The Occupants on Robin Street

The Occupants on Robin Street

Hi, I’m Dick Hurren from the Bridgerland Audubon society in Cache Valley.

Isn’t it interesting how shopping centers and housing developments are named after things that used to be: Fair Meadows Court, Rustic Drive, White Pines Lane, Riverwoods, Apple blossom Circle. There is one place that is named for its current occupants: Robin Street.

The American Robin is one of the most adapted birds to human development. It is also one of the most recognized. Robin redbreast is found not only by the stream, but in back yards, and city parks. We see them hopping across lawns, cocking their heads to see close up and picking out juicy worms. They also feast on cherries and other fruits. They can be seen and heard high in trees or on house peaks identifying their territory. Think about how they were in the past, pulling worms from a meadow and eating native berries. They actually have it better now.

They interact near us most often during breeding season. Robins build nests in trees or on sheltered ledges and platforms on buildings.

Both parents work to build the nest from sticks, thread, mud, and other available materials. The grass inner lining is soft against a woven-mud-covered bowl. Nest building is completed about 10 days before eggs are laid. The eggs are laid, one per day until a clutch of 3 or 4 fill the nest. The eggs define the pale blue-green color “Robin’s egg blue”.

The female sets on the eggs about two weeks until the young hatch blind and featherless. Mother and more often the father feeds the young. In another two weeks they are fully feathered and trying their wings. While the male feeds the young the female can be building another nest. Robins can produce 2 or 3 broods a year.

The robin’s size and shape is so well known that they are used as a standard to compare other birds.

But its a rough life being a robin. Only 40 percent of the nests built successfully rear a brood. Of the young hatched, 25 percent live through November. Although a robin may live up to 14 years, in any given year, only about half of the robins alive will live until the next year. Lawn chemicals and uncontrolled pets are part of the robin’s equation of life and death. The population of robins turns over on average every 6 years.

Robins roost in groups, except during the season when the females are setting on the nest. Males always roost in groups. After breeding, the nestlings and females join the male flock. Flocks of robins don’t frequent backyards as much in winter as they do in the nesting season. Some robins migrate, but some also live year-round in the same location. Robins remain in flocks until the spring nesting season when they again divide up into pairs and return to parks, back yards and Robin street.

For Wild About Utah I’m Dick Hurren.

Credits:

Photo: Courtesy of National Park Service, US Department of the Interior www.nps.gov/prsf/naturescience/american-robin.htm

Text: Bridgerland Audubon Society

For More Information:

http://www.norcrossws.org/html/robins2.htm

Complete Birds of North America, Jonathan Alderfer, ed. National Geographic, 2006

http://www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/robin/NestBox.html

http://www.wild-bird-watching.com/Robins.html

http://www.dnr.state.md.us/wildlife/warobin.asp


http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/American_Robin.html

The Eyes Have It

Hi, this is Holly Strand for Stokes Nature Center located in beautiful Logan Canyon.

A few years ago, I was working for World Wildlife Fund in eastern Montana. One night, we were doing a nocturnal survey of the black footed ferret, the most endangered mammal species in North America. We were counting reintroduced ferrets by riding around in a truck with a large spotlight mounted on top. When the spotlight hit a ferret, we could see the emerald green glow of its eyes as the animal looked back at the light. We’d stop the truck, walk toward the green points, and confirm the presence of a curious ferret for our census count. If the glowing eye color was something other than green we kept on driving. It was during this nocturnal safari that I learned about animal eye-shine and how it can be used by hunters as well as naturalists in finding target species.

Eyeshine occurs when light enters the eye, passes through the rods and cones strikes a special membrane behind the retina, and is reflected back through the eye to the light source. This special mirror-like membrane, called the tapetum (ta-PEA-tum), is not present in the human eye. The light-capturing system allows light to pass through the eye twice, and it is one way a nocturnal animal increases its ability to see in dim light. It’s the tapetums cause the eerie glow that we see in a housecat’s eyes caught in a light or when our car headlights surprise a deer, or badger.

The color of eyeshine varies from species to species. Most owls have red eyeshine. Coyotes as well as mountain lion shine greenish-gold. Elk and deer – varies from silver white to a light silvery green or light silvery yellow. Desert cottontails’ are red. Tiny pricks of light may signify the presence of wolf spiders or moths. Even certain fish have eyeshine.

To see eyeshine in the wild, just take a walk on a relatively dark night, and hold a flashlight on top of your head so that you are looking down the beam. Direct the beam at bushes or low vegetation. Chances are, you’ll see the pink-tinted eyeshine of spiders. Near water, look for the greenish glow of frogs’ eyes. Keep the beam directed at the eyeshine and move closer until you can spot its owner. Bigger animals like deer or raccoons will be farther away so you may want to use binoculars in combination with a light, lining up the field of view with the light beam, and then moving the two in unison. Searching for eyeshine is the perfect summer night activity, so grab your flashlight and go out and experience some real Utah night life.

