At Home in the Dark

At Home in the Dark: Western Screech Owl Fledgling Courtesy and Copyright Katarzyna Bilicka, Photographer
Western Screech Owl Fledgling
Courtesy & © Katarzyna Bilicka, Photographer
All year I wait for the summer evenings. All year I long for the oddity of ‘warm and dark,’ of trilling owls flickering from treetop to treetop, and for the scent of hot baked earth cooling as on a sill. Summer evenings evoke in me joy in being out of doors, living within the intact Eden which lies just below our own preconceptions, and deepening my appetite for life. Summer evenings, those dark arid cradles of Utah’s providence, have other benefits, too.

It’s in the dark that you can live in the footsteps of local literatos. We can heed the words of Utah’s Ed Abbey, that: “There’s another disadvantage to the use of the flashlight: like many other mechanical gadgets it tends to separate a man from the world around him. If I switch it on my eyes adapt to it and I can see only the small pool of light it makes in front of me; I am isolated. Leaving the flashlight in my pocket where it belongs, I remain a part of the environment I walk through and my vision, though limited, has no sharp or definite boundary.”

It is also in the dark that we can allow our eyes a rest from glowing rectangles, and for the rest of our navigational senses to pick up slack. Our ears listen for how sound meanders in the landscape, detecting the clitter clatter of dogs on the deck, or chickens working their scratch. Our nose picks up the scent of a neighbor’s firepit to the east, and when the wind shifts the humidity from another neighbor’s evening watering to the west.

It is in the dark that we can also learn to see that we share spaces with corpuscularities and nocturalites. Those trilling owls, Western Screech Owls to be exact, who emerge from their deadstand cavities and prowl for rodenta. When one spots a human watching it, it watches back, then dances a shimmy-rumba-polka. I imagine that it’s waiting for us to communicate, too.

The dark also brings the insects galore which fill the nights making good on their pollination out of the heat of the day, playing odds with the primroses and their opening hours, and some finding the blood meal they need from undeeted legs, arms, head, feet, and neck. Friends will tell you when there’s a mosquito on your face. Good friends will smack your face for you.

Lastly, the dark gives us our stars. I often need to remind myself that it isn’t that they are out at night, but that they are just no longer obscured by the light of day. The stars are always there, but in day they are dimmed into the blue sky void, and in our city nights given mute by our love of lights which would make Lycurgus roll over in his simple, unmarked grave. That said, they are still there for us to see as we have for as long as life has existed on this earth, but only if we choose to see them. Long ago, looking up and wondering was our choice, and luckily it still is today.

So as your summer progresses and perhaps you find yourself in need of a sigh of relief from woe, I’d invite you to leave your flashlights, glowing rectangles, and worries inside. Step out of doors at dusk and stay into the evening. Hear the music and laughter of a party down the block. Smell the tapestry of worlds that is held in the wind. Feel the mosquitos live because you live. Choose to look up and see infinity in the stars. Know that the dark is not a scary place to be if you learn to see it for what it is and can be.

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

Images: Image Courtesy & Copyright Katarzyna Bilicka, Photographer, all rights reserved
Audio: Contains audio Courtesy & Copyright Kevin Colver
Text:    Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Stokes Nature Center, https://logannature.org
Included Links: Lyle Bingham, Webmaster, WildAboutUtah.org

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Posts by Patrick Kelly

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

Abbey, Edward. Desert Solitaire. Touchstone (January 15, 1990) http://www.amazon.com/Desert-Solitaire-Edward-Abbey/dp/0671695886

Western Screech Owl, Overview, All About Birds, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Western_Screech-Owl/overview

Western Screech Owl, Utah Birds, http://www.utahbirds.org/birdsofutah/ProfilesS-Z/WesternScreechOwl.htm
Featured Article by Eric Huish: http://www.utahbirds.org/featarts/2004/OwlBox/OwlBox1.htm
Gallery Pictures: http://www.utahbirds.org/birdsofutah/BirdsS-Z/WesternScreechOwl.htm



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, https://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

The Eastern Shore of Bear Lake

Eastern Shore of Bear Lake Courtesy & © Patrick Kelly, Photographer
Eastern Shore of Bear Lake
Courtesy & © Patrick Kelly, Photographer
The Eastern shore of Bear Lake is a quiet place

