Reinhard Jockel, Naturalist

Reinhard Jockel at the Wellsville HawkWatch Site Overlooking Box Elder County Sept 25, 1999. Image from Reinhard Jockel
Reinhard Jockel at the Wellsville HawkWatch Site Overlooking Box Elder County Sept 25, 1999.
Image from Reinhard Jockel
Naturalists are fading. They have been replaced by specialists-botanists, ornithologists, entomologists, geologists, or one of many other natural resource specialists. I consider myself a naturalist, or generalist. I have high interest in all of these disciplines, but do not consider myself an expert on any of them.

I’ve met a handful of other naturalists in Utah, but they are an endangered species. A few weeks ago we lost one here in Cache Valley. Reinhard Jockel was our version of John Muir. He came from Germany in the 1950s as a teenager for better educational opportunities.

I first met Reinhard in the late 1980s. Living in a tiny second story apartment, he chose a bike and boots as his only mode of transportation. With a long beard, thick German accent, and antiquated outdoor equipment including a wooden hiking staff, Reinhard became a local legend. Many birders and botanists befriended him for his local knowledge, which he was very willing to share and was awarded the Bridgerland Audubon educator award in 2012. Another contribution came from the detailed, meticulous records he kept on blooming dates for many wildflowers and migratory birds, a treasure trove of data on life’s response to our a changing climate.

Reinhard’s passion for nature’s offerings knew no boundaries. Although he only lacked a few credits to attain a PhD in botany, Reinhard abandoned his studies at UC Berkley and headed back to Cache Valley Utah to resume his independent field studies in our valley and mountains. I was one of the benefactors.

As a backcountry Ranger in the Naomi and Wellsville Wilderness, Reinhard often joined me for a free ride to his beloved mountains. I welcomed him knowing he would add to my knowledge base on all wildlife and plants we encountered- birds, butterflies, wildflowers, tiger salamanders, leopard frogs- whatever might cross our paths. In our years together, we kept track of the dwindling populations of pica and amphibians, goshawks, and a few other species of special concern.

Occasionally we would happen onto a rarity that made Reinhard dance with delight. Following a long, rigorous hike into the high country of Naomi wilderness, we found ourselves at the base of Mt. Elmer cliffs. “An Alp lily”! His excitement couldn’t be contained. This beauty is circumpolar found in high latitudes and altitudes around the globe. It reminded him of his homeland alpine heights.

Another discovery came on our hike into Whitepine Lake above Tony Grove. Reinhard was ecstatic to discovered a Whipple’s penstemon growing along the trail, a delicious surprise! Others came- orchids, gentians, new butterfly and bird species expanded my list.

Two weeks ago, Reinhard became part of his beloved earth in the Logan cemetery. He has good company with 58 species of birds recorded within its confines. The Bridgerland Audubon has planned a Reinhard memorial bird outing 9 am on February 5th beginning at his grave. See more detail on our website.

This is Jack Greene for Bridgerland Audubon Society, and I am totally Wild about Utah!

Pictures: From Reinhard Jockel
Audio: Courtesy & Copyright Kevin Colver,
Text: Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon,
Additional Reading: Lyle W Bingham, Webmaster, and Jack Greene, Author, Bridgerland Audubon,

Additional Reading:

Jack Greene’s Postings on Wild About Utah,

Reihard Jockel was the recipient of the 2014 Carl Johnson Education Award from Bridgerland Audubon Society,

Reihard Jockel was a member of the 200 club maintained by the Bridgerland Audubon Society, The 200 club recognizes those who have recorded seeing 200 bird species in one calendar year within the county borders.

Click to view pdf of Reinhard’s Obituary as found on

McCollum, Charles, Legendary local naturalist Reinhard Jockel dies at 80, HJNews, December 22, 2021,

Reinhard Memorial Birding Field Trip, Feb 5, 2022, Meet Saturday, Feb 5, 9 am at the “Weeping Woman” statue near the center of the Logan Cemetery,


Fireweed: Gambel Oak Quercus gambelii Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Gambel Oak
Quercus gambelii
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Fireweed Epilobium angustifolium Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer Fireweed
Epilobium angustifolium
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Today snow blankets Utah’s forest floors, yet just a few months ago wildfire management teams were battling blazes across the state. With over 1,000 wildfires burning an estimated 63,000 acres in Utah in 2021, it was not difficult to find one. As I observed plumes of the Bennion Creek fire from a safe, comfortably cool spot atop Manti-LaSal’s Skyline Drive last June, Disney’s Bambi wildfire came to mind. Wildlife no doubt scurried while humans raced against windy conditions, hoping to contain as others evacuated, all bracing for inevitable short-term as well as long-term impacts. Smokey the Bear campaigns have called for prevention and suppression since the 1940s, and reports showed that human-caused wildfires were fewer in 2021 than previous years, yet nature itself is still sometimes to blame.