This is Holly Strand for Wild About Utah.

Credits:

Photo: Courtesy of National Park Service, US Department of the Interior Wind Cave Resource Ramblings 2007 – 11

Text: Stokes Nature Center: …

Sources & Additional Reading
2001, Corben, Chris and Gary Fellers. A Technique for Detecting Eyeshine of
Amphibians and Reptiles. Herpetological Review, 32(2): 89-91.
http://www.werc.usgs.gov/pt-reyes/pdfs/spotlighting.pdf
Eyeshine. Electronic Naturalist. Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History. http://www.enaturalist.org/unit/171/qr (accessed June 2008)

Texas Parks and Wildlife. Eyeshine in Young Naturalist Series. http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/publications/nonpwdpubs/young_naturalist/animals/eyeshine/ (accessed June 2008)

Thanks to Eric Gese, USDA National Wildlife Research Center, Department of Forest, Range, and Wildlife Sciences, for his expertise.

Dancing with the Grebes

Is “Dancing with the Stars” coming to Utah in June? Not exactly, but a spirited quick-step is underway across the marshes, lakes and ponds of northern Utah this spring. The contestants are waterfowl, the Western Grebe and Clark’s Grebe. These birds have just flown in from a winter spent on the salt water bays and estuaries along our Pacific Coast. Choosing, or being chosen, as a mate is their first order of business upon return to Utah.

These two Mallard-sized grebes look nearly identical, with long white necks like a swan’s and lance-shaped bills like a heron’s. They differ subtly in the color of that bill and the extent of their black caps. What is most striking about western and Clark’s grebes is not their dapper appearance but their exuberant courtship dance. Like Snoopy dancing beside his mirror image, a pair of birds will tread furiously across the water surface, enabling them to rise upright with their necks stretched forward. After skittering ahead for 20 feet or more, the couple abruptly pitches forward and dives beneath the surface.

On our lakes and marshes, these two species of grebes today make the biggest splash on their watery dance floor. Just a century ago, they were hunted to near extinction for feathers to adorn womens’ hats. Happily, conservation trumped fashion, and populations of both species have largely recovered. Can any North American waterfowl match the vigor of this foot-churning courtship display? You be the judge. Pull up a lakeside seat, and with a little luck, you will be in the audience when they dance their splashy quick-steps to the primordial cadence of spring.

Credits:

Photo: Courtesy of Weather Underground, Inc. www.wunderground.com

Text: Bridgerland Audubon Society: Jim Cane

For More Information:
Check out Grebe Video on Google

The Bear Facts Old Ephriam

The Bear Facts Old Ephriam: Click to visit UtahMountainBiking.com Copyright 2001 Bruce Argyle, Photographer
Twelve miles up the Logan Canyon in the Bear River Range of the Wasatch Mountains is the grave of Old Ephriam, the last grizzly bear seen in Utah. He was trapped and shot in 1923 by Frank Clark, a sheepherder from Malad. Clark, an animal lover–except for bears–doggedly tracked Old Ephriam for 10 years during which the grizzly poached local sheep with impunity.

The name “grizzly” is based on the fact that bears in North America’s interior have hairs with white tips, resulting in a “grizzled” appearance. Many think the grizzly is a separate species, but in fact, the brown bears of North America, Northern Asia and Europe are all local variations of the same species–Ursus arctos. Brizzly, Kodiak, Manchurian, and Siberian brown bears may differ in size and color, but they all share a characteristic shoulder hump, a dished face and extra long claws so good for digging.

Old Ephriam was said to be a “giant grizzly”, weighing in at around 1,100 pounds. Such a weight would be unremarkable for a costal Alaskan brown bear, which can reach up to 1,500 pounds. But, because of their more limited food supply, interior brown bears, such as Old Ephriam, usually range between 225 and 670 pounds. Thus, it is very likely that the 1,100 pound figure might just be the product of good storytelling.

Today, you may visit utah’s most famous brown bear in two different places. Old Ephriam’s skull is on display in the Tanner Reading Room of Utah State University’s Merrill-Cazier library in Logan. But maybe the best way to pay your respects to this Utah celebrity is to hike to his old stomping grounds northeast of Logan. His grave is six miles up the right-hand fork of the Logan river. A large stone monument, built by the Boy Scouts in 1966 lies near the 1923 gravesite.

Credits:

Photo: Courtesy http://www.utahmountainbiking.com/trails/ephriam.htm

Text: Stokes Nature Center: Holly Strand, Jim Akers, Jeannie Huenemann

Sources & Additional Reading
IUCN Bear Specialist Group Assessment: http://www.iucnredlist.org/search/details/41688.pdf

Old Ephriam’s Grave, Utah.com http://www.utah.com/bike/trails/old_ephraims.htm