BirdCast Dashboard Shows
Peak Need for Dark Skies
and the Mantra to
Dim the Lights for Birds at Night

Milky Way above Chesler Park Canyonlands National Park Courtesy US National Park Service, Emily Ogden, Photographer

Milky Way above Chesler Park
Canyonlands National Park
Courtesy US National Park Service,
Emily Ogden, Photographer
Canyonlands is one of many parks in southern Utah with the International Dark Sky Park designation

 
BirdCast Migration Dashboard https://dashboard.birdcast.info/ Courtesy BirdCast, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology Cornell University

BirdCast Migration Dashboard
https://dashboard.birdcast.info/
Courtesy BirdCast, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Cornell University

Songbirds migrate at night to avoid predators, air turbulence, and daytime heat. Down here on the ground we are unaware of the miraculous and essential voyagers flying up to 10,000 feet above us, but thanks to dedicated scientists collaborating for years on end we have free access to the data and graphs of these massive population shifts. The BirdCast Dashboard uses weather radar to track bird migrations, providing real time data showing peak migrations at the website dashboard.birdcast.info.

Did you know that World Migratory Bird Day is celebrated in May and October? Those are the peak months for spring and fall migrations, and the magnitudes of those flocks are considerable. Two thirds of songbirds migrate at night, and on the evening of Sunday, May 15, 2022, one million one hundred and fifty one thousand five hundred (1,151,500) birds crossed Cache County, Utah! Yes, 1,151,500 birds crossed Cache County, Utah, in one night!

It’s important to know when migrations are occurring because skyglow from artificial lighting causes bird disorientation and millions of bird fatalities each and every year. The declining bird population is problematic for many reasons, not least of which because some of the most intrepid travelers like the three-inch-long Rufous Hummingbird, which travels 3,900 miles each way from Alaska to Mexico, are keystone species with ecosystem services such as pollination and consumption of pests such as aphids and mosquitoes.

The Bobolink travels 12,500 miles to and from southern South America every year – those imperiled birds breeding at the west end of Logan may travel the equivalent of 4 or 5 times around the circumference of the earth throughout their lifetime. They come to Cache Valley for the habitat, stay to raise their young, and then head back to their distant winter feeding grounds.

A few top-notch steps toward bird-friendly living include the prevention of light trespass and skyglow, especially from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., March – May, and August – October. Close curtains to prevent the indoor light from escaping, and avoid blue light outdoors – choose warm white or amber lights, and shield light bulbs to direct light downward. Motion-activated light bulbs are a great way to safely light the way while cutting down on unnecessary outdoor lighting, especially since there’s no clear scientific evidence that outdoor lighting reduces crime. Excess light, on the other hand, is a crime, and light trespass is an enforceable infraction. Light pollution is harmful to humans and deadly for birds.

Logan Mayor Holly Daines signed a Proclamation to Dim the Lights for Birds at Night because reducing skyglow and light trespass saves energy and birds by reducing the often fatal disorientation caused by artificial light.

Dark Skies are filled with bright stars, so by jingles, what say we all “Dim the lights for birds at night!

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

Credits:
Images: Milky Way above Chesler Park, Canyonlands National Park, Courtesy US National Park Service, Emily Ogden, Photographer, https://www.nps.gov/media/photo/gallery-item.htm?id=286169fc-2bab-40e0-bf8b-a13b5170aeb3&gid=2ADECB87-1DD8-B71B-0B09BD0B18C96667
Screenshot: BirdCast Migration Dashboard, Courtesy BirdCast, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, https://dashboard.birdcast.info/
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/

Miller, Zach, Dark Sky Parks, Wild About Utah, Nov 2, 2020, https://wildaboututah.org/dark-sky-parks/

Leavitt, Shauna, Natural Quiet and Darkness in our National Parks, Wild About Utah, May 6, 2019 & August 3, 2020, https://wildaboututah.org/natural-quiet-and-darkness-in-our-national-parks/

Rask, Kajler, Dark Skies, Wild About Utah, Jan 1, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/dark-skies/

Dark Skies, Bird-Friendly Living, Advocacy, Bridgerland Audubon Society, May 2022, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/our-projects/advocacy/bird-friendly-living/dark-skies/

Dim the Lights for Birds at Night, Bridgerland Audubon Society, May 3, 2022, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/our-projects/advocacy/bird-friendly-living/dark-skies/

International Dark Skies Association, Utah Chapter, https://utah.darksky.ngo/

Welzbacker, Hannah, Tracking a Night-Time River of Birds, Cool Green Science, The Nature Conservancy, April 13, 2021, https://blog.nature.org/science/2021/04/13/tracking-a-night-time-river-of-birds/?fbclid=IwAR18LKCQUmSlb-hHM1u4FXfVe-GqyWTwiPx91obUQbq2uB9kcPU2djlCnlk

BirdCast Dashboard, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, https://dashboard.birdcast.info/

Global Bird Collision Mapper, Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) Canada, https://birdmapper.org/app/

Lowe, Joe, Do Hummingbirds Migrate?, American Bird Conservancy, September 12, 2019, https://abcbirds.org/blog/do-hummingbirds-migrate/

Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus), “Bobolink is one of the few grassland-dependent species of concern that breed in Utah”, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, April 20, 2020, https://wildlife.utah.gov/pdf/sensitive_species/birds_bobolink_2020.pdf

Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus), All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Bobolink

Lighting, Crime and Safety, International Dark-Sky Association, https://www.darksky.org/light-pollution/lighting-crime-and-safety/#:~:text=There%20is%20no%20clear%20scientific,cost%20a%20lot%20of%20money

2022 Proclamation “Dim the Lights for Birds at Night”, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/dim-the-lights-for-birds-at-night/

The use of the “by jingles” exclamation is in homage to Warren Dahlin’s moving Moth Radio Hour story “Open My Eyes”, in which he “makes a friend who stays with him in life and in death.” Heard on Utah Public Radio (5/28/22), The Moth, https://themoth.org/radio-hour/squeaky-wheels-1

See Fireflies at Nibley Firefly Park

Nibley Firefly Park: Luci the Firefly from  The Mystery of Luci’s Missing Lantern by Melissa Marsted and illustrated by Liesl Cannon Courtesy & © Liesl Cannon, Illustrator
Luci the Firefly from
The Mystery of Luci’s Missing Lantern by Melissa Marsted, illust. by Liesl Cannon
Courtesy & © Liesl Cannon, Illustrator

Author Melissa Marsted and Illustrator Liesl Cannon at the Stokes Nature Center Book Signing Courtesy & © Mary Heers Author Melissa Marsted and Illustrator Liesl Cannon at the Stokes Nature Center Book Signing
Courtesy & © Mary Heers

Just imagine waking from a very long sleep into a bright May morning in Cache Valley. This is the story of Luci, a western firefly, told charmingly by Melissa Marsted and illustrated by Liesl Cannon in their new children’s book, The Mystery of Luci’s Missing Lantern. After completing her transition from a larva to an adult firefly, Luci notices she has no light. She flies up Logan Canyon looking for her missing lantern, where the animals she meets encourage her to keep looking. But its a bluebird on top of Mt. Naomi, the highest point in the canyon, who turns Luci around and sends her back to where she was born, the Nibley Firefly Park.

There Luci finds her light. She sits down near the top of a tall blade of grass, and suddenly males fly by, flashing their lights, trying to get her attention. Luci discovers she can flash back. It’s a party – a big courtship dance.

You can see the story unfold if you visit the Nibley Firefly Park after dark. But please tread carefully. For fireflies, this is their Grand Finale. It has taken two years for them to grow from larvae to flying adults. Now they are choosing a mate. By July they will have laid their eggs in the nearby marshy ground and their life cycle will come to an end.

Any artificial light brought to the scene (such as flashlights and car headlights) seriously disrupts the courtship flashing. If you visit the Nibley Firefly Park this summer, please keep your light to the barest minimum, and – enjoy the party.

This is Mary Heers and I’m Wild About Utah

Nibley’s Firefly Park is located at 2400 South 1000 West.
Typically fireflies are active at about 10:00 pm.

Credits:
Images: Courtesy & Copyright © Mary Heers
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright
Text: Mary Heers, https://cca.usu.edu/files/awards/art-and-mary-heers-citation.pdf
Additional Reading: Lyle Bingham, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading

Western Firefly Project: A Community Science Initiative, Natural History Museum of Utah, https://nhmu.utah.edu/citizen-science/fireflies

Wild About Utah, Mary Heers’ Postings

Bills, Christy, Utah Fireflies, Wild About Utah,Sept 7, 2020, https://wildaboututah.org/utah_fireflies/ AND
Bills, Christy, Fireflies, Wild About Utah, May 15, 2019, https://wildaboututah.org/fireflies/

Hellstern, Ron, June Fireflies, Wild About Utah, June 19, 2017, https://wildaboututah.org/june-fireflies/

Strand, Holly, Firefly light, Wild About Utah, June 20, 2013, https://wildaboututah.org/firefly-light/

Marstad, Melissa C, Author, & Cannon, Liesl, Illustrator, The Mystery of Luci’s Missing Lantern, Lucky Penny Publications, LLC, Mar 16, 2021, https://www.amazon.com/Mystery-Lucis-Missing-Lantern/dp/1945243805

