Migration

Migration: Redhead Ducks Courtesy US FWS Nate Rathbun, Photographer
Redhead Ducks
Courtesy US FWS
Nate Rathbun, Photographer
Migration has begun, or did it ever end? Even in our little Northern Utah valley its happening. We normally think of migration during the great flocks of birds that pass through during swing months of fall and spring, or the deer and elk coming down for the winter, or swarms of salmon swimming to their death when spawning. But that’s only a small part of the story.

Migration: California Tortoiseshell Butterfly, Nymphalis californica, Courtesy US FWS Salinas River NWS
California Tortoiseshell Butterfly
Nymphalis californica
Courtesy US FWS
Salinas River NWS
A high elevation trek in our Bear River range in July where cloudbursts of lovely California tortoiseshell butterflies surrounded me provided testimony as they worked their way to unknown destinations. With the iconic monarch butterfly populations plummeting, it’s comforting to have other species holding their own- most likely due to their lives being spent in high elevation wild lands, well away from farms and lawns where pesticides and habitat loss present major challenges to monarch survival.

The California tortoiseshell, overwinters as an adult and can sometimes be seen sunning itself in midwinter on mild days. It is generally common in lower canyons in early spring, ovipositing on the young, tender growth of Ceanothus shrubs. The spiny, black-marked-with-yellow larvae feed gregariously, without a web, and in big years can defoliate whole stands of these plants. They often pupate on the bare, leafless stems en masse, the grayish-violet pupae looking like some strange kind of leaf and twitching in unison when disturbed. Adults emerge in late May to early June and almost immediately emigrate, going north and upslope. Breeding localities in summer vary widely from year to year.

In late July they migrate to estivating grounds often in the high country. Estivating tortoiseshells do little but “hang out,” and many high-altitude hikers have described their encounters with millions of them in mystical terms. In late September these butterflies scatter downslope to hibernate–they are the late-winter butterflies of the new year, living 9 or 10 months as adults.

They visit flowers of many kinds, aphid and scale honeydew, damaged fruit, sap–and mud: a mud puddle in a mass migration is a memorable sight, often with hundreds or thousands packed side-by-side on the damp surface.
Close to home the yellow warbler is yet singing- one of the last of our neotropical birds to hang it up. These tiny warblers will soon head south to Central and South America.

Even our native people would migrate to follow the plant and animal populations spending time in high mountains during summer months for camas lily, mountain sheep, and berries, then retreating to low elevations as the winter season approached for milder weather and more available food. And here in Logan we have a swarm of “Summer Citizens” who show up in May to occupy the nests vacated by USU students, who will soon migrate south as our student return.

And I retreat to our canyons for skiing once the snow is on.

This is Jack Greene- and I continue to be Wild About Utah!

Credits:

Images: Courtesy USDA Forest Service, Photographers noted for each image
Text:     Jack Greene

Sources & Additional Reading:

Hellstern, Ron, Autumn Migrations, Wild About Utah, Oct 16, 2017 https://wildaboututah.org/autumn-migrations/

Snake Migration, On the road in Shawnee National Forest, National Geographic Society, https://www.nationalgeographic.org/news/snake-migration/

Elk, Wild Aware Utah, Utah’s Hogle Zoo & Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, http://www.wildawareutah.org/utah-wildlife-information/elk/

Butterflies of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, https://www.fws.gov/uploadedFiles/Region_1/NWRS/Zone_2/Malheur/Sections/What_We_Do/Science/reports/id_butterflies_guide.pdf

Honeybees

Bee Approaching Sunflower Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers, Photographer
Bee Approaching Sunflower
Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers, Photographer
I was a bit surprised when I met a local beekeeper who insisted she’d never eat any honey except that produced by bees in the mountains above Cache Valley. It made sense that the taste of honey would be determined by the flowers where the bees collected nectar and pollen. It turns out the Forest Service issues permits to local beekeepers to put hives around Tony Grove

Wanting to know more, I dropped into the Honeyland store in Cache Valley and was soon mesmerized by the active cut-away hive on display. It was a teacher’s dream come true – hundreds of bees – all diligently on task. Wide-eyed, I watched as a bee flew in at the bottom of the screen through a tunnel under the window looking very much like a bike rider with two full paniers She deposited the full sacks of pollen and then she began to dance. This took me quickly to the internet to learn more.. The bees dance is called a “waggle dance” – a straight line calibrated to communicate how far away the food source is, and a circular return arc to orient the path to the food. The waggle dancing bee can direct her sisters to a food source up to five miles away.
  • It takes 550 worker bees visiting 2 million flowers to make 1 pound of honey.
  • Top speed for a bee is 15 mph.
  • Each honey bee makes one twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.

