Senior Bird Talk

Senior Bird Talk:Belted Kingfisher, Courtesy US FWS, C Schlawe, Photographer
Belted Kingfisher
Courtesy US FWS
C Schlawe, Photographer
What about birds? Why are they so alluring, so beloved by so many? Perhaps it’s their extraordinary beauty, their fascinating behaviors, their presence in our deep history and art, their ability to mimic us, their high intelligence and remarkable ability for flight, sight, agility, navigation.
Whatever the reasons, the bird is the word!

It was never more apparent than when I visited an assisted living facility for elders in Logan, Utah where I was invited to deliver a 45 minute presentation. As I entered the room, a young lady had them riveted with a bird trivia quiz. Then came my turn. Many were in wheel chairs, others with walkers, some seated with staff assistance.

I opened by asking them if they had a favorite bird, or bird story to share. A diminutive lady of Indian heritage and telling accent told of her mother’s favorite- a parrot which lived on her shoulder and would chat away as she went about cooking and housework. Later in the session she had another story. As a young girl she was eating a sandwich when an raptor swooped down and snatched it from her hands, leaving a slice that left a scar which she attempted to show me.

When a lull occurred, I asked if anyone had ever been called “bird brain”. Several raised their hands with a sheepish giggle, as did I. I lavished them with trivia on the remarkable neurological design that allows a tiny bit of high quality, tightly packaged neurons to perform the amazing feats birds are capable of. Beyond this, how bird brains can change form for breeding season activities and when half brain sleeps and half awake during migration.

Another filler. I paraded bird skins and nests from our locals for bird ID and notes of interest. The hummingbird and nest was an immediate hit, as was the stunning Bullock’s oriole with its nest made from horsetail hair and fishing line. The common snipe was of special interest. “How many have been on a snipe hunt in the night?” Many hands raised. Then I showed the bird, a far cry from what they imagined this mystery animal to be.

A woman near the back shared another story of a family parrot which had some unseemly language to share with guests, could miraculously escape from most any cage, and dismantle whatever it pleased- a brilliant, very mischievous bird.

Another bird of special interest was the kingfisher. Holding it in my hand, I shared an intimate experience when a kingfisher slammed into our window (since successfully installed bird deterrents). Thinking the bird dead, it later awakened in a cardboard box I had placed it in, and was released in fine flying form. A day later, it reappeared on my deck rail, looked me in the eye with a gratuitous head tilt as if to say “thanks Jack!” and flew off. Most unusual behavior for the kingfisher!

I learned much from my audience that morning, bird love, great story telling, and new friends- I hope to return!

Jack Greene for Bridgerland Audubon Society, and I’m wild about Utah!

Credits:

Images: Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/
Audio: Courtesy & © Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections
Text: Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/
Additional Reading: Lyle Bingham and Jack Greene, Author, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading:

Jack Greene’s Postings on Wild About Utah, https://wildaboututah.org/author/jack/

“Legacy House” in Logan

The Audubon Society for the Protection of Birds is Counting Birds for Conservation

The Audubon Society for the Protection of Birds is Counting Birds for Conservation: Cassiar Junco, Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart
Cassiar Junco
Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart

The Audubon Society for the Protection of Birds is Counting Birds for Conservation: Cedar Waxwing eating Juniper Berry, Courtesy & Copyright Jimmie Grutzmacher, Photographer Cedar Waxwing eating Juniper Berry
Courtesy & Copyright Jimmie Grutzmacher, Photographer

Red-breasted Nuthatch, The Birds of America paintings by John James Audubon, Courtesy the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove, Montgomery County Audubon Collection, and Zebra Publishing Red-breasted Nuthatch
The Birds of America paintings by John James Audubon
Courtesy the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove, Montgomery County Audubon Collection, and Zebra Publishing

The Bridgerland Audubon Society has enjoyed another productive Cache Valley Christmas Bird Count, and the participation of volunteers watching from home has proven as valuable as ever because despite the roving teams of volunteers covering the farms, wetlands, canyons, and mountains in the established 177 square mile count circle, the home sector sometimes contributes species missed by the driving and hiking teams. Either way, birds connect us because everyone who spent at least a few minutes counting birds was an important part of assisting the Audubon Society in generating community science data for the conservation of birds and the habitat they need.