Guided Firefly Walks, May 30th-June 4th; 9:15-10:30 pm nightly, Stokes Nature Center, https://logannature.org/centerevents/2022/5/30/guided-firefly-walks

Firefly Viewing at Nibley’s Firefly Park, Nibley City, http://nibleycity.com/index.php/departments/parks-recreation/489-firefly-park

Thistles, Knapweeds, and Weevils

Pollinators Attracted to Thistle Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Pollinators Attracted to Thistle
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Musk Thistle Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer Musk Thistle
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

A Child's Spotted Knapweed Nature Journal Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer A Child’s Spotted Knapweed Nature Journal
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

My mother’s mother loved the wonder of the natural world, from eye-catching minerals to how lightning drags thunder behind it like a garden cart. Grandma Eda asked that thistle be a prominent flower at her funeral. I’ve always been struck by how she saw past the prickly spikes to find beauty in the flower I know as a weed, certainly a metaphor for how she saw her life.

Butterflies, bees, and beetles love thistle. Hummingbirds, and other birds, especially goldfinches, do as well. There’s even a story of an explorer named Truman Everts who in 1870 survived on elk thistle root for more than a month as he wandered lost in what would become Yellowstone National Park a few years later.

Not everyone, however, sees thistles and their knapweed lookalikes of the Aster family the same affectionate way. Wildlife and livestock find most unpalatable, and they certainly can be a spiny nuisance as one moves past them in the field. There are some native thistles, but the Utah Noxious Weed Act code 4-17 designates Canada thistle, musk thistle, nodding thistle, plumeless thistle, and Scotch thistle, as well as spotted knapweed and other knapweeds as either species to be controlled or contained to halt their spread. These invasive non-native weeds prolifically reproduce and aggressively crowd out native plants.

Fortunately, there is hope in the noxious weed battle beyond herbicides and handpicking. A creative partnership of Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources, Weed Supervisors Association, and Cache County Weed Department have been working with Edith Bowen Laboratory School students at Hardware Ranch Wildlife Management Area for several years. They use weevils to eradicate the noxious weeds from the tons of hay grown in the meadow and surrounding areas that is then used to feed the elk each winter. This program called Kids in Action: Going Wild With Science engages children and adult scientists and other professionals as they gather data and do service learning with native and non-native plants and insects for the benefit of the elk and the greater community.

As a partnering educator, I have assisted fourth grade students as they sample sites in the meadow and along nearby Curtis Creek with these partnering adults, gathering data on the prevalence and health of Canada thistle as a way to determine the effectiveness of a biocontrol species, the Hadroplontus litura, that have been released in the area previous years. This stem-boring weevil literally bores into the stem of the Canada thistle plants and eats the inner tissue, killing the plants and leaving behind insect larva excrement called frass. They have done similar projects targeting spotted knapweed, and it is the best kind of citizen science where students are able to see results as they learn, even if Grandma would scold me for meddling with her beloved wild purple Mother’s Day bouquets.

For Wild About Utah, I’m Shannon Rhodes.

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

Additional Reading:

Anderson, Mike. Cache Valley Students Get Work as Biologists for a Day at Hardware Ranch. Sept. 1, 2016. KSL News. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TkZaHNTMxOU

Bengston, Anna. Trouble with Tumbleweeds. May 9, 2014. https://wildaboututah.org/trouble-with-tumbleweeds/

Dzurisin, Dan. What’s in a Name? The Misadventures of Truman Everts. 2019. https://www.usgs.gov/news/whats-name-misadventures-truman-everts

Eckberg, James et al. Native Thistles: A Conservation Practitioner’s Guide. 2017. https://xerces.org/sites/default/files/2018-05/16-029_01_XercesSoc_Native-Thistles-Conservation-Guide_web.pdf

Green, Jack. Pioneer Day Edible Native Plants. July 13, 2015. https://wildaboututah.org/pioneer-day-edible-native-plants/

Hellstern, Ron. Invasive Species. Sept. 24, 2018. https://wildaboututah.org/invasive-species/

Hoopes, Carla. Kids in Action for Biological Control. January 2021. https://bugwoodcloud.org/bugwoodwiki/archive/20210216140118!KIA_Initiative_Who_We_Are.pdf and https://bugwoodcloud.org/bugwoodwiki/EBLS_2020_Report.pdf

Lowry, Brenda Jarvis et al. Noxious Weed Field Guide for Utah. Utah State University Extension. 2017. https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2351&context=extension_curall

Mendenhall, Amber. Hardware Ranch Student Biocontrol Program. 2020. https://utahweedsupervisors.com/hardware-ranch-student-biocontrol-program/

Mendenhall, Morgan. Common Weeds of Utah Forests. https://forestry.usu.edu/files/utah-forest-facts/common-weeds-of-utah-forests.pdf

Utah Department of Agriculture. Utah Noxious Weeds. 2020. https://www.invasive.org/species/list.cfm?id=33 https://www.invasive.org/species/list.cfm?id=33

Winston, Rachel et al. Biology and Biological Control of Exotic True Thistles. U.S. Forest Service Forest Health Technology Enterprise Team. https://www.fs.fed.us/foresthealth/technology/pdfs/ExoticTrueThistles.pdf

Wolves and wolverines in Utah? Oh my!