  • I soon returned to the store’s cut away hive and finally found the queen – a bit tricky as she looks like all the others except she’s one and a half times bigger. I watched as she dipped her tail into one hexagonal cell after another. On a good day a queen will lay 2,000 eggs.

    Busy, busy bees working together to set aside enough honey to feed themselves during the winter.

    The poet Dick Paetzke once called honey “the soul of a field of flowers”

    Mountain honey looks and tastes a little different than honey made by bees pollinating Cache Valley alfalfa. Both are incredibly delicious.
    Aristotle got it right: “Honey is the nectar of the gods.”

    This is Mary Heers and I am Wild About Utah.

    Credits:
    Photos: Courtesy & Copyright © Mary Heers
    Text: Mary Heers

    Sources & Additional Reading

    https://thehoneybeeconservancy.org/

    Burlew, Rusty, Honeybee Suite, https://honeybeesuite.com/

    Honeybee, National Geographic Kids, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/invertebrates/h/honeybee/

    About The Honeybee, American Beekeeping Federation, https://www.abfnet.org/page/71

    Utah Beekeepers Association, http://www.utahbeekeepers.com/

    Moab Bee Inspired Gardens, Utah State University, http://beeinspired.usu.edu/about/

    Monitoring Utah Moose and their Calves

    Monitoring Utah Moose: Shiras Moose Cow in Northern Utah Courtesy & Copyright Sam Robertson
    Shiras Moose Cow in Northern Utah
    Courtesy & Copyright Sam Robertson
    In the early 1900s, moose began expanding south into Utah from Wyoming.
    This moose sub-species was named in honor of [Congressman] George Shiras III who explored Yellowstone in the early 1900’s and found large numbers of moose.

    The Shiras (Shy-ras) moose is the smallest sub-species and occupies the southern-most moose habitat. Specific to the southern Rocky Mountains, the population extends from the bottom of British Columbia, Canada to Colorado.
    For the past 100 years, Utah’s Shiras moose population has fluctuated, peaking at 3,500 in 2005. The number has now stabilized at about 2,700.

    Dan MacNulty, associate professor in the Department of Wildland Resources in the Quinney College of Natural Resource at USU, and his research team, joined with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) to identify what threatens Utah’s moose population, and then work together to ensure the herds remain stable.
    The condition of a moose herd is highly dependent on the health of its adult females, hence, this has been the focus of their research.

    Shiras Moose Cow & Calf Courtesy & Copyright Sam Robertson
    Shiras Moose Cow & Calf
    Courtesy & Copyright Sam Robertson
    In May or June, the females begin having their calves. The calves remain with their mothers for a full year. If the mother is expecting, she’ll chase the yearling off before the new calf arrives.

    Once the yearling has left, the mother begins searching for secluded thicket to have her calf. Usually the thicket is so dense, a hiker walking by would never know the mother and calf are nearby.
    The female moose will stay in the thicket with her calf until its strong enough to walk by her side. Unlike deer, who hide their young while they graze, moose keep their calves in sight.

    Shiras Moose with Moose Ticks Courtesy & Copyright Sam Robertson
    Shiras Moose with Moose Ticks
    Courtesy & Copyright Sam Robertson
    One threat, neither the mothers nor calves can hide from – is the winter tick, also known as the moose tick since moose are its preferred host. Deer and elk are able to keep most ticks rubbed off. The winter tick is not prone to pester humans.

