Utah Lobster Étouffée

Click to view larger image Northern Crayfish Orconectes virilis. Photo Copyright 2009 Ellen Wakely
Northern Crayfish Orconectes virilis
© 2009 Ellen Wakely

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

Remember this song?:

You get a line and I’ll get a pole honey
You get a line and I’ll get a pole, babe
You get a line and I’ll get a pole
And we’ll go down to the crawdad hole
Honey, baby mine

Did you know you that the “Crawdad Song” is relevant for Utahns? Not long ago, I encountered a rocky stream just teeming with crayfish.

Crawfish, crawdaddies, freshwater lobsters and mudbugs are all different names for the same little creature. Like a lobster, the crayfish has a joined head and midsection, and a segmented body. Crayfish come in assorted colors: sandy yellow, green, white, pink or dark brown. And they are usually about (3 inches) long.

Crayfish conceal themselves under rocks or logs. They are most active at night, when they feed on snails, algae, insect larvae, worms, and other delicacies.

There are about 330 different species that occur in North America. They are especially concentrated in the southern Mississippi Basin. Utah has only one native—the pilose crayfish. Its range is in northern Utah’s Bear River, Weber River and Ogden River drainages and in the Raft River Mountains drainages.

Utah also has two known invasive crayfish, The northern crayfish is a very successful and aggressive species. It was introduced and stocked in the 60’s and 70’s and is increasingly widespread. These crayfish are particularly abundant in Flaming Gorge and Glen Canyon reservoirs and in the Virgin and Duchesne drainages. The Louisiana crayfish has also found its way to Utah. This is the culinary crayfish that you ‘ve probably encountered in jambalaya and crawfish étouffée.

Nonnative crayfish infestations degrade freshwater habitats if the new crayfish outcompetes natives. Invasives also carry disease. Too many crayfish can destabilize stream banks by digging and burrowing.

In controlled quantities and locations crayfish provide wonderful food for fish, birds and people too. You can catch crayfish with
chunks of meat or fish. They are attracted to the odor.

Anyone with a valid Utah fishing or combination license may take crayfish for personal use during the open fishing season set for the given body of water. Just make sure you don’t transport any live crayfish away from the body of water where taken.

Thanks to The ToneWay Project at Toneway.com for their rendition of the crawdad song.
And to Dr. Scott Miller of the College of Natural Resources Bug Lab at Utah State University.

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

Credits:

Images: © 2009 Ellen Wakely Northern Crayfish Orconectes virilis
Text:     Holly Strand, Stokes Nature Center

Sources & Additional Reading:

Johnson, J. E. 1986. Inventory of Utah Crayfish with Notes on Current Distribution. Great Basin Naturalist, 46(4):625 – 631.: https://ojs.lib.byu.edu/ojs/index.php/wnan/article/viewArticle/1907

Utah Division of Wildlife Resouces. October 01, 2009 Crayfishing for fun and for food. http://wildlife.utah.gov/fishing/crayfish.php [Accessed Nov 13,, 2009]

Songs of the Western Meadowlark and Canyon Wren

Western Meadowlark
Sturnella neglecta
Courtesy US FWS,
John & Karen Hollingsworth,
Photographers, images.fws.gov

Everyone recognizes bird-watchers by their binoculars. Bird-listening, on the other hand, takes nothing more than your ears, and attention to Nature’s sounds. Listening for bird songs, then, may require your concentration at first, but soon it will become second nature. Some common birds of Utah are more easily found and known by their song than their appearance.
The Canyon Wren is one of my favorites. Its song is unique in North America. This tiny cinnamon-brown bird weighs little more than a marshmallow, but it belts out a cascading song big enough to reverberate off the rocky cliffs and slopes that are its home. You may not see the canyon wren, but try conversing with it by whistling its song in reply. I listen year-round for its song throughout Utah and our neighboring states, particularly in mid-elevation canyons.

Bird song can help you distinguish related bird species too. On the Great Plains, both Eastern and Western Meadowlarks co-occur. The plumage of these two starling-sized species is nearly identical, but their songs differ dramatically. The eastern species sings but a few clear notes, but our western meadowlark sings a beautiful musical warble.

Canyon Wren
Catherpes mexicanus
Courtesy & Copyright © 2007,
Lou Giddings, Photographer
utahbirds.org

Meadowlarks reside here year-round, typically in grassy areas, pastures and foothills. Their backs are brown, but the male’s chest is a brilliant yellow the color of fall aspen leaves. Males are frequently seen singing atop a fence post. Hearing a meadowlark always makes me smile, they seem so cheery. And that is another reason for listening to birds, for the sheer enjoyment of their song.