The Audubon Society for the Protection of Birds was established in 1886 by George Bird Grinnell, who was inspired by the conservation ethic of his tutor and mentor, Lucy Bakewell Audubon, the widow of naturalist and artist John James Audubon. Grinnell published The Audubon Magazine, which “constituted one of the first efforts to preserve bird species decimated by the women’s hat trade, hunting, and loss of habitat.” (1) Many of the early members were women who, ironically, would attend society meetings wearing plumed hats.” (2) Grinnell is credited as the architect of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, an effort which took over a decade of advocacy and the many voices of Audubon chapter members.

“The legacy of the Migratory Bird Treaty is the recognition that these magnificent birds are held in public trust and shared by all citizens. Our responsibility is to make sure that this legacy endures by conserving and managing migratory birds and their habitats for future generations to enjoy.” (3), and while the Migratory Bird Treaty Act is the cornerstone of migratory bird management across North America, anyone can help by participating in community science bird counts.

Highlights from this year’s Christmas Bird Count Home Sector reports include a few species not seen last year, such as Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum), which can be attracted to gardens with a songbird border of Juniper berries, Hawthorn, Serviceberry, and Red Osier Dogwood.

Also seen, the Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Corthylio calendula), one of North America’s smallest birds, which “can linger because in addition to insects, it will also eat berries and suet at feeders.”(4) The Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) “feeds mainly on insects and spiders in summer; in winter, eats many seeds, especially those of conifers. Young are fed mostly or entirely on insects and spiders.” (5)

“Seed-eating boreal visitors, including several sparrow species and the Darkeyed Junco, will benefit from your letting things go literally to seed.” (6) The American and Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus tristis & Spinus psaltria) and the Pine Siskin (Spinus pinus) can be seen feasting on the tiny seeds in dried wild Sunflowers, Coneflowers, and Black-eyed Susans.

This year we added the elusive Cassiar (Junco hyemalis cismontanus), a Darkeyed Junco race also known as the Rocky Mountain Junco, which is rare to spot anywhere.(7) The Cassiar resembles a Slate Junco, but with a hood darker than it’s back. It is set apart from the more common Oregon, Slate, Pink-sided, and Gray-headed Juncos. This is an exciting addition to our local Christmas Bird Count checklist, and was made possible by someone watching the birds outside their window. To paraphrase Louis Pasteur who observed that in science chance favors the prepared mind, the more you know, the more you notice.

I’m Hilary Shughart with the Bridgerland Audubon Society, and I am wild about Utah!

Credits:

Images: Cassiar Junco, Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart
      Cedar Waxwing eating Juniper Berry Courtesy and Copyright Jimmie Grutzmacher, Photographer
      Red-breasted Nuthatch: Courtesy of the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove, Montgomery County Audubon Collection, and Zebra Publishing https://www.audubon.org/birds-of-america/red-breasted-nuthatch
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright © Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections/kevin-colver
Text & Voice: Hilary Shughart, President, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/
Additional Reading: Hilary Shughart and Lyle Bingham, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading

  1.  Spare the Birds! George Bird Grinnell and the First Audubon Society, by Carolyn Merchant, Yale University Press, 2016. https://yalebooks.yale.edu/book/9780300215458/spare-the-birds/
  2.  B&C Member Spotlight – George Bird Grinnell, Boone and Crockett Club, https://www.boone-crockett.org/bc-member-spotlight-george-bird-grinnell
  3.  The Migratory Bird Treaty Centennial, For 100 years, this landmark agreement has been the cornerstone of migratory bird management across North America. by Paul Schmidt. Ducks Unlimited, June 23, 2016, https://www.ducks.org/newsroom/the-migratory-bird-treaty-centennial
  4.  Ruby-crowned Kinglet, American Bird Conservancy, https://abcbirds.org/bird/ruby-crowned-kinglet/
  5.  Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis), National Audubon, https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/red-breasted-nuthatch
  6.  “ Even though records are widespread across much of the lower 48, only two of the grids show higher than the 0-2% frequency, the rarest category. They appear to not be common anywhere.”
    Dark-eyed Junco races: Oregon, Slate-colored and Cassiar By eBird Northwest Team December 12, 2014 https://ebird.org/pnw/news/dark-eyed-junco-races-oregon-slate-colored-and-cassiar/
  7.  How to Welcome Winter Birds: Fall may mean migration, but one bird’s north is just another bird’s south. By Ashley P. Taylor, National Audubon, October 06, 2015, https://www.audubon.org/news/how-welcome-winter-birds
    Disponible en español
  8.  Dark-eyed Junco races: Oregon, Slate-colored and Cassiar By eBird Northwest Team December 12, 2014 https://ebird.org/pnw/news/dark-eyed-junco-races-oregon-slate-colored-and-cassiar/

Ordinary Extraordinary Junco, by Jonathan Atwell, Steve Burns, and Ellen Ketterson, 2013 Documentary Video https://juncoproject.org/view-download/chapter3/index.html

Wright, Rick, “The Junco Called Cassiar” (2013). Nebraska Bird Review. 1324. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nebbirdrev/1324
https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2323&context=nebbirdrev

Lake Love

Lake Love: The Great Salt Lake, Courtesy Pixabay, Filio (Tom) contributor
The Great Salt Lake
Courtesy Pixabay, Filio (Tom) contributor

Great Salt Lake Countdown Clock, Courtesy and Copyright Jack Greene, photographer Great Salt Lake Countdown Clock
Courtesy & © Jack Greene, photographer

Utah Youth Environmental Solutions (UYES), Great Salt Lake Countdown Clock, Courtesy and Copyright Jack Greene, photographer Utah Youth Environmental Solutions (UYES)
Great Salt Lake Countdown Clock
Courtesy & © Jack Greene, photographer

Great Salt Lake Countdown Clock, Courtesy and Copyright Jack Greene, photographer Great Salt Lake Countdown Clock
Courtesy & © Jack Greene, photographer

Native and Youth Voices Honoring the Great Salt Lake Event November 11, 2023 Courtesy and Copyright Jack Greene, photographer Native and Youth Voices Honoring the Great Salt Lake Event November 11, 2023
Courtesy & © Jack Greene, photographer

Brine Shrimp Art at the Native and Youth Voices Honoring the Great Salt Lake Event November 11, 2023 Courtesy and Copyright Jack Greene, photographer Brine Shrimp Art at the Native and Youth Voices Honoring the Great Salt Lake Event November 11, 2023
Courtesy & © Jack Greene, photographer

On October 28th, we gathered near the Salt Aire on the north shore of the Great Salt Lake. A sharp, cold wind kept us huddled. We walked nearly a half mile of mud flats on a path strewn with eared grebe carcasses to reach our destination, a giant, 7-foot clock. The clock displayed four different scenarios of our future based on various lake levels. At the 12 O’clock hour was 4200’, the ideal lake level for healthy waters to support brine shrimp, brine flies, and microbialites, all essential for the millions of birds that feast on them; and to cover the toxic dusts generated by a dry lake bed.

A youth driven event, they poured out their hearts and deep concerns with eloquent testimony for the lake’s diminished health, which translated to their health. The dead grebes were a grim reminder of what the lake has become from the Jordan, Weber, and especially the Bear River being diverted to serve human demands.