    Sam Robertson, USU graduate student in MacNulty’s lab explains, “They are a one-host tick and will remain on the same animal during all three stages of the tick’s life.”
    In the late summer, the winter tick larvae climb up blades of grass, or other vegetation, and wait for a moose to walk by. When it does, the ticks will jump on, take hold, and stay latched on to the moose for its blood meals and growth until early spring when the tick falls off. By this time, the female moose is at her weakest – likely due to lack of food and tick load.

    Kent Hersey, Big Game Projects Coordinator for DWR, explains, “In April, [after the long winter of using their fat stores] the female moose are usually in their worst possible condition. Hopefully they’ll find enough green vegetation to regain energy to help the calf’s growth in its last trimester, and produce sufficient milk reserves.”
    To monitor females and calves in 2017, GPS collars were fitted on 80 adult females and 26 6-8 month old calves.
    The data from the Wasatch herd indicated that, “The average tick load for adult females who lost their calves within the first couple of days after birth was almost double the average tick load.”
    Monitoring of mother moose and calves will continue through 2018 to see how tick abundance changes from year to year.

    Once the multi-year tick data are gathered and analyzed, the researchers and managers hope to begin searching for management methods to decrease the tick loads on moose – which in turn, will enhance the stability of Utah’s Shiras Moose population.

    This is Shauna Leavitt and I’m Wild About Utah.

    Credits:
    Photos: Courtesy & Copyright Sam Robertson Department of Wildland Resources, Quinney College of Natural Resources, Utah State University
    Text: Shauna Leavitt, USGS Utah Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Quinney College of Natural Resources, Utah State University

    Sources & Additional Reading

    Leavitt, Shauna, Securing Utah’s Moose Population, Wild About Utah, July 10, 2017, https://wildaboututah.org/securing-utahs-moose-population/

    Moose, Alces apces, compiled by Anthony Bell, Vertebrate Zoology Collections Assistant, Utah Museum of Natural History, https://nhmu.utah.edu/sites/default/files/attachments/Alces%20alces.pdf

    Moose entering water, Jeff Rice, Western Soundscape Archive; University of Utah, https://collections.lib.utah.edu/details?id=1117822

    Moose in Utah, Jason Pietrzak, Wild About Utah, Bridgerland Audubon Society/Utah Public Radio, 30 Sept 2008, https://wildaboututah.org/moose-in-utah/

    Moose, Wild Aware Utah, Hogle Zoo & Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, http://www.wildawareutah.org/utah-wildlife-information/moose/

    Utah Moose Statewide Management Program, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, https://wildlife.utah.gov/hunting/biggame/pdf/moose_plan.pdf

    http://www.wildawareutah.org/

    http://wildlife.utah.gov/hardwareranch/comment/HRWMA_management_plan.pdf

    https://wildlife.utah.gov/hunting/biggame/pdf/moose_plan.pdf

    http://utah.ptfs.com/awweb/awarchive?type=file&item=10838

    http://www.researchgate.net/publication/257449101_A_HISTORY_OF_MOOSE_MANAGEMENT_IN_UTAH

    http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/55461427-78/aoude-decline-moose-north.html.csp

    https://wildaboututah.org/moose-in-utah/

    http://www.utah.com/wildlife/northern.htm

    Utah’s Unbelievable Ungulates, Nature’s Call, Fall 1997, Utah Project Wild, Utah Division of Natural Resources, http://wildlife.utah.gov/projectwild/newsletters/97fall-gw.pdf

    Where Do They Go When It Snows?!, Nature’s Call, Winter 1993, Utah Project Wild, Utah Division of Natural Resources, http://wildlife.utah.gov/projectwild/newsletters/93winter-nc.pdf

    Winter Tick, (Moose Tick), Forests, Wildlife and Parks of Quebec, Ministère des Ressources naturelles,
    https://mffp.gouv.qc.ca/english/wildlife/wildlife-habitats/winter-tick.jsp

    Tick Species of Maine – Winter Tick or Moose Tick, UMaine Cooperative Extension: Insect Pests, Ticks and Plant Diseases, University of Maine, https://extension.umaine.edu/ipm/tickid/maine-tick-species/winter-tick-or-moose-tick/

