PJ Forests

PJ Forests: Pinyon-juniper forest mixed with shrubs, cacti, and sage blanketing the mesa. Courtesy US National Parks Service, Austin Tumas, Photographer
Pinyon-juniper forest mixed with shrubs, cacti, and sage blanketing the mesa top
Courtesy US National Parks Service,
Austin Tumas, Photographer
As I write this, I’m babysitting grandkids in Cedar City. I find relief from the little rascals by
handing them off to grandma while I retreat to surrounding pinyon-juniper forests, affectionally titled PJ forests.

Bird calls instantly transform my thoughts to these pygmy forest’s abundant offerings- muffled laughing calls of pinyon jays, twittering of juniper titmice, raucous scrub jays. Drawn by
swooping ravens, I approach a juniper overlooking the canyon below. Thirty feet away, an immature golden eagle sits on a Juniper branch expressing its displeasure by twisting a gold-
mantled head to face the marauders with fierce eyes.

Further up the trail, five mule deer dart though the shadows. A black tailed jackrabbit bolting from its sage hideout startles me. Wishing for binoculars, a flock of sparrow-sized birds fly
across. I attempt to imagine them as juncos, without success. Tomorrow I will return with optics in hand to solve the mystery.

Pinyon Juniper are the dominant forest type in Utah. Much like the sage Steppe biotic community, at first glance one is deluded by the apparent lifeless monotony of this landscape.
To the contrary, both have a high biodiversity. These forests have around 450 species of vascular plants living alongside pinyon pines and junipers. Additionally, over 150 vertebrate
species of animals including elk, mule deer, and bear call pinyon-juniper forests home either seasonally or throughout the year.

Junipers are a birders paradise. The trees offer sites for perching, singing, nesting, and drumming. They also yield plentiful berries (actually spherical cones) and house a high insect
diversity for birds to consume. Mammals also eat the berries while seeking shelter in hollow juniper trunks, taking advantage of the trees’ shade in hot temperatures and the trees’ thermal
cover in the cold. Pinyon pines offer similar benefits to forest-dwellers. Pinyon mice, Abert’s squirrels, cliff chipmunks, Uinta chipmunks, wood rats, desert bighorn sheep, and black bears
all eat pinyon pine nuts.

For millennia, our own species have been dependent on the pinyon pine for their variable bounty of highly nourishing pine nuts. A staple of the Paiute, Goshute, Ute, and Shoshone, their
lives revolved around the fall harvest with elaborate ceremonies to pay homage for their life sustaining food value. It continues to the present, and we Euromericans have joined them in fall
harvest here in the Intermountain west, including my children and grandchildren.

Like the sage steppe, the pinyon juniper forest has been misunderstood, and under-appreciated for its critical role in the lives of so many species that would not exist without it, nor would
atmospheric carbon be stored in their fiber and their soils. Chaining and other “treatments” are highly controversial given the aesthetic impact of once vibrant forest replaced with piles of
uprooted trees and torn soils. Compounding this, recent decades have witnessed more severe drought and heat events making them vulnerable to insect and disease attacks, and catastrophic fire. We must practice utmost care in how we manage this priceless resource.

Jack Greene for BAS, loving wild Utah and its PJ forests

This is Jack Greene for Bridgerland Audubon Society, loving wild Utah and its PJ forests!

Credits:
Pictures: Courtesy US National Parks Service, Austin Tumas, Photographer
Audio: Courtesy & Copyright Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections as well as 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/

Pinyon-Juniper Woodlands – Introduction & Distribution, National Park Service, US Department of the Interior, https://www.nps.gov/articles/pinyon-juniper-woodlands-distribution.htm

Pinyon-Juniper Woodlands – Species Composition and Classification, National Park Service, US Department of the Interior, https://www.nps.gov/articles/pinyon-juniper-woodlands-species-composition-classification.htm

Tausch, R.J., Miller, R.F., Roundy, B.A., and Chambers, J.C., 2009, Piñon and juniper field guide: Asking the right questions to select appropriate management actions: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1335, 96 p., https://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/1335/circ1335.pdf

Plants, Natural Bridges National Monument, National Park Service, US Department of the Interior, https://www.nps.gov/nabr/learn/nature/plants.htm

Noah’s Ark Trail, Dixie National Forest, USDA Forest Service, https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/dixie/recarea/?recid=24930

Brushes

Paintbrush (Castilleja) Courtesy and Copyright © by Shannon Rhodes, photographer
Paintbrush (Castilleja)
Courtesy and Copyright © by Shannon Rhodes, photographer
Of all the lovely wildflowers to enjoy in Utah, indian paintbrush has to top my list. The nickname “prairie fire” is an accurate one, highlighting the variety of colors we find: reds, oranges, yellows, pinks, purples, and sometimes a mixture of two. In Tomie dePaola’s children’s picture book “The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush,” Little Gopher discovers “brushes filled with paint, each one a color of the sunset.” The legend is a flashy tale celebrating this member of the figwort family and stories captured in rock art. Of course, our petroglyphs are fascinating, but I like to imagine how the pictographs adorning many of Utah’s “learning rock” sandstone walls may have been painted with brushes, fingers, and other tools many centuries ago.

Often, when we see indian paintbrush, whether we’re in Utah’s deserts up in elevation through subalpine meadows, we also see sagebrush. They are both native to Utah. In fact, some species of indian paintbrush are root-parasites for sagebrush, intertwining roots to access water and nutrients because they lack small hairs on their own.

Rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus) Courtesy and Copyright © by Shannon Rhodes, photographer
Rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus)
Courtesy and Copyright © by Shannon Rhodes, photographer
The Utah State University fight song captures the love we have for the spots in Utah where sagebrush grows. To celebrate Aggie homecoming, my first grade class went out this week to explore describing adjectives of sagebrush compared to those for rabbitbrush, another brush native in Utah. One student wrote that rabbitbrush smells like strawberries and is bushy yellow. Another thought that it looks like a banana, smells sweet, and likes bees and rocks. Alternately, a student wrote that sagebrush is minty, soft, and “smells horrible.” We learned to recognize the sagebrush leaf three-toothed tridents and the magical way rubbing the leaves on paper both releases and traps that distinctive fragrance.

Mae Timbimboo Parry, once a recordkeeper of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone, sketched how to identify sagebrush in much the same way. In his appendix of “The Bear River Massacre: A Shoshone History,” Darren Parry shares his grandmother’s handwritten field notes about sagebrush, indicating its use in tea and purifying ceremonies. I was surprised at first that she did not include indian paintbrush in the list of plants until I realized that willow, wildrose, sego lily, and sunflower all had practical uses beyond their beauty. Some have said that the sagebrush is the backbone of the West, and I would add that indian paintbrush adds a splash of color.

Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) Courtesy and Copyright © by Shannon Rhodes, photographer
Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata)
Courtesy and Copyright © by Shannon Rhodes, photographer
Along with horsebrush, buckbrush, blackbrush, bitterbrush which is also known as antelopebrush, and rabbitbrush, indian paintbrush and sagebrush tell a Utah story as distinctive as that portrayed in the brushstrokes of the pictographs of this land.

I’m Shannon Rhodes, and I’m wild about Utah.

Credits:
Images: Courtesy & Copyright © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Audio: Courtesy & © Kevin Colver https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/
Text:     Shannon Rhodes, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, Utah State University https://edithbowen.usu.edu/
Additional Reading Links: Shannon Rhodes

Additional Reading:

Alpine Nature Center. Is It Rabbitbrush or Is It Sagebrush? https://www.alpinenaturecenter.org/rabbit-vs-sage.html

de Paola, Tomie. The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush. Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. 1988. https://www.tomie.com/https://www.audubon.org/news/celebrating-sagebrush-wests-most-important-native-plant

Johnson, Jeff. Head of Sinbad Pictographs in San Rafael Swell. https://thetrekplanner.com/head-of-sinbad-pictographs-san-rafael-swell-utah/

Larese-Casanova, Mark. Desert Plants Field Book. Utah Master Naturalist. https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1911&context=wats_facpub

Mozdy, Michael. Bold Figures, Blurred History: The Great Gallery in Horseshoe Canyon. October 2, 2016. https://nhmu.utah.edu/blog/2016/09/29/bold-figures-blurred-history-great-gallery-horseshoe-canyon

Miller, Pam, and Blaine Miller. Rock Art in Utah. https://www.uen.org/utah_history_encyclopedia/r/ROCK_ART.shtml

Parry, Darren. The Bear River Massacre: A Shoshone History. https://heritageandarts.utah.gov/the-bear-river-massacre-a-shoshone-history-a-conversation-with-darren-parry/

Repandshek, Kurt. Traces of a Lost People. The Smithsonian Magazine. March 2005. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/traces-of-a-lost-people-84026156/

Scotter, Troy, and Nina Bowen. The Rock Art of Utah. Utah Rock Art Research Association. May 13, 2020. https://urara.wildapricot.org/page-18203

Strand, Holly. Woody Plants of Utah. Wild About Utah, December 15, 2011. https://wildaboututah.org/tag/rabbitbrush/

Strand, Holly. Sagebrush. Wild About Utah, January 14, 2009. https://wildaboututah.org/sagebrush/

Susec, David. The Barrier Canyon Rock Art Style. The B.C.S. Project. http://www.bcsproject.org/barrierstyle.html

U.S. National Park Service. Seeing Rock Markings in a Whole New Way. https://www.nps.gov/articles/cany-rock-markings-photo.htm

Wampler, Fred. Paintbrush and Sagebrush. University of Mary Washington Gallery. http://www.umwgalleries.org/paintbrush-and-sagebrush/

Young, Lauren. Saving the American West’s Sagebrush Sea. May 19, 2001. https://www.sciencefriday.com/articles/saving-sagebrush/

Bird-Friendly Coffee Conserves Habitat & Brings Colorful Annual Songbirds to Your Cache Valley Summer Garden!

Bird-Friendly Coffee: Black-chinned Hummingbird <i>Archilochus alexandri</i> Courtesy US FWS, Alan Schmierer, Photographer
Black-chinned Hummingbird
Archilochus alexandri
Courtesy US FWS, Alan Schmierer, Photographer
Since 1956 the Bridgerland Audubon Society has been documenting about one hundred bird species braving our northern Utah winters, but there’s an equally wonderful array of birds that spend their summers in Cache Valley. Come fall, some of our most colorful summer denizens migrate south to spend the winter months on bird-friendly shade-grown coffee plantations in Latin America. These birds include the colorful yellow and orange Western Tanagers, Black-headed Grosbeaks, and Bullock’s Orioles as well as the intensely blue Lazuli Buntings and our tiny Black-chinned Hummingbirds with their iridescent purple necklace that shines like a neon light. In total, 42 migratory songbird species have been documented as flying from North America to shade-grown coffee plantations south of the border, and Bird-Friendly coffee is saving their habitat.

Bird-Friendly Coffee: Roasted Coffee Beans Courtesy Pixabay, Couleur, Photographer
Roasted Coffee Beans
Courtesy Pixabay, Couleur, Photographer
Our local Caffe Ibis website captures the importance of shade-grown coffee for migratory birds in featuring Bird Friendly coffee that “comes from family farms in Latin America that provide good, forest-like habitat for birds. Rather than being grown on farms that have been cleared of vegetation, Bird Friendly coffees are planted under a canopy of trees. These trees provide the shelter, food and homes that migratory and local birds need to survive and thrive.”

Shade-grown coffee is a mutually beneficial farming system for both migratory birds and coffee producers because the birds eat coffee insect pests and they help pollinate the flowers of the all-important shade trees. As a result, a single bird can provide the coffee producer with a much greater coffee harvest that amounts to up to 24 more pounds of coffee beans per acre each year. That increased yield means about 1,500 more cups of coffee provided by a single bird!

Certified Bird Friendly® coffee is a designation made by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC). The gold standard for ethical, sustainable, organic coffee, this Bird Friendly certification helps ensure that growers can maintain shade-grown coffee practices rather than giving in to the economic pressure to produce habitat-destroying cheaper sun-grown coffee. Certification places value on the farmer and the habitat rather than on cheaper coffee. Because both sun-grown and shade-grown coffee farms span a large portion of important wintering bird habitat, you can help provide economic support for farmers protecting important bird habitat by buying sustainable “Bird Friendly” labeled coffees.

Shade-grown coffee farms are good for birds, good for people, and good for the planet. So, for those who enjoy coffee, bird-friendly coffee is all the more enjoyable because your selection is a positive conservation action. As you sip your Bird-Friendly certified coffee, just marvel at the fact that a hummingbird egg is about the size of a single coffee bean!

This segment concludes with a shout out to Caffe Ibis Coffee Maven Emerita Sally Sears, and another shout out to Lesa Wilson, who now carries the torch for Caffe Ibis, a community leader in sustainability that provides environmentally sound and ethically sourced coffee.

I’m Hilary Shughart, President of the Bridgerland Audubon Society, and I am Wild About Utah!

Credits:
Photo: Coffee beans, Courtesy Pixabay, Couleur, Photographer https://pixabay.com/photos/coffee-beans-seed-caffeine-cafe-3392159/
Photo: Black-chinned Hummingbird, Courtesy US FWS, Alan Schmierer, Photographer, https://images.fws.gov/
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright © Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections/kevin-colver
Text: Hilary Shughart, President, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/
Additional Reading: Hilary Shughart and Lyle Bingham, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading

WildAboutUtah pieces by Hilary Shughart, https://wildaboututah.org/author/hilary-shughart/

Birds Supported by Coffee Farms, Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute, https://nationalzoo.si.edu/migratory-birds/birds-supported-coffee-farms

Caffe Ibis Triple-Certified Bird-Friendly Coffees https://www.caffeibis.com/learn/bird-friendly-certified/

Caffe Ibis Coffee Roasting Company
52 Federal Avenue, Logan UT 8432
https://www.caffeibis.com
https://www.caffeibis.com/product-category/all-coffee/?filter_certifications=bird-friendly,fair-trade,organic

Trevino, Julissa, Coffee Growing Can Be Good For Birds, Smithsonian Magazine, Feb 20, 2018, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/coffee-farms-are-good-birds-other-wildlife-study-finds-180968205/

Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center’s Bird Friendly® Coffee Program Protects Migratory Birds and Supports Shade-Grown Coffee Farms, Smithsonian Global, Smithsonian Institution, Jul 15, 2018, https://global.si.edu/success-stories/smithsonian-migratory-bird-center’s-bird-friendly®-coffee-program-protects-migratory

How Are Coffee And Birds Related?, All About Birds, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, April 1, 2009, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/news/how-are-coffee-and-birds-related/

Black-chinned Hummingbird, All About Birds, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Black-chinned_Hummingbird

Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Selasphorus platycercus, Field Guide, National Audubon, https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/broad-tailed-hummingbird

Caffe Ibis Bird-Friendly Coffee List, https://www.caffeibis.com/learn/bird-friendly-certified/
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