Spruces in the Urban Landscape

Colorado Blue Spruce
Courtesy Linda Kervin

A spruce tree was felled in my neighborhood recently. I have no quarrels with its removal, especially since it was leaning over my roof. But some wild neighbors were not so upbeat about the incident. A Red Squirrel scolded anyone within earshot. It had lost its secure pathway between the front and backyards. Now it must run on the ground before once again climbing into the safety of loftier pathways.

Spruce trees have much to offer the non-human inhabitants of our urban landscapes. The noisy Red Squirrel may also have been complaining about the loss of a nest. Both squirrels and birds like to nest in spruce trees.
The dim interior of the spruce is a good place to look for owls roosting during daylight.

Spruce trees shelter animals during storms, their dense branches providing a dry, calm haven from wind, rain and snow.

Spruces offer a high perch from which every bird, house finch to crow to robin, can declare their territory by song sung lustily from the topmost branches.
When the Sharp-shinned Hawk swoops the birdfeeder for a feathery meal, the juncos and chickadees scatter to hide themselves in the spruce’s embrace.

Last winter, flocks of White-winged Crossbills descended upon Utah. Their bill crosses at the tip, which makes it perfect for prying open spruce cones to get to the tasty and nutritious seeds. These birds wander the Northern Hemisphere in search of abundant cone crops of spruce and other conifers.

The noble, lofty spruce is more than a decorative landscape tree. It offers food, home, safety and shelter to our wild neighbors.

Our theme music was written by Don Anderson and is performed by Leaping Lulu from their CD High Road, Low Road. Our bird music is provided by Kevin Colver.
Credits:

Text: Linda Kervin, Bridgerland Audubon Society

Additional Reading:

 

Edward Abbey

Edward Abbey, A Life
Cover Courtesy
University of Arizona Press

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

Utah nature has influenced a number of eminent nature writers, Edward Abbey among them. A novelist, essayist, and poet, he especially loved the desert southwest– the slickrock desert of southeastern Utah had a special place in his heart. He once declared: “Within this underslung lopsided rump-sprung dough-bellied highly irregular parallelogram lies the least inhabited, least inhibited, least developed, least improved, least civilized, least governed, least priest-ridden, most arid, most hostile, most lonesome, most grim bleak barren desolate and savage quarter of the state of Utah—the best by far. “

Undeniably one of our best western writers. Abbey has been called a “national treasure,” and Thoreau of the American West. He has also been called an arrogant self-centered bigot, a militant conservationist, and America’s crankiest citizen. He was full of contradictions about his own beliefs about nature and society. He could run on and on about the “hooved locust,” his name for cows, grazing everywhere on public land. Then he would order a steak from a restaurant a few hours later.

Born in 1927 in Pennsylvania, Abbey came west to study at the University of New Mexico. He moved to Utah in 1956 to take a job as a ranger in Arches National Monument. During his time in Arches, he created a multi-volume journal of his experiences. He later collapsed the journal material from three seasons into one season to produce one of the bestselling books on nature ever written, Desert Solitaire.

The very first Earth Day, April 22nd 1970 drew millions of people to numerous locations around the country. Abbey was invited to speak in Logan by organizers Thomas Lyons and Ingrid Eisenstadt. He accepted and was favorably impressed by the area and its people. When the University of Utah offered him a post as the first Writer in Residence, he accepted, spending much of his time with Ingrid in Logan in a little house on 6th East.

Abbey didn’t stay in Utah for long. He was a restless man, roving around in search of wilderness or adventure and in pursuit of a number of women, 5 of which became wives at different times of his life.

Eventually, Tucson became his main residence. But he still made many trips to Utah, spending time here and there visiting friends and wild places.

Abbey died in 1989, perhaps in part a victim of his own hard living. As he requested, he was placed in an old sleeping bag and buried beneath a pile of rocks to keep the coyotes away with “No comment” engraved on his gravestone. A wake was held in Saguaro National Monument and then in Moab where 600 of his friends celebrated his life and writing.