    Attracting Birds and Butterflies to Your Yard

    Attracting Birds, Butterflies and Other Backyard Wildlife National Wildlife Federation 2004 Cover Courtesy and Copyright Creative Homeowner a.k.a Fox Chapel Publishing
    Attracting Birds, Butterflies and Other Backyard Wildlife
    National Wildlife Federation 2004
    Cover Courtesy and Copyright Creative Homeowner a.k.a Fox Chapel Publishing
    As human populations increase, and construction developments overtake agricultural land and wildlife habitat, some people may feel as if there is little hope for local connections to nature. Don’t raise the white flag of surrender. There is much you can do in your own yards to help attract wild songbirds and butterflies.
    The simple answer is to keep things in line with restoring their natural habitat by providing food, water, shelter and places to raise their young.

    The best way to restore, or maintain, a successful and healthy ecosystem is to utilize “native” plants. Natives are basically the plants that would grow in the area naturally. Although some exotic transplants from other locations can be stunning to look at, and may even grow successfully in a new environment, wildlife may not be able to adapt to its use as food or shelter. In fact, those foreign plants may actually spread and push out native plants and prevent songbirds and pollinators from entering your yard. Some of them also carry diseases for which our native plants have no immunity.

    Scientific studies have proven that having a diversity of plant species in an area improves the health of all those plants…..if they are natives to that locale. And healthy plants provide healthy benefits for wildlife and people. Westerners should reconsider the idea of having a monoculture lawn of Kentucky Bluegrass that is so common in the Eastern parts of the U.S.

    What are some factors that determine which native plants will succeed in your area?
    Learn about the elements and nutrients in your soil by using simple soil-test kits which can be purchased at Garden Centers.

    Can you obtain plants that will succeed in natural soils, or will you have to supplement it with chemical fertilizers? Are you willing to deal with the potential effects of additional chemical use?
    Some plants require mostly sunny areas, some shady, and some a combination of both.
    What is the climate like in your locale? Don’t confuse this with weather. Climate is the average condition of a place for twenty years or more.

    What is the normal precipitation pattern? Will you have to supplement that with irrigation? Can you afford that if your area is suffering from drought conditions?
    Make certain that you check the cold-hardiness zone of plants you purchase. Some commercial retail stores will sell whatever they are shipped, often knowing that those plants will never survive in your area.

    For a list of Utah native trees, shrubs, and flowers, research:
    * Utah Native Plant Society at unps.org

    *Utah State University Extension Center for Water-Efficient Landscaping at cwel.usu.edu

    And you can always “Google” Native Plants + Utah.

    * Plantnative.org/rpl-ut.htm

    This is Ron Hellstern, and I am Wild About Utah.
     
    Credits:

    Images: Courtesy & Copyright 2004 NWF.org
    Text: Ron Hellstern, Cache Valley Wildlife Association

    Additional Reading

    D. Mizejewski, Attracting Birds, Butterflies and Other Backyard Wildlife (Reston, VA: National Wildlife Federation/Fox Chapel Publishing, 2004). https://www.amazon.com/National-Wildlife-Federation-Attracting-Butterflies/dp/1580111505/
    Publisher Website: https://foxchapelpublishing.com/national-wildlife-federation-r-attracting-birds-butterflies-backyard-wildlife.html

    Certify Your Wildlife Habitat, National Wildlife Federation, Accessed 20 July 2017, http://www.nwf.org/Home/Garden-For-Wildlife.aspx
    Certify: http://www.nwf.org/Garden-For-Wildlife/Certify.aspx

    Creating Landscapes for Wildlife… A Guide for Backyards in Utah, Written by Sue Nordstrom and Illustrated by Kathlyn Collins Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning, Utah State University with Margy Halpin, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources; Second Printing 2001,
    Updated for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, by Frank Howe, DWR Avian coordinator; Ben Franklin, DWR–Utah Natural Heritage Program botanist; Randy Brudnicki, DWR publications editor; and landscape planning illustrations by Stephanie Duer.,
    Published by:
    State of Utah Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife Resources,
    Utah State University Cooperative Extension Service and
    Utah State University Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning;
    1991 updated 2001 http://digitallibrary.utah.gov/awweb/awarchive?type=file&item=10215