In the months to come, we will bring you more of Kevin Colver’s fine bird recordings to enjoy, interpret and learn. These are music lessons that everyone can enjoy!

This is Linda Kervin for Bridgerland Audubon Society.

Credits:

Photos: Western meadowlark, Courtesy US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS)

Canyon Wren, Copyright © 2007 Lou Giddings, Utahbirds.org

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

Text: Jim Cane, Bridgerland Audubon

Additional Reading:

Last Blank Spots on the Map

Audio:  mp3 Listen to WildAboutUtah

Today the river corridor still retains
its wild and pristine qualities.
Copyright 2009 Dan Miller from the book
The River Knows Everything

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

The Green River is one of Utah’s signature waterways. It begins high in Wyoming’s Wind River Range and winds southward 730 miles to join the Colorado River in Canyonlands National Park. 60% of river’s extent lies in Utah– attracting river runners, archaeologists, fishermen, hunters and hikers. And of course, geologists.

Desolation boasts steep dramatic walls.
From the top of the Tavaputs Plateau to the river
is deeper than the Grand Canyon.
Click to view larger image,
Photo Copyright 2009 Dan Miller

It’s hard to believe that less than 150 years ago, most of the Green and the Colorado canyonlands were unlined areas marked “UNEXPLORED” on maps. One such place was the area between Uinta Valley and Gunnison’s Crossing — now called Green River, UT. Another blank spot lay south of the crossing all the way to Paria which is now called Lee’s Ferry in Arizona.

To some folks, a blank spot on a map is an irresistible call to come and see what’s there. So it was with John Wesley Powell, a one-armed Civil War veteran working as a curator in a small natural history museum in Illinois. He became intrigued with exploring the canyons of the Colorado and the Green after spending some time out west collecting rock samples.

Lighthouse Rock 1871
Courtesy Arizona Historical Society

Impatient for adventure and discovery, Powell quickly assembled a crew of nine men –mostly rough and tumble mountain men used to living off the land. They set off from Green River WY and were making good time until disaster struck in the Canyon of Lodore. One of the boats hit a boulder, and a third of the food and half of the cooking gear sunk to the bottom of the river. A week later, a fire destroyed more food and gear. But eventually, five of the original nine made it all the way to the mouth of the Virgin River in Arizona.

A second expedition benefited from more funding, planning and hindsight. This time round, Powell chose a more scientifically-minded crew including a geologist, cartographer and photographer to research and document the trip. Once again they launched from Green River, WY. Powell perched in an armchair strapped to the middle bulkhead of a boat named after his wife, the Emma Dean . He read poetry to the crew as they floated along calm stretches of the river. The crew ran the Green and then started down the Colorado without any major incidents. After overwintering on the north rim, they ran the rapids of the Grand Canyon in late summer of the following year.

John Wesley Powell with Tau-gu
a Paiute, 1871-1872
Courtesy Arizona Historical Society

Upon return, surveyor Alven Thompson completed a topographic map of the region, and Powell’s monumental account was published in 1875 by the Smithsonian Institution.

The last “UNEXPLORED”s on the United States map were now replaced by specific landscape features with measured altitudes. Nowadays we still use the many evocative names that Powell and his men bestowed during their travels. Names like Flaming Gorge, Glen Canyon, Dirty Devil River, Escalante River, Cataract Canyon, and Desolation Canyon tell us something of the experiences of these brave men as they were exploring Utah’s last mysterious places.

Thanks to the Rocky Mountain Power Foundation for supporting research and development of this Wild About Utah topic.

Additional thanks to Rey Lloyd Hatt and the friendly staff of the John Wesley Powell River History Museum in Green River UT.

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

Images: Copyright Dan Miller from the book
The River Knows Everything: Desolation Canyon and the Green

Powell images: Courtesy Arizona Historical Society

Text:     Holly Strand, Stokes Nature Center

Sources & Additional Reading

Aton, James M. and Dan Miller (photographer) 2009. The River Knows Everything: Desolation Canyon and the Green. Logan: Utah State University Press.

http://www.usu.edu/usupress/books/index.cfm?isbn=6523

Stegner, Wallace. “ Green River: The Gateway” in Blackstock, Alan. 2005. A Green River reader. Salt Lake City: University Utah Press.
http://www.amazon.com/Green-River-Reader-Alan-Blackstock/dp/0874808375

John Wesley Powell River History Museum in Green River UT http://johnwesleypowell.com/

USGS. 1976. Geological Survey Information 74-24. John Wesley Powell: Soldier, Explorer, Scientist.
http://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/geology/publications/inf/74-24/index.htm [Accessed October 30 2009]

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: