A Bird for All Seasons, The American Dipper

American Dipper or Cinclus mexicanus
Courtesy: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Dave Menke, Photographer

You are walking along side a swiftly-flowing mountain stream when you notice a slate-gray bird, tail cocked up jauntily like a wren’s, but a bird of a size nearer to that of a robin or large thrush. He is doing continual knee bends: bobbing up and down unceasingly. He (or is it she?) is perched on a rock drenched with spray from rapids. Your attention is arrested.

Suddenly the bird plunges into the foaming water as it rushes over rocks. Surely you will next see it (if at all) a bedraggled wreck surfacing way down stream, swept along to destruction by the raging torrent.

American Dipper by a stream
Courtesy: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Dave Menke, Photographer

But no, he surfaces in a bit of calm water between rapids and swims nonchalantly to shore where he goes back to his bobbing routine, singing joyously all the while. What is this phenomenon you have stumbled upon?

You page through your field guide. Ah, here he is, the American dipper, also sometimes called a water ouzel. Yep, the bobbing is mentioned, along with the likelihood of his being found near rapidly flowing mountain streams in the American West. You also learn that he swims––no web feet but he swims––and better under water than on the surface, his wings assisting.

This bird was born almost literally of these waters. His parents built a mossy nest on a ledge of rock in the spray of the stream. His mother laid eggs looking like bubbles of foam. From one of these he emerged like Venus coming forth out of the sea.

American Dipper Nest
Courtesy: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

He never strays far from these waters and seems impervious to the vicissitudes of weather––undaunted by snow and ice (after all his habitat flows too swiftly to freeze in the coldest weather), undeterred by heat (he has continual mist and frequent bathing to keep him cool).

So, the next time you are out––in summer’s heat or snowshoeing in coldest winter––keep an eye out for a nondescript little bird bobbing on a slippery or ice-coated rock beside a fast-moving mountain stream. You can report that you have sighted an American dipper.

This is Linda Kervin for Bridgerland Audubon Society.

Credits:
Photos: Courtesy U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
http://digitalrepository.fws.gov/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/natdiglib&CISOPTR=5349&CISOBOX=1&REC=5

Audio: Courtesy and Copyright 2008 Dr. Kevin Colver, Songbirds of Yellowstone, http://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/

Text: Norman Davis, with thanks to Dorothy Egan, Bridgerland Audubon Society

Additional Reading:

The Water Ouzel from The Mountains of California as quoted in The Wilderness World of John Muir, http://www.amazon.com/Wilderness-World-John-Muir/dp/0618127518/ref=sr_1_1?

American Dipper-Cinclus mexicanus, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, http://dwrcdc.nr.utah.gov/rsgis2/Search/Display.asp?FlNm=cincmexi

May Swenson: A Utah poet and observer of nature

May Swenson, 1965 in Tucson
Copyright © L.H. Clark
Courtesy Utah State University Press

Hi, I’m Holly Strand from Stokes Nature Center in beautiful Logan Canyon.

In Logan Cemetery a granite bench marks the grave of May Swenson, a native Utahn and eminent poet. She was born in Logan in 1913 and attended Utah State University where she published her first poem. She moved east in 1936, and eventually, she became one of America’s most inventive and recognized poets, She won many awards including Guggenheim and Rockefeller grants, the Yale Bollingen Prize, and the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. Utah State University conferred an honorary doctorate on Swenson in 1987. Despite her many achievements and her years living away from Utah, Swenson never forgot her Mormon heritage or her identity as a Westerner.

Nature played a prominent role in Swenson’s work. In fact, she published a collection of poetry called Nature: Poems Old and New which is brimming with imagery that evokes the beauty and complexity of the natural world.

Here’s an example: a poem called April Light read by Paul Crumbley, a professor of English at Utah State University who specializes in Swenson’s work.

April light

Lined with light
the twigs are stubby arrows.
A gilded trunk writhes
Upward from the roots,
from the pit of the black tentacles.
In the book of spring
a bare-limbed torso
is the first illustration.
Light teaches the tree
to beget leaves,
to embroider itself all over
with green reality,
until summer becomes
its steady portrait
and birds bring their lifetime
to the boughs.
Then even the corpse
light copies from below
may shimmer, dreaming it feels
the cheeks of blossom.

Another of Swenson’s poems describes a well-known natural feature in Utah.

Listen to this excerpt of Above Bear Lake:

A breeze, and the filtered light makes shine
A million bristling quills of spruce and fir
Downslope, where slashes of sky and lake
Hang blue—windows of intense stain. We take
The rim trail, crushing bloom of sage,
Sniffing resinous wind, our boots in the wild,
Small, everycolored Rocky Mountain flowers.
Suddenly, a steep drop-off: below we see the whole,
the whale of it—deep, enormous blue—
that widens, while the sky slants back to pale
behind a watercolored mountain.

Listening to this makes me feel like I’m standing on the scenic outlook at the summit of Logan Canyon. That is, of course, where Swenson wrote it.

For more on the Utah poet May Swenson, see our website www.wildaboututah.org
Thanks to Paul Crumbley and Maria Melendez of the English Dept. at Utah State University.
And thanks to the Rocky Mountain Power Foundation for supporting the research and development for today’s program.

For Wild About Utah and Stokes Nature Center, I’m Holly Strand.

Credits:

Readings: Paul Crumbley and Maria Melendez of the English Dept, Utah State University

Text: Stokes Nature Center: Holly Strand

Sources & Additional Reading

Knudson, R.R. and Suzzanne Bigelow. 1996. May Swenson: A Poet’s Life in Photos. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press.

Swenson, May. 2000. Nature: Poems Old and New. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Xeric Gardening with Native Plants

Fire Chalice or Zauschneria latifolia
Courtesy: Intermountain Native Plant
Growers Association, www.INPGA.org

This is Linda Kervin for Bridgerland Audubon Society.

As the days lengthen and gardeners dream of the planting season to come, I urge you to consider plants adapted to our desert climate. Perhaps there are dry corners where your irrigation does not reach. Or you tire of watching the rivulets of water that run down the gutter from trying to grow grass in the strip between sidewalk and road. These are ideal areas to experiment with drought tolerant plants.

As more of us have become aware of the need to conserve water, the availability of gardening resources has increased. Many local and mail order nurseries now have a good selection of drought tolerant or xeriscape plants.

Maple Mallow, Illiamna_rivularis
Copyright 2008 Jim Cane

The Intermountain Plant Growers Association labels nursery plants with a special tag as Utah’s Choice. Utah’s Choice plants are well adapted to the climate of the intermountain west and are a good starting point for choosing plants.

One of my favorite Utah’s Choice plants is Fire Chalice or Zauschneria latifolia. It is a spreading perennial plant that is covered in fiery red tubular flowers from midsummer til frost. Hummingbirds avidly visit this carefree, drought-tolerant plant.

Globe Mallow Flower
Sphaeralcea ambigua
Copyright 2006-2008 Jim Cane

Maple Mallow or Illiamna rivularis is another favorite perennial. This bushy, waist-high resident of the higher mountains does well in my garden here in Logan. It is in partial sun and gets weekly watering. It is covered in large, pale pink flowers through much of the summer.

Globe mallows, genus Sphaeralcea, are another useful xeric perennial. They require bright sunshine and tolerate heavy soils. Among our natives, they are unusual for their profusion of orange-colored flowers.

These are just a few examples of the wealth of possibilities. By choosing plants adapted to your environment, you take the garden path of less resistance. When you consider the rainfall, soil and sun exposure of your yard and choose plants adapted for those conditions, you struggle less and enjoy your garden more.

Globe Mallow Plant
Sphaeralcea ambigua
Copyright 2006-2008 Jim Cane

This is Linda Kervin for Bridgerland Audubon Society.

Credits:

Photos: Courtesy & Copyright © 2008 Intermountain Native Plant Growers Association, www.INPGA.org

Also Courtesy & Copyright © 2008 Jim Cane

Text: Linda Kervin & Jim Cane

Additional Reading:

Xeriscape Bloom
Copyright 2008 Jim Cane

INPGA: Intermountain Native Plant Growers Association, http://www.utahschoice.org/welcome

Wildland Nursery, Joseph, UT, http://www.wildlandnursery.com/

The Stokes Legacy

Randy Barker and Alice Stokes
at the Stokes Nature Center
Copyright 2007 Kim Barker

Hi, I’m Holly Strand from Stokes Nature Center in beautiful Logan Canyon.

Upon reading the biographies of Allen and Alice Stokes, I’ve started thinking about the word “community.” The Stokes were adopted Utahns. They moved here in 1952 so that Allen Stokes could take a teaching position at Utah State Agricultural College in the Dept. of Wildlife Management. They remained here until they died, Allen in 1996 and Alice just a couple of weeks ago at the age of 93. They both loved nature and took full advantage of their beautiful surroundings here in northern Utah. And they became deeply involved in the community in all senses of the word. As a result, the Nature Center where I work was named after them.

Alice and Allen met in 1944 . Alice was working for Dr. Aldo Leopold– the father of wildlife ecology– at the University of Wisconsin. Allen Stokes had taken a summer research job on nesting behavior and was helped along professionally by Dr. Leopold.

Perhaps it was partly due to Leopold’s influence that the Stokes were forever mindful of the natural community. Allen became a specialist in wildlife behavior within the context of natural communities. The Logan Herald Journal quoted Alice as saying : “ I believe that we should consider ourselves a part of the environment, the land, the communities of rivers, the animals, birds and the plants.”

The Stokes also had a strong sense of community in the social sense of the word. In Logan, Allen organized and led field trips for Bridgerland Audubon Society and eventually became a board member of the National Audubon Society. Utah State University presented Allen with the Bridger Award for Outstanding Contribution to Protecting and Appreciating the Environment of Logan and Cache Valley. They worked with the American Field Service to get Logan families to host foreign students. Alice helped establish classes for deaf children here in Cache Valley. She worked with a local organization, CAPSA, to build a Safe House for victims of Physical and Sexual Abuse. She helped expand the collection of the local library.

Alice Stokes
© 2007 Stokes Nature Center
www.logannature.org

They both participated in peace marches and rallies and vigils against the death penalty. Allen was a lifelong Quaker and Alice gradually converted. The couple helped establish a Quaker community in Logan in the 1970s which still meets today.

In 1996 the community who founded the nature center in Logan Canyon asked Allen and Alice for their name. Reluctantly, they gave permission, but Allen said “Only if you put Alice’s name first.” He died before the Center opened, and Alice switched the names so that his was first. Now, after 12 years, we remain the Allen and Alice Stokes Nature Center.

I never knew Allen, and I didn’t know Alice long enough. But through my work at the Center that bears their name I often come in contact with people that they influenced. It became obvious to me that the Stokes had a gift for inspiring people to do good things for both natural and social communities. Now, even though the Stokes are gone, that legacy endures. And what could be a better legacy than to instill concern for your community?

For Wild About Utah and Stokes Nature Center, I’m Holly Strand.

Credits:

Photos: Courtesy & © 2007 Kim Barker and Stokes Nature Center

Text: Stokes Nature Center: Holly Strand

Sources & Additional Reading

Allen & Alice Stokes Nature Center, www.logannature.org

Bridgerland Audubon Society, www.bridgerlandaudubon.org

Alice Stokes’ Obituary, The Herald Journal,
http://www.legacy.com/HJNews/Obituaries.asp?Page=Lifestory&PersonId=125306673

A memorial service for Alice Stokes will be held at the Sunburst Lounge of the Taggart
Student Center, Utah State University, on Saturday, May 9, at 3 p.m. A
reception will immediately follow at the College of Natural Resources,USU.