Two weeks later, a mixed assemblage of Native and youth gathered on our state capitol steps accompanied by Making Waves for the Great Salt Lake human sized brine shrimp puppets, musicians, and a phalarope dancing to exquisite poetry, to deliver their offerings honoring the Lake. Several tribal members, including Shoshone and Goshute, shared stories of their deep history and cultural connections. Youth representing the Utah Youth for Environmental Solutions and the Great Salt Lake Youth Coalition offered soul piercing words.

Two Saturday’s ago, I entered Westminster University Gore Hall greeted by youth, artists, organizations, and many seniors. Brine shrimp, brine fly, eared grebes, avocets and California gull puppets decorated walls and tables, representing a few of the hundreds of species that call the Great Salt Lake home, or a nice stopover as they wing their way around the globe.

The 4-hour youth led event was hosted by the Westminster Great Salt Lake Institute and lead by several youth organizations and various supporting groups. Many had attended our rally on the capitol steps. This amalgam of intergenerational individuals working on behalf of saving the Great Salt Lake ecosystem was heartening, and essential for the lake to continue on.

We were trained on how best to effect good policy with our Utah legislators through building positive relationships and preparing well researched and documented information to educate them on our interests. Another Rally is planned for Saturday, January 20th at 3 pm on the south steps of the Capitol. Many voices will be heard, including Ute tribal member Forest Cuche, many youth, and Utah author, Terry Tempest Williams.

Looking ahead, Salt Lake City may once again host the winter Olympics in 2034. May our internationally renowned Great Salt Lake be present to welcome them, and may our snow be white and bright, not brown and gone, from a covering of dust blown from an empty lake bed.

A few Secret Santa Ideas for the Great Salt Lake: write, text, or call your elected officials; make art about the lake and post it on social media; Perhaps most important, enjoy the many gifts our Great Lake offers, especially the millions of wings that grace our heavens!

Jack Greene for Bridgerland Audubon Society, and I’m wild about our wild and wonderful Great Lake!

Credits:

Images: Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/
Audio: Courtesy & © Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections
Text: Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/
Additional Reading: Lyle Bingham and Jack Greene, Author, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading:

Jack Greene’s Postings on Wild About Utah, https://wildaboututah.org/author/jack/

McCormick, John S., Saltair, Utah History Encyclopedia, 1994, Utah Division of State History, Utah Department of Cultural and Community Engagement, https://historytogo.utah.gov/saltair/

Utah youth march with giant clock in support of Great Salt Lake bill, ABC4-TV, Oct 28, 2023

Join the Vigil for Great Salt Lake, happening EVERY DAY of the 2024 Legislative Session at the Utah State Capitol from 8-9 am and 5-6 pm:
Great Salt Lake 2024 Daily Vigil, Walk with the Waves 8-9 am, Tue Jan 16, 2024 – Fri Mar 1, 2024, Making Waves for Great Salt Lake Artist Collaborative, https://signup.com/client/invitation2/secure/113888296054/false#/invitation
Celebrate the Lake Species! 5-6 pm, Tue Jan 16, 2024 – Fri Mar 1, 2024, Making Waves for Great Salt Lake Artist Collaborative, https://signup.com/client/invitation2/secure/82319992083/false#/invitation

Making Waves for Great Salt Lake Artist Collaborative, https://sarahlizmay.com/making-waves-for-great-salt-lake-artist-collaborative

Lake Art from the Making Waves for Great Salt Lake Artist Collaborative, Supported in part by Great Salt Lake Audubon and Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/lake-art-puppets/

Utah Youth Environmental Solutions (UYES), https://utahyes.org/

Write to your legislators: https://le.utah.gov/GIS/findDistrict.jsp

Grow the Flow, Conserve Utah Valley, https://growtheflowutah.org/

  • Secret Santa for Great Salt Lake (Courtesy Nathan Thompson, GrowTheFlowUtah.org, Dec 12, 2023)
  • Invite someone new to get involved with helping Great Salt Lake
  • Donate to an organization working to save Great Salt Lake
  • Write to your elected officials about Great Salt Lake
  • Express gratitude for the lake in prayer and/or conversation
  • Make art about the lake and post it on social media
  • Turn off sprinklers
  • Contact local churches or other organizations about decreasing turf in public/shared spaces