Far from the hubbub and close to what is good for us

Seldom visited by those who want

And home to all that one needs

As autumn takes its dive towards winter and leaves begin to turn

Be like the Eastern shore of Bear Lake

Be Peaceful

Be Deep

Be…

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

Images: Image Courtesy & Copyright © Patrick Kelly, Photographer
Audio: Contains audio Courtesy & Copyright Patrick Kelly
Text:    Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Stokes Nature Center, https://logannature.org
Included Links: Lyle Bingham, Webmaster, WildAboutUtah.org

Additional Reading

Leavitt, Shauna, Bear Lake Sculpin – Cottus extensus, Wild About Utah, August 28, 2017, Bear Lake Sculpin – Cottus extensus, https://wildaboututah.org/bear-lake-sculpin-cottus-extensus/

Bingham, Lyle, Kervin, Linda(voice), Bonneville Cisco, Wild About Utah, February 11, 2009, Bonneville Cisco, https://wildaboututah.org/bonneville-cisco/

Bear Lake Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau, Bear Lake Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau, https://bearlake.org/

Are Bear Lake’s Ciscos a Joy or Curse?, Angler Guide, http://www.anglerguide.com/articles/112.html

Fishing: Bear Lake history & facts, http://wildlife.utah.gov/fishing/bearlake.html

Endemic Species of Bear Lake, Pugstones Fishing Guides, http://www.fishingbearlake.com/bearlake.html

Prosopium gemmifer, Bonneville cisco, FishBase, http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/SpeciesSummary.php?id=2683

Bonneville cisco, Prosopium gemmifer, http://dwrcdc.nr.utah.gov/rsgis2/Search/Display.asp?FlNm=prosgemm

Utah Sensitive Species List, http://dwrcdc.nr.utah.gov/ucdc/ViewReports/sslist.htm

Bonneville Cisco (Prosopium bemmiferum) from Bear Lake, Utah-Idaho, All Enthusiast, Inc., http://www.aslo.org/photopost/showphoto.php/photo/553/sort/1/cat/all/page/1

Winter Fishing Comes Naturally at Bear Lake, Utah Outdoors, http://www.utahoutdoors.com/pages/bear_lake_winter.htm

Consider Soundscapes

Scoundscape Recording Equipment Courtesy US NPS
Scoundscape Recording Equipment
Courtesy US NPS
Imagine yourself in your favorite place outside. What sounds do you expect to hear? The sound of water rushing over rocks? Crickets chirping? The wind softly blowing through the trees? These are some of the natural sounds you might expect to hear, but it might not always work out that way. Recreation areas are often filled with anthropogenic noises like vehicles, people talking, music playing, machinery, and more.

Checking sound equipment set up near the McKinley Bar Trail, Denali National Park Courtesy US NPS
Checking sound equipment set up near the McKinley Bar Trail, Denali National Park
Courtesy US NPS
Soundscapes, or the acoustic environment, are not often thought of as a natural resource, but are actually an important part of the environment. A common reason people go to nature is for peace and quiet. Quiet is considered a valuable resource. Humans have grown accustomed to a constant background of noise, but it is not always good. Escaping to nature can potentially provide relief from noise pollution, but natural soundscapes are becoming less and less common.

Noise pollution significantly impacts human health. Physical and mental impacts can include hearing disorders, sleep disruption, and even interruptions in the cardiovascular and endocrine systems. Sound is more important than you might realize.

Soundscapes may be important to humans, but they are arguably even more important for wildlife. Many animals depend on hearing for warning them of danger, communicating with other animals, and locating prey. Birds and other animals can hear noises from very far away, and noise interference can disrupt them easily. Behavioral responses may include leaving an area for a brief time or leaving an area for good.

Through evolution, some animals have lost sight, because it was not a necessary trait in some situations. Up to this point, there has been no animal discovered that has lost its hearing through evolution. This illustrates how vital the acoustic environment is to wildlife and ecosystem health.

Barn Owl Courtesy US FWS
Barn Owl Courtesy US FWS
Think of a Barn Owl. Hunting in the dark, they rely on the tiniest rustle to lead them to their prey. Their sense of hearing is fine-tuned and adapted specially for this purpose. One ear hole is slightly higher than the other, which allows them to perceive depth through hearing. Also, one ear hole can hear sounds below them on the ground, and the other can hear the sounds in the air. Just by listening, an owl can locate a mouse far below it on the ground. Noise pollution would make it nearly impossible for owls to hunt.

Owls are just one example of noise pollution negatively effecting wildlife. As soundscapes are disturbed, wildlife will be displaced or even die. Public land managers now have the challenge of managing soundscapes. This is a difficult, but soundscapes are important for humans recreating, wildlife, and whole ecosystems.