Yesterday as I visited with a close friend grieving her daughter’s recent and abrupt passing, we reflected on a summertime adventure we shared through an alpine burn scar, blackened, silent, and desolate. We wandered again through our memory of acres and acres of torched forest. Regally standing amid the charred stumps and nothing else, though, were thousands of beautifully bright pink-purple flower colonies. William Shakespeare’s poetic
“Here enclos’d, in cinders lie.
Death is now the Phoenix’ nest,”
describes this hardy plant named fireweed, not for any fiery red-orange blossoms but for being a colonizer of recently-scorched landscapes. Long before grasses, Gambel oak, and Lodgepole cone sprouts start to emerge out of the ashes, flashy fireweed will grow to sometimes nine feet tall. The flowers bloom from bottom up, and when the top flower bud blooms, winter might be just six weeks away. Also called willowherb, fireweed seed heads are long pods filled with silky feather tufts that unfold to carry tens of thousands of seeds on the wind, signaling the end of the season. As time passes, other plants will take over as successive vegetation cycles do, but once you’ve seen majestic fireweed thrive in an annihilated forest, you never forget it. Wildlife loves fireweed just as much as I do. Deer, elk, moose, and even grizzly bear along with all sorts of pollinators are attracted to her deliciously vibrant color.

January is a quiet reprieve from summer blazes, a time when renewal and rebirth is our focus. Right now forest phoenix fireweed seeds are just awaiting the thaw, eager to bring solitary but stately vitality to otherwise dismal gloom. Out of something devastating comes a little bit of lovely. After World War II bombings, fireweed bloomed in the heart of London for the first time in decades. I imagine my friend’s Crystal and fireweed would agree: Why be a princess among others when you can be the queen?

I’m Shannon Rhodes, and I am Wild About Utah.


Images: Courtesy & Copyright © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Audio: Courtesy & © Friend Weller,
Text:     Shannon Rhodes, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, Utah State University
Additional Reading Links: Courtesy Shannon Rhodes

Additional Reading:

Ballard, Heidi L., Emily Evans, Victoria E. Sturtevant, and Pamela Jakes (2012). The Evolution of Smokey Bear: Environmental Education About Wildfire for Youth, The Journal of Environmental Education, 43:4, 227-240, DOI: 10.1080/00958964.2011.644352,

Boling, Josh. Fire. Wild About Utah, August 13, 2018,

Capdeville, Sarah. Fireweed: A Colorful Reminder of Change. (2015).

Collard, Sneed B. Fire Birds: Valuing Natural Wildfires and Burned Forests. (2015). Bucking Horse Books.

Green, Jack. Holy Smokes! (2021).

Mullen, Luba. How Trees Survive and Thrive After a Fire. (2017).

Olsen, Shawn and Debbie Amundsen. Gambel Oak in the Landscape. (2021). USU Extension.

Peery, Lexi. Utah Saw a Decrease in Human-caused Wildfires. November 2, 2021.

Shakespeare, William. The Phoenix and the Turtle. (1601).

U.S. Department of Agriculture. Fireweed. (2016).

Vizgirdas, Edna. U.S. Forest Service Plant of the Week: Fireweed.

Wells, Kathryn and Timothy J. Haney. D is for Disaster. (2017). Volume: 16 issue: 2, page(s): 62-64. (2017).

Wild About Utah Posts by Shannon Rhodes

Beaver Tail Strike

Beaver Tail Strike: Beaver swimming Courtesy NPS,  J Schmidt, Photographer
Beaver swimming
Courtesy NPS,
J Schmidt, Photographer
When I first saw a beaver in Cache Valley I thought I’d seen an alligator. I was sitting in the front of a canoe when a large head shot past the bow followed by a black tail that flew into the air and came down on the water with a resounding slap

“What was that?” I asked
“I don’t know,” my friend answered
“I think it was an alligator,” I said
By then then creature had disappeared and we paddled on.

I found out later that tail slapping is a common beaver behavior. Its a warning shot before the beaver dives for cover.

Intrigued, I set out to learn more. It came as a surprise to me to find out that when a beaver builds a dam, it is actually building a home. Inside a sturdy wall of sticks, rocks and mud, the beavers build a living space above the water line. It’s dry – and its safe because it can only be entered by swimming through underwater tunnels. Not a problem for a beaver who can swim underwater for as long as 15 minutes.