Information for this program was gathered from Edward Abbey : A Life by James Calahan. Thanks to the Rocky Mountain Power Foundation for supporting research and development of this Wild About Utah topic.

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

Text: Holly Strand, Stokes Nature Center

Sources & Additional Reading

Abbey, Edward. 1990. Desert Solitaire. Touchstone; Reprint edition http://www.amazon.com/Desert-Solitaire-Edward-Abbey/dp/0671695886

Calahan, M. James. 2001. Edward Abbey : A Life. University of Arizona Press http://www.amazon.com/Edward-Abbey-James-M-Cahalan/dp/0816522677

www.abbeyweb.net

The New Dove in the Neighborhood

Eurasian Collared Dove
Note the black collar
and the broad square tail
Courtesy Stephen Peterson

During the winter after most doves have migrated, you may notice a dove foraging along the roadside or perched in a tree. A new species has arrived in our neighborhood, the Eurasian collared dove or Streptopelia decaocto, which has a distinctive black neck ring and a broad tail.

Originally found near the Bay of Bengal in Asia, this dove began its range expansion in the 1600’s. By 1900, it had made its way to Turkey, and by 2000 could be found as far north as the Arctic Circle in Scandinavia. Expansion into North America occurred in the early seventies when the collared dove appeared in the Bahamas. Since 1982, when first discovered in Florida, it has been gradually making its way north and west. Nineteen ninety-seven marked the first official report of Eurasian collared doves in Orem, Utah. Now they have spread throughout the state.

Eurasian collared doves join rock pigeons, the English sparrow, and the European starling as non-native birds that have expanded across the country. Experts attribute the success of Eurasian collared doves to the wide availability of seed offered by backyard bird feeders, as well as their ability to aggressively defend feeding areas. Some fear that they will cause territory or breeding problems for our native mourning dove, but so far there is no evidence to support this concern.

In an effort to reduce the number of Eurasian collared doves, the Utah DWR allows year-round harvesting. But be careful: don’t confuse this dove with the smaller mourning dove, which has a narrow, pointed tail and no ring on its neck. Eurasian collared doves have a distinct neck band and a broad, squared tail. Their calls also differ.

Native Mourning Dove
Courtesy USFWS

The mourning dove has the familiar melodic call:
[coo-ah cooo cooo coo]

[Kevin Colver, Songbirds of the Rocky Mountains
12 Mourning Dove]


Now listen to the Eurasian collared dove:

[“coo-coooo-coo”, “coo-coooo-coo”, “coo-coooo-coo”, “krreair”]

[Eurasian collared dove – From Kevin Colver’s private library

Two calls combined for this piece.]

The verdict is still out on the impact that the Eurasian collared dove will have on native species. In the mean time, let’s watch to see how this new dove adapts to the neighborhood and fits into the ecosystem.

Eurasian Collared Dove
Courtesy Stephen Peterson

Thank-you to Lyle Bingham of Bridgerland Audubon for writing this essay and to Kevin Colver for providing the recorded songs.

This is Linda Kervin for Bridgerland Audubon Society.

Credits:

Photos: Courtesy US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS)

Recordings: Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections

Text: Lyle Bingham, Bridgerland Audubon

Additional Reading:

Florida’s Introduced Birds: Eurasian collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto), Stephen A. Johnson and Gay Donaldson-Fortier, University of Florida IFAS Extension, WEC 256,http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/UW/UW30100.pdf

Tricky Bird IDs: Eurasian Collared-Dove and African Collared-Dove, Project FeederWatch, A Joint Project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada, http://www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw/AboutBirdsandFeeding/EucdovRitdovID.htm

Romagosa, Christina Margarita. 2002. Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/630/articles/introduction

2009-2010 Upland Game Guidebook, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, http://wildlife.utah.gov/guidebooks/2009-10_upland_game/2009-10_upland_game.pdf

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

Earl Douglass and Dinosaur National Monument

Douglass Quarry
Dinosaur National Monument
Courtesy National Parks Service

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

Dinosaur fever was rampant in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Andrew
Carnegie, the wealthy steel magnate, was not immune. He wanted a huge
dinosaur skeleton for the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh. In 1908, Museum
Director W.J. Holland and paleontologist Earl Douglass explored the hills
along the Green River near Jensen UT. They found a 6 foot thigh bone of a
dinosaur. Douglass marked the spot and returned the following year to
explore some more.

It didn’t take Douglass very long to get what he was after– in August of
that same year, he came upon the tail section of an Apatasaurus in Morrison
Formation outcrops near Jensen, UT. Within weeks, Douglass had uncovered
an almost complete skeleton, including 64 tail vertebrae, more than twice
as many that had ever been found in this type of dinosaur. Then to his
amazement, a second Apatasaurus lay right beneath the first!

1500-1600 bones are exposed in the wall
Douglass Quarry
Dinosaur National Monument
Courtesy National Parks Service

There was plenty more to uncover. For 15 years Douglass worked what
became known as the Carnegie Quarry. He unearthed nearly 20 complete
skeletons of Jurassic dinosaurs, including Diplodocus, Dryosaurus,
Stegosaurus, Barosaurus, and Camarasaurus.

Local residents in Jensen and Vernal supported Douglass’s. They visited
him while he worked, sold him food and supplies and occasionally assisted
in excavations. Eventually they began to dream about the quarry’s
potential as a tourist attraction and the effect that would have on their
economy. And although Douglass worked for Carnegie, he shared the locals’
vision of a public exhibit of skeletons on location in northeast Utah.

Unfortunately, public education and improvement of local economies were NOT
goals of the early dinosaur industry. The Carnegie Museum shipped all
excavated material back to Philadelphia. In effect, the dinosaur quarry
was like any other mine being stripped of valuable material. Furthermore,
the Carnegie refused access to other research parties—including those of
the National Museum and the University of Utah.

In 1915, the federal government tried to break the monopolistic hold
Carnegie held on excavations by establishing Dinosaur National Monument. At
first the Monument was an 80 acre tract around the quarry. (Later it was
enlarged to encompass the spectacular canyons of the Green and Yampa Rivers
in neighboring Colorado.) In 1916, Congress created the National Park
Service, which took control of National Monuments. But without funds and
political interest, visitor infrastructure in the Monument remained
undeveloped for decades.

In 1948, state funds helped establish the Utah Field House of Natural
History in nearby Vernal. Then in 1957 that a public park exhibit was
created to showcase the Carnegie quarry itself—just as Douglass and Utah
residents had desired. Nearly 2,000 bones were exposed in place forming
an entire wall of the visitor center. Sadly, the building was closed in
2006 due to the serious safety hazards caused by an inadequate foundation.

In April of this year, the Park announced the award of $13.1 million in
stimulus funds to demolish and replace condemned portions of the Quarry
Visitor Center. Construction is anticipated to take between a year and a
year and a half; the reopening the quarry exhibit and visitor center could
be as early as summer 2011. Perhaps at last the quarry in Dinosaur
National Monument will have a memorial that is worthy of its remarkable,
ancient inhabitants.

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

Images: Courtesy National Parks Service

Text: Holly Strand, Stokes Nature Center

Additional Reading:


Harvey, Mark W.T. 1991. Utah, The National Park Service, And Dinosaur
National Monument, 1909-56, Utah Historical Quarterly, Number 3 (Summer 1991) p. 243

National Park Service, US Dept of Interior. Dinosaur National Monument.
http://www.nps.gov/dino/index.htm [ Accessed September 2009]

Utah History Encyclopedia. 1994. Dinosaur National Monument. Edited by
Allan Kent Powell, former Public History Coordinator at the Utah State
Historical Society. https://www.uen.org/utah_history_encyclopedia/d/DINOSAUR_NATIONAL_MONUMENT.shtml [Accessed September
2009]