Wolves and wolverines in Utah? Oh my! Endangered Yellowstone Grey Wolf with Radio Collar Courtesy US FWS, William Campbell, Photographer
Endangered Yellowstone Grey Wolf with Radio Collar
Courtesy US FWS, William Campbell, Photographer
Wolves and wolverines in Utah? Oh my! As I prepare for a 3 day trip with students to Yellowstone, a stronghold for what once was, these iconic critters come to mind. The last wolves were cleared from Cache Valley in 1869. A predator drive through our valley was mustered, where every able-bodied citizen was called to arms to rid us of these villains. A wolverine met its demise on the hill where the Logan Temple now stands.

Thank goodness, we have awakened to the value of predators in maintaining healthy ecosystems, and for their aesthetic and spiritual value. After all, they coexisted along with their prey for millions of years before our species came along and began tinkering.

There are well-documented visits by these two species in Utah, including actual tactile experience. However, established breeding populations are yet to be found. Both require vast, relatively undisturbed wildlands to thrive.

Since wolves were reintroduced in Yellowstone in 1995, the Utah DWR has been able to confirm 20 wolves in our state. Nearly all confirmed sightings have been consistent with lone, dispersing wolves.

Due to a recent court ruling, wolves in much of Utah are once again listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act except a small portion of northern Utah where wolves are not welcome. There is a statewide wolf management plan and personnel to manage them. Any wolves that move out of the small, delisted area are considered endangered and are subject to exclusive federal jurisdiction.

A wolverine was recently spotted in Rich County, now wandering the Uinta Mountains with a GPS collar around its neck. This is the first wolverine ever captured in Utah history. The wolverine is a male, between 3-4 years old, and biologists say he is in excellent physical condition. They are excited to learn more about this elusive animal with only eight confirmed sightings in Utah since 1979. We are on the southern edge of the wolverine’s typical habitat. This GPS tracking will allow us to understand and manage wolverines in Utah.

Now on to Yellowstone where both species are well established. Around a hundred wolves in 8 packs, and about 7 wide ranging wolverines may be found in the park. Climate-change models predict that by 2050, the spring snowpack needed for wolverine denning and hunting will make the greater Yellowstone ecosystem a critical part of its southern range. Wolverines are so rarely seen and inhabit such remote terrain at low densities that assessing population trends is difficult and sudden declines could go unnoticed for years.

I doubt we will see a wolverine on our visit, but wolf sightings are a good bet as we will be led by a park wolf technician, that is if we don’t succumb to hypothermia before a howl is heard!

Jack Greene for BAS. With confirmed sightings of wolves and wolverine in our state, I’m even wilder about Utah!

Credits:
Pictures: Courtesy US National Parks Service, William Campbell, Photographer
Audio: Courtesy & Copyright 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/

Wolves in Utah, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Utah Department of Natural Resources, State of Utah, Last Updated: Thursday, March 3, 2022, https://wildlife.utah.gov/wolves.html#:~:text=Are%20there%20wolves%20in%20Utah,20%20wolves%20in%20the%20state.

Gray wolves again listed as endangered in most of Utah, A recent court ruling limits wolf-management options, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Utah Department of Natural Resources, State of Utah, March 1, 2022, https://wildlife.utah.gov/wolf/wolves.pdf

Podmore, Zak, (Report for America), A gray wolf is in Utah for the first time in years. The state is setting traps, The Salt Lake Tribune, June 3, 2020, https://www.sltrib.com/news/2020/06/03/gray-wolf-is-utah-first/

Wolverine captured, collared and released in Utah, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Utah Department of Natural Resources, State of Utah, March 14, 2022, https://wildlife.utah.gov/news/utah-wildlife-news/1380-wolverine-captured-collared-and-released-in-utah.html

Miller, Jordan, Wolverine spotted in Utah this month marks third publicized sighting this year, The Salt Lake Tribune, Oct. 20, 2021, https://www.sltrib.com/news/2021/10/20/wolverine-spotted-utah/