When the surface of the pond freezes over, the females will give birth. Its an extended family life – an adult pair, the yearlings, and the new kits. When winter is long, and with so many mouths to feed, the beavers have perfected their food storage. Hauling their favorite food, aspen , back to the lodge, they jam it into the muddy bottom of the pond. There is stays, fresh and crisp like any refrigerated food, until its needed.

When fur trappers arrived in Northern Utah in the 1800’s, European hat makers had discovered that felted beaver wool made the very best hats. Bear Lake became a hot spot. The historical marker just north of Garden City tells us,

“Donald MacKenzie, Jim Bridger, and a host of famous beaver hunters operated here. Two major summer frolics and trade fairs brought plenty of excitement to Bear Lake in 1827 and 1828.”

Trappers were harvesting up to 500 lbs a year. But by 1840, the beavers had become almost extinct. European fashion in hats moved on to silk – a good thing for the hat makers as well because the mercury used in the felting of beaver wool caused all kinds of neurological disorders. Its no joke the Hatter in Alice in Wonderland is mad.

Back in northern Utah, the beaver population slowly rebuilt, but the human population also grew and conflicts arose. Recently a farmer in Benson became irate when beavers began to redirect the flow of water through his irrigation canals

Beaver Health Exam Courtesy & © Mary Heers, Becky Yeager, Photographer
Beaver Health Exam
Courtesy & © Mary Heers, Becky Yeager, Photographer
It’s the job of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to live trap and relocate these beavers. I was lucky to be allowed into the loop at this point.

When I picked up one of the smaller beavers, I could feel its heart going a mile a minute under my fingers. But it settled down as I sat in a chair holding it against my chest while it got a quick physical checkup.

Holding the beaver close, I had a good look at the nibble fingers on its front feet, the webbing on its back feet that can paddle along at 6mph, and the marvelous flat tail, a good rudder for swimming, a prop for standing on land, and perfect for slapping the water’s surface.

Take my word for it, once you’ve seen this slap up close, you won’t forget it.

I’m Mary Heers and I’m Wild About Utah.

Photos: Courtesy US NPS, Yellowstone Collection, J. Schmidt, Photographer
Photos: Courtesy & Copyright © Mary Heers
Featured Audio: Courtesy Friend Weller, Utah Public Radio
Text & Voice: Mary Heers
Additional Reading: Lyle Bingham, Webmaster

Additional Reading

Leavitt, Shauna, Beaver in Utah’s Desert Rivers, Wild About Utah, July 6, 2020,

Leavitt, Shauna, Proposed Beaver Holding Facility in Millville, Utah, Wild About Utah, September 3, 2018,

Goodwin, Jim, Riparian Zones and a Critter Quiz, Wild About Utah, January 22, 2015, June 15, 2015,

Strand, Holly, Beavers: The Original Army Corps of Engineers, Wild About Utah, April 29, 20-10, August 16, 2012,

Kervin, Linda, Huddling for Warmth, Wild About Utah, February 3, 2011,

Beaver Monitoring App, Utah Water Watch, Extension, Utah State University,

Pollock, M.M., G.M. Lewallen, K. Woodruff, C.E. Jordan and J.M. Castro (Editors) 2018. The Beaver Restoration Guidebook: Working with Beaver to Restore Streams, Wetlands, and Floodplains. Version 2.01. United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Portland, Oregon. 189 pp. Online at:

Macfarlane W.W., Wheaton J.M., and M.L. Jensen. 2014. The Utah Beaver Restoration Assessment Tool: A Decision Support and Planning Tool. Ecogeomorphology and Topographic Analysis Lab, Utah State University, Prepared for Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Logan, Utah, 135 pp. Available at:

Wheaton JM. 2013. Scoping Study and Recommendations for an Adaptive Beaver Management Plan. Prepared for Park City
Municipal Corporation. Logan, Utah, 30 pp.

Beaver Reintroduction Looks Positive for Stream Restoration
in Northern Utah, Utah Forest News, USU Forestry Extension, Utah State University, Volume 18, Number 3, 2014,

Muffoletto, Mary-Ann, Dam Good! Beavers May Restore Imperiled Streams, Fish Populations, Today, Utah State University, July 07, 2016,

Restoring Degraded Waters, One Pest at a Time, Utah State Magazine, Utah State University, December 7, 2021,

It’s Christmas Bird Count Time! Hallelujah!

It’s Christmas Bird Count Time! Hallelujah! Male House Finch, Carpodacus mexicanus, Courtesy US FWS, Gary Kramer, Photographer
Male House Finch
Carpodacus mexicanus
Courtesy US FWS, Gary Kramer, Photographer

Cassin's Finch, Carpodacus cassinii Courtesy US FWS, Dave Menke, Photographer Cassin’s Finch
Carpodacus cassinii
Courtesy US FWS, Dave Menke, Photographer

Pine Siskin, Carduelis pinus Courtesy US FWS, Dave Menke, Photographer Pine Siskin
Carduelis pinus
Courtesy US FWS, Dave Menke, Photographer

The Audubon Christmas Bird Count is the nation’s longest-running community science project and it fuels international research throughout the year. Seasoned birders and beginners alike spend a day counting our local populations of bird species. Those just starting to notice birds can be valuable spotters in the mobile sectors, and can easily learn to observe the subtle differences between similar species we’re likely to notice when looking out the window from home for a few minutes.

The Bridgerland Audubon Society launched the Cache Christmas Bird Count watch circle in 1955, contributing to a tradition launched in 1900 by ornithologist Frank M.
Chapman who out of concern for dwindling bird populations managed to change the culture from annual Christmas bird shooting contests into bird counting contests. Bridgerland Audubon always schedules on the first Saturday on or following December 14th, and typically documents about 100 species of birds.

The Cache Valley watch circle is divided into eleven sectors and includes all homes within a 7.5 mile radius from the center of the circle which is located at Main Street & Hyde Park Lane (Hwy 91 & 3600 N). The same 15-mile diameter watch circle is surveyed each December – that’s about 177 square miles, and we can use all the help we can get, especially from folks watching from home. Don’t worry if you can’t identify all of the birds you see – you will just report the ones you do recognize. You can also get help by posting photos to the Bridgerland Audubon Facebook group.

The Home Sector provides a lot of extra data on about 32 species, the most common of which are available on a one page photo-illustrated checklist on the Bridgerland Audubon website where you will also find links to the free Merlin App which identifies birds by their songs. The Visitors Bureau has a nice selection of Utah Bird field guides which are great for beginners.

Bird identification is all about learning to notice the little differences in size, coloration patterns, shape of the beak, the crown of the head, and the end of the tail. For example a House Finch and a Cassin’s Finch may look the same at first glance, but the House Finch has streaks on the side of the body, a rounded tail tip, and the red over the eyes is more like a headband than a top hat. The Cassin’s Finch has a notched tail and lacks those streaks on the breast and and sides. The Pine Siskin looks like a tiny House Finch but it has a hint of yellow on its wings and the beak is small and pointed. Don’t forget that zero is a number! If you’re lucky you might even get creative inspiration as did one participant who didn’t see any birds but did write a poem which they asked be attributed to anonymous:

Christmas Count Lament:
I watched and watched all day,
not one bird did come my way.
Though snow gave way to sun,
still, not a single one.

No delicate song,
no fluttering wing;
no pecking or scratching
-no anything.

How less dimensional
the world would be,
if there were no bird song to hear
or fluttering to see.
– By Anonymous

Visit to find a Christmas Bird Count near you, and visit to join the local count on Saturday, December 18th, 2021. Preregistration is free but required. We will be observing COVID safety guidelines.

I’m Hilary Shughart with Bridgerland Audubon and I am Wild About Utah!

Photo: House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus), Courtesy US FWS, Kramer, Gary, Photographer,
Photo: Cassin’s Finch (Carpodacus cassinii), Courtesy US FWS, Menke, Dave, Photographer,
Photo: Pine Siskin (Carduelis pinus), Courtesy US FWS, Menke, Dave, Photographer,
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright © Kevin Colver,
Text & Voice: Hilary Shughart, President,
Additional Reading: Hilary Shughart,

Additional Reading

Bridgerland Audubon CBC Toolkit,

National Audubon Data: Annual Summaries of the Christmas Bird Count, 1901-Present,

General Tips for Bird Identification:
Mayntz, Melissa, Jizz Definition – Bird Identification, Learn to Identify Birds by Jizz, Updated on 08/04/21

Tips from eBird on How to count large flocks of birds: “Big numbers of Moving Birds. Their are two ways to count large flocks of moving birds: either by blocking off a group of individuals, counting them, and then extrapolating to the whole of the flock; or by counting birds per unit of time.”

The annual plumage cycle of a male American Goldfinch – Sibley Guides

L.A.F., Illustrator, Dark Eyed Junco,, Copyright 2008-2021, Junco Coloring Page

Utah-Centric Books & Field Guides:
Tekiela, Stan, Birds of Utah Field Guide, Adventure Publications, Apr 21, 2003,

Fenimore, Bill, Backyard Birds of Utah: How to Identify and Attract the Top 25 Birds, Gibbs Smith, March 27, 2008,

Kavanagh, James, Utah Birds: A Folding Pocket Guide to Familiar Species (Wildlife and
Nature Identification) Pamphlet, Waterford Press, September 1, 2017,