As William Shakespeare said, “The earth has music for those who listen.”

This is Aspen Flake and I am Wild About Utah.

Credits:
Photos: Courtesy US NPS ans US FWS
Audio: Courtesy and Copyright Kevin Colver
Text: Aspen Flake

Additional Reading & Listening

http://naturalheroes.org/videos/natures-orchestra/

Bernie Krause, Recording Artist:
https://www.wildsanctuary.com/

Bryan C. Pijanowski, Luis J. Villanueva-Rivera, Sarah L. Dumyahn, Almo Farina, Bernie L. Krause,
Brian M. Napoletano, Stuart H. Gage, and Nadia Pieretti, Soundscape Ecology: The Science
of Sound in the Landscape, BioScience, Volume 61, Issue 3, 1 March 2011, Pages 203–216, https://www.wildsanctuary.com/BioScience2011-SoundscapeEcology.pdf or https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/61/3/203/238162

Wild Soundscapes: Discovering the Voice of the Natural World, Revised Edition Paperback – May 24, 2016
by Bernie Krause (Author),‎ Roger Payne (Foreword) https://www.amazon.com/Wild-Soundscapes-Discovering-Natural-Revised/dp/0300218192

Voices of the Wild: Animal Songs, Human Din, and the Call to Save Natural Soundscapes (The Future Series) Hardcover – August 25, 2015
by Bernie Krause (Author) https://www.amazon.com/Voices-Wild-Animal-Natural-Soundscapes/dp/0300206313

The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World’s Wild Places Paperback – March 12, 2013
by Bernie Krause (Author) https://www.amazon.com/Great-Animal-Orchestra-Finding-Origins/dp/031608686X/

Kevin Colver, Recording Artist:

Know Your Bird Sounds: Common Western Species (with audio CD) (The Lang Elliott Audio Library) Paperback – January 10, 2008
by Lang Elliott (Author),‎ Kevin Colver (Contributor) https://www.amazon.com/Know-Your-Bird-Sounds-Western/dp/0811734463/

Songbirds of Yellowstone and the High Rockies Audio CD – January 1, 1996
by Kevin J. Colver (Author) https://www.amazon.com/Songbirds-Yellowstone-Rockies-Kevin-Colver/dp/1929797079/ or https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/all-albums/products/songbirds-of-yellowstone-and-the-high-rockies

Songbirds of the Southwest Canyon Country Audio CD – January 1, 1994
by Kevin J. Colver (Author) https://www.amazon.com/Songbirds-Southwest-Canyon-Country-Colver/dp/1929797036/ or https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/products/songbirds-of-the-southwest-canyon-country

Songbirds of the Rocky Mountain Foothills Audio CD – January 1, 1994
by Kevin J. Colver (Author) https://www.amazon.com/Songbirds-Rocky-Mountain-Foothills-Colver/dp/192979701X/ or https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/products/songbirds-of-the-rocky-mountain-foothills

Songbirds of Yosemite and the Sierra Nevadas by Kevin J. Colver (Author) https://www.amazon.com/Songbirds-Yosemite-Sierra-Nevadas-Colver/dp/B00004T1L2/, or
https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/products/songbirds-of-yosemite-and-the-sierra-nevadas

Frogs and Toads, Kevin J Colver, August 16, 2011 https://www.amazon.com/Frogs-Toads-Kevin-J-Colver/dp/B005I0C4ZQ/

https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/products/katmai-wilderness
https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/products/saguaro-sunrise
https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/products/voice-of-the-arctic-refuge
https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/products/starvation-creek-utah

Jeff Rice, Recording Artist:
Dobner, Jennifer, LISTENING TO THE NATURAL WEST
The U’s Western Soundscape Archive captures the animal and ambient music of the wild., CONTINUUM
THE MAGAZINE OF THE UNIVERSITY OF UTAH, Summer 2014, https://continuum.utah.edu/web-exclusives/listening-to-the-natural-west/

Vanderbilt, Tom, You Need to Hear This, Recording engineer Jeff Rice is on a mission to preserve the sounds of nature. Why? Listening to them might actually make us healthier., OutsideOnline.com, 20 Oct 2011, https://www.outsideonline.com/1887466/you-need-hear

https://www.nps.gov/subjects/sound/index.htm

A Symphony of Sounds, US National Park Service (US NPS), https://www.nps.gov/articles/denali-understanding-managing-soundscapes.htm