the afterburners to pull back up towards their comrades. It makes F-35s look like the Wright brothers’ Kitty Hawk flier. That howl as air is held compressed beneath stressed wings comes in from all angles. We are transfixed within the eye.

Northern Shovelers Flying Courtesy US FWS, Steve Hillebrand, Photographer
Northern Shovelers Flying
Courtesy US FWS, Steve Hillebrand, Photographer
And as quickly as the tornado cometh, it also flyeth away. The music dissipates as the breath of ancient gods gains altitude, eyes another pond, and moves on from us. The duck tornado roars on.

So even if you’re not a hunter, or even that keen on ducks, there is nothing quite like a duck tornado; a force in this world which once was commonplace with the other primal elements of nature, but now only rarely seen in those last lightly touched places. Know that they’re out there, and if you can, one day go looking for them. Gaze at the power, the glory, and the mystery of the Great Salt Lake wetland duck tornados. You’ll never forget it.

I’m Patrick Kelly, and I’m Wild About Utah.
 
Credits:

Images: Image Courtesy Pixabay, Ilona Ilyés(ilyessuti), Photographer, https://pixabay.com/photos/duck-bird-waterfowl-lake-wild-5838408/
Images: Image Courtesy USFWS, Steve Hillebrand, Photographer https://digitalmedia.fws.gov/digital/collection/natdiglib/id/9588/
Audio: Contains audio Courtesy & Copyright Kevin Colver https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections
Text:    Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Stokes Nature Center, https://logannature.org/
Included Links: Lyle Bingham, Webmaster, WildAboutUtah.org

Additional Reading

Duck Tornado, Idaho Fish & Game, Feb 20, 2015, https://youtu.be/HmK9ArTgU0A

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, US Fish & Wildlife Service, US Department of the Interior, https://www.fws.gov/refuge/bear_river_migratory_bird_refuge/

Waterfowl Guidebook, Utah Division of Wildlife, Utah Department of Natural Resources, https://wildlife.utah.gov/guidebooks/2020-21_waterfowl.pdf

Hellstern, Ron, Autumn Migrations, Wild About Utah, October 15, 2017, https://wildaboututah.org/autumn-migrations/

The Sun Still Shines in the Snowfall

The Sun Still Shines in the Snowfall: Winter Courtesy Pixabay Joerg Vieli, Photographer
Winter
Courtesy Pixabay
Joerg Vieli, Photographer
The fresh morning snow teaches me things I didn’t know, and reminds me of that which I had forgotten after a long year living once more with dark, firm soil.

This year’s fresh snow has taught me that two deer are regulars in my driveway, browsing on the wilting greenery which bends beneath the subtle weight of Utah snow, and stripping bark off of a scraggly bough, exposing the green and peach inner flesh. Their hooves leave an imprint which mirrors two thumbs pressed together. They have a story. Which neighbor’s yard did they come in from, and into whose they trekked back. That they walk side by side, the smaller towards the easiest escape down the driveway, just in case. That they don’t linger too long.

I have learned that a stray cat prowls the same tracks as the deer, perhaps looking for the voles who are yet to find purchase beneath the nivean earth. It descends from a cedar fence onto the ground, sticks to gliding silently by the unnatural straight angles of buildings and fences, until it finally makes a direct charge for a nearby hedge littered underneath with duff and good hunting. I wonder if it’s the one from the missing posters stapled to posts by all the town stop signs.

Small birds hop beneath one of my feeders even by night. Winter is not the time to play by strict diurnal rules. They tidy up after their dayshift ilk, stripping seed from sunflower husk, and banking ball bearing millet under the cover of darkness. Perhaps that cat watches. Perhaps the birds watch back.

The snow is the perfect communicator. It does have the pitfall of many, who talk a lot, say very little, and do even less. It instead has rare idle chatter, lets its messages be silently heard by those who know how to listen to the indentations upon the void, and itself creates a strange world which, for just a few months, finds magic in the authority of its mirk. The world of nivean wonders is that of a temporary rebirth, a do-over, where the millennia of soils are lost to the fickle weather of the night, where our snow forts are washed away by the rising tide of the Utah sun, and which strips leaves from trees, leaving them bare as if still blissfully in Eden. All is renewed by the ablution of the snow.

Its power comes from its ability to rejuvenate our dreams as well. In winter, my mornings start slower and evenings burn the dim orange oil of cozy comfort. I learn to be less restless, to relearn stationary arts, to affirm the joy of simple chores done quickly in the shattering cold.

This winter, remember, too, that the sun still shines in the snowfall. Remember that the world still rolls forward even as we sleep. Remember to continue to learn, even from those things which seem as ephemeral and fickle as the morning’s fresh snow. What will you find upon this seasonal canvas framed in time and stretched by silence?

I’m Patrick Kelly, and I’m Wild About Utah.
 
Credits:

Images: Image Courtesy Pixabay, Jörg Vieli(Sonyuser), Photographer
Audio: Contains audio Courtesy & Copyright J. Chase and K.W. Baldwin, Technical engineers, Utah Public Radio
Text:    Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Stokes Nature Center, https://logannature.org/
Included Links: Lyle Bingham, Webmaster, WildAboutUtah.org

Additional Reading

Greene, Jack, I Love Snow, Wild About Utah, November 16, 2020, https://wildaboututah.org/wildlife-winter-climate-change/

Greene, Jack, Wildlife In Winter & Climate Change, Wild About Utah, January 15, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/wildlife-winter-climate-change/

Larese-Casanova, Mark, The Shape of Wildlife in Winter, Wild About Utah, January 26, 2012, https://wildaboututah.org/the-shape-of-wildlife-in-winter/