Mundane to Magical

Mundane to Magical: Whole Class at First Dam, Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski, Photographer
Whole Class at First Dam
Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski, Photographer

Using Binoculars to Look for Ducks, Courtesy & Copyright  Joseph Kozlowski, Photographer Using Binoculars to Look for Ducks
Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski, Photographer

Spotting Scope with Image Transmitter, Courtesy & Copyright  Joseph Kozlowski, Photographer Spotting Scope with Image Transmitter
Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski, Photographer

One aspect of experiential learning I love most is how it turns mundane encounters into magical experiences. How many times have your children walked by a pond full of ducks and geese without batting an eye, or shuffled their feet through fallen, Autumn leaves on their way to this or to that? I continue to be astonished by how much there is to appreciate and to learn from our surroundings, but we lend it a bit of our attention and wonder. It’s amazing to see how just a little preparatory investigation can turn fleeting everyday moments into lifelong learning memories.

My 2nd-grade class focuses on learning about birds. I don’t just mean we read a few books and discuss the basics of birds. I mean my students can replicate the sounds of at least 15 local birds, provide detailed descriptions of their body characteristics, and even provide information about their diet, habits, and behaviors. We’ve studied birds all year long, partnered with local bird organizations – Bridgerland Audubon Society, Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge –, been on numerous birding outings, and let’s just say are ALL IN on birding.

With the recent weather systems and cold fronts in Northern Utah, we’ve seen waterfowl migrations come alive; a perfect time to study that classification of birds with my students! Little did I, or my students, realize there was so much to learn about common waterfowl! Did you know some waterfowl dive for food and others dabble? Did you know about preening to keep waterproof, or special down feathers to keep warm? How about your knowledge on a Redhead Duck’s nest parasitism techniques? Well, my students learned about these things, and many more over the span of a few weeks. As a culminating event, we planned a field experience to Logan’s 1st Dam, a local and vibrantly busy park, which surrounds a small reservoir, and is about a 45-minute walk from our school’s front door. Many of my students have been to this park numerous times throughout their lives with their families. Needless to say, there is nothing novel about this location.

Armed with binoculars leant by the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, and a spotting scope with an image transmitter granted us by Bridgerland Audubon Society, students began to observe, count, and be astonished by what they saw. It was as if the students had never seen a Canada Goose or Mallard duck in their lives. Their background knowledge on these birds brought to life the mundane place they were experiencing, as kids shouted “Look, it’s dabbling!” or “I saw 15 drakes and 19 hens, that’s 34 total!” or “I bet that Redhead is trying to find someone else’s nest to lay her eggs!” The point here is that, with proper prior investigation and attention to details of place, a mundane park can become a treasured location for observing, questioning, and astonishment. What are some mundane experiences around you that could become inspiring and magical learning opportunities?

This is Dr. Joseph Kozlowski, and I am Wild about Outdoor Education in Utah!
Credits:

Images: Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski, Photographer, Used by Permission
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright © Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections/kevin-colver
Text:     Joseph Kozlowski, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, Utah State University https://edithbowen.usu.edu/
Additional Reading Links: Joseph Kozlowski & Lyle Bingham

Additional Reading:

Joseph (Joey) Kozlowski’s pieces on Wild About Utah:

Rosenberg, Ken, Choosing a Spotting Scope, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 2008, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/news/scope-quest-2008-our-review-of-spotting-scopes/?pid=1039

How To Choose Binoculars: Our Testing Tips, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Updated December 4, 2022, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/news/six-steps-to-choosing-a-pair-of-binoculars-youll-love/

Free K-12 Lessons Open Doors for Kids to Explore Nature and Science, Cornell Lab Annual Report 2023, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Updated December 4, 2022, https://www.birds.cornell.edu/home/free-k-12-lessons-open-doors-for-kids-to-explore-nature-and-science/