Mallard Musings

Mallard Musings: Fall Migration at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Courtesy & Copyright Brian W. Ferguson, Photographer
Fall Migration at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge
Courtesy & Copyright Brian W. Ferguson, Photographer
The Bear River Mountains near the Utah/Idaho border are the headwaters of the Logan River, which flows southwest through Logan Canyon, works its way westward through Logan, and converges with the Little Bear and Bear River about 5 miles west of town. All three rivers are halted by Cutler Dam to form Cutler Reservoir. The Bear River exits the dam which continues southwest and drains into the Great Salt Lake. The portion of the Great Salt Lake where the Bear River drains is managed by the federal Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge which holds spectacular opportunities to view some of nature’s most stunning birds. With a lovely visitor’s center and an auto tour route, even an inexperienced outdoorsman is likely to have a magnificent adventure observing birds interacting in an unmolested manner, unpressured by many elements of human development. If you haven’t ventured there, I recommend doing so and I suggest starting your journey at the visitor’s center near Brigham City. However, this segment is not about the fantastical birds at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. Instead, it’s about a bird that many people see daily, and like me, have drifted through years of life without appreciating their beauty or their behavior.

Labs Alert by Passing Mallards, Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski, Photographer
Labs Alert by Passing Mallards
Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski, Photographer

Perfectly Camouflaged Pair, Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski, Photographer Perfectly Camouflaged Pair
Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski, Photographer

Ready for Takeoff, Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski, Photographer Ready for Takeoff
Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski, Photographer

Game of Tag, Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski, Photographer Game of Tag
Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski, Photographer

My back yard abuts the Logan River as it gently meanders through Logan, UT and my two Labrador Retrievers and I spend many sunny hours sitting in a lawn chair by its banks, enjoying the sound of water and wildlife that call this riverway home. Along with the typical presence of the Black-Capped Chickadees, Belted Kingfishers, American Robins, and Mourning Doves, the stunning green-headed Mallard Duck is a daily companion; one I have grown quite fond of. Often moving in pairs, these boisterous ducks go up and down the river. Sometimes they are flying, one way or the other, wings gliding but six inches off the top of the water. My wet tongued friends are always first to alert me of the flying passers when their heads pop up and ears prick alert. It seems like a dance for the ducks, as one launches from the water for no apparent reason, luring the others to follow. They fly but 50 yards up or down and raucously splash back into the water. No doubt, it seems that a hen is always leading the charge with one, or multiple, green heads following her around. Other times these ducks are bobbling along on the water this way or that. On their way downstream, they seem to stay in the middle and just bounce in the current like a bobber bobs on windy ripples. But on their way upstream, the perfectly camouflaged birds blend into the twigs and boulders on the bank as they pick their way along the side eddies and dabble as they go, heads down and butts erect, foraging for any aquatic insect or vegetation they may find nestled in the stones and debris along the riverbed.

These ducks don’t just stay in the waterway, and often frequent the yards along the river. When on land, these Mallards engage in a game of tag that seems both exhausting and exciting. The drakes seem to chase anything that comes their way, whether it is another drake or a hen. With obvious intentions, the game seems to escalate in the late winter/early spring months as the greenheads become vehemently passionate. These courtship rituals are quite a fascinating site to behold.

So thank you Mallards, for my time by the river just wouldn’t be the same without you to keep me company, and to stir observation and reflection.

This is Dr. Joseph Kozlowski, and I am Wild about Utah!

Credits:

Images: Fall Migration at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge-Courtesy & Copyright Brian W. Ferguson, Photographer, Used by Permission
All other images, as marked, Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski, Photographer
Audio: Courtesy & © Friend Weller, https://upr.org/, Kevin Colver https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections and J. Chase and K.W. Baldwin. https://upr.org/
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: https://wildaboututah.org/author/joseph-kowlowski/

Mallard, Ducks Unlimited, https://www.ducks.org/hunting/waterfowl-id/mallard

Mallard Overview, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Mallard/overview#

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, US Fish & Wildlife Service, US Department of the Interior, https://www.fws.gov/refuge/bear-river-migratory-bird

About Logan, Logan City, UT, https://www.loganutah.org/visitors/about_logan/index.php

Leavitt, Shauna, The Ecology in and around the Logan River, Wild About Utah, December 2, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/the-ecology-in-and-around-the-logan-river/

Water Inspires Writing & Drawing to Learn

Water Inspires Writing & Drawing to Learn: The first reach of the Little Logan River at River Hollow Park. This is the river’s connection to the Logan River, and in the proposed Logan River Watershed Plan it will be an excavated to bury piped water, severing the historic Little Logan River from the Logan River forever. Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart, Photographer
The first reach of the Little Logan River at River Hollow Park. This is the river’s connection to the Logan River, and in the proposed Logan River Watershed Plan it will be an excavated to bury piped water, severing the historic Little Logan River from the Logan River forever.
Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart, Photographer
Water Inspires Writing & Drawing to Learn: The Little Logan River Anabranch & the PBS Utah Writers & Illustrators Contest for youth from Kindergarten through 6th Grade

Throughout history, cities and towns have often been established along the banks of rivers, because these waterways provide a source of drinking water, power, and transport links to other communities. The City of Logan, Utah, is no exception – in fact it was just over a century and a half ago, in the Spring of 1859, when the first white settlers chose to camp on the banks of the Little Logan River in what is now named Merlin Olsen Central Park. Right away, they began building mills and farming the fertile Island between the rivers. Our natural and cultural heritage are linked to water, so it’s an exciting opportunity to be inspired by the PBS KIDS Utah Writers & Illustrators Contest theme of “Our Water, Our Future”. Children in Kindergarten-6th Grade are invited to participate, and stories are accepted in English and Spanish, can be fiction or nonfiction, may be about your very own neighborhood or faraway lands. Anyone can take a look at the PBS Utah activity sheets and printable resources online.

Do you have a favorite neighborhood park where you go wading and tubing? Did you know that the Little Logan River flows through half a dozen beloved parks, including River Hollow Park which was established at the source, where the Little Logan River branches north from the Logan River. The Little Logan meanders through town where it used to power multiple mills, including Central Mills, established in 1867 and considered to be the oldest continuously-run business in the state. The river is an anabranch of the Logan River, a diverging branch of the river which re enters the main stream at the west edge of town. Fun Fact: In Australian Public Works Departments* an anabranch is called a billabong!

Speaking of water, if you put a shallow bowl of clean water out for birds you might see them flock to your little oasis for a drink and a careful Tai Chi-like bathing ritual, and with a heated bird bath in winter, you might witness a fascinating meeting of a variety of species gathering around the warm watering hole, perhaps sharing a quiet appreciation for the nutritious seeds in the nearby dried Sunflowers, Black-eyed Susans, and Indian Rice Grass.

Hearing the birds brings to mind the insightful observations by Terry Tempest Williams, that “Once upon a time, when women were birds, there was the simple understanding that to sing at dawn and to sing at dusk was to heal the world through joy. The birds still remember what we have forgotten, that the world is meant to be celebrated.”

Now is the time to celebrate the biodiversity supported by our rivers and lakes, and each and every life-sustaining drop of water in our watersheds.

I’m Hilary Shughart with the Bridgerland Audubon Society, and I am Wild About Utah!

Credits:
Images: Courtesy & Copyright, Hilary Shughart, Photographer
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright © Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections/kevin-colver AND Friend Weller, Retiring Engineer, Utah Public Radio, https://www.upr.org/people/friend-weller
Text: Hilary Shughart, President, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/
Additional Reading: Hilary Shughart and Lyle Bingham, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading

WildAboutUtah pieces by Hilary Shughart, https://wildaboututah.org/author/hilary-shughart/

Full Power Flour: The relationship between the farmer, the miller and the baker are key to the success of Central Milling’s organic mission. By Darby Doyle https://www.visitutah.com/Articles/Full-Power-Flour

Little Logan River Topo Map https://www.topozone.com/utah/cache-ut/stream/little-logan-river/

An anabranch is a channel of water that leaves a river or stream and then rejoins again further downstream. An anabranch is considered to be part of the river or stream that it comes from.
An anabranch can be nearly half of a river’s flow of water. When there is an island in the river, an anabranch is created as water passes around the island. The smaller channel of water passing the island is an anabranch of the river. http://worldlandforms.com/landforms/anabranch/

PBS KIDS Utah Writers & Illustrators Contest: Our Water, Our Future https://www.pbsutah.org/kids/writers-illustrators-contest/?utm_source=sfmc&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=03.21.24+E-news&utm_term=https%3a%2f%2fwww.pbsutah.org%2fkids%2fwriters-illustrators-contest%2f&utm_id=114875&sfmc_id=147746441

“Unlike Main Street, or Center Street, or 400 North Street, which are streets of commerce, the Little Logan River is the raison d’etre of the City of Logan. “
A History of Logan Island, by Virginia C. Parker, Logan, Utah, 2007, http://exhibits.usu.edu/exhibits/show/the-island-market/item/25944

Billabong https://cide.en-academic.com/dic.nsf/cide/17968/Billabong

Working Water in Cache Valley, Cache Pioneer Museum, Cache Chapter of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, https://cachedupmuseum.org/in-the-news.html

Terry Tempest Williams, When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice, Sarah Crichton Books; First Edition (April 10, 2012) https://www.amazon.com/When-Women-Were-Birds-Fifty-four/dp/1250024110

ECONET April 2, Proposal to sever the Little Logan River from the Logan River, 5:30 p.m. Logan City Hall, 290 N 100 West Logan, UT, Bridgerland Audubon Society, March 29, 2024, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/econet-proposal-to-sever-little-logan-river-from-logan-river/

Delta’s Snow Goose Festival

Delta's Snow Goose Festival: Snow Geese at Gunnison Bend Reservoir, Delta Utah Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers, Photographer
Snow Geese at
Gunnison Bend Reservoir
Delta Utah
Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers, Photographer
Every Spring the city of Delta, Utah puts out a call to come on down to the annual Snow Goose Festival.

Right on schedule thousands of snow geese fly in from as far south as Mexico to fatten up on the spilled grain in the local farmer’s fields, and rest a bit before continuing their migration to the far north.

I arrived at about noon and sure enough found a few hundred of the white geese bobbling peacefully in the reservoir just outside of town. Then came a great crescendo of geese calls and I looked up. A couple hundred more geese were flying in like a precision jet team. They lowered their feet and waterskied to a soft landing, somehow managing not to bump into each other. And then the scene quieted down. It was time for a long afternoon nap.

Perhaps these geese wondered why so many spectators had come to the reservoir to watch them nap on their day off. But we had come to marvel at their ability to catch the slow rising tide of lengthening days and ride it to the north, timing their arrival to the melting of snow and greening of the arctic tundra. In the far north, the snow geese will split off into pairs, build their nests, and raise their young.

But in the fall, they will form up in large flocks once again for the return trip because they know flying together is far more efficient than flying alone. People that study the physics of flying tell us that birds can get an energy savings of 65% from the free lift of upward airflow around another bird’s wing tips.

A few years ago, I had read a book about a man in Ontario, Canada, Bill Lishman, who had carried out a migration experiment with geese. I dug out my copy of his book, Father Goose, and reread it.

Bill had hatched some Canada goose eggs in an incubator at his home. The geese followed him everywhere, toddling across his lawn, swimming in his pond, and going airborne while chasing him on his motorcycle. One goose liked to fly inches above his head, looking a lot like the bill of an amazing baseball cap. Eventually Bill coaxed the geese into the air behind his ultralight plane.

Could these young geese, raised without adult geese role models, be able to migrate? Bill launched his trial – a 400-mile fall journey from Ontario to a nature reserve in Virginia. The geese flew with Bill’s plane for 7 days, overnighting along the way, and settled down for the winter.

The next big question lay ahead: would the geese be able to find their way home unaided in the spring?

Unexpectedly, on April 1, the geese took off under cover of night. For two weeks, Bill and his team searched for them to no avail. Then Bill got a phone call from his wife. The geese had returned and were waiting for him on the lawn in front of his house in Ontario.

Did they remember landmarks in the terrain they had crossed on the way south? Did they navigate by the sun and stars?

Bill had shown that young geese could find their way home. But just exactly how they did it is still a very well-kept secret.

This is Mary Heers and I’m Wild About Utah

Credits:
Photos: Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers, Photographer
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers
Text: Mary Heers, https://cca.usu.edu/files/awards/art-and-mary-heers-citation.pdf
Additional Reading: Lyle Bingham, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Mary Heers’ Postings

See thousands of geese migrating through Utah during the 2024 Delta Snow Goose Festival, Feb 1, 2024, https://wildlife.utah.gov/news/utah-wildlife-news/1842-see-thousands-of-geese-migrating-during-the-2024-delta-snow-goose-festival.html

Snow Goose Festival, Delta Area Chamber of Commerce, https://www.deltautahchamber.com/snowgoosefestival

Snow Goose Festival, Millard County Tourism, https://visitmillardcounty.com/events/snowgoosefestival/

Snow Goose Festival Video, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, https://fb.watch/r0SBEaTY5i/

Snow Goose | Canada Goose Comparison, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Canada_Goose/species-compare/59939631

Magnificent Utah Canyons

Magnificent Utah Canyons: Kolob Canyon Landscapes, Courtesy Pixabay, Joe Russell Photography, Contributor
Kolob Canyon Landscapes
Courtesy Pixabay,
Joe Russell Photography, Contributor

Snow Canyon State Park, Courtesy Pixabay, AlpineDon, ContributorSnow Canyon State Park
Courtesy Pixabay
AlpineDon, Contributor

Utah is riddled with the most magnificent canyons on our lovely little planet! Thinking Snow Canyon, Kolob, Zion, Virgin River Gorge, Logan Canyon, Coyote gulch, Big and little Cottonwoods, and several hundred more that deserve mention.

I recently returned from leading an outing for 25 USU international students where we split our time between Snow Canyon and Zion National Park. Their hearts have yet to fully recover from world class scenery and the remarkable geologic features they encompass. Petrified 200-foot sand dunes in Snow and 2000 foot vertical “big” walls in Zion, softened by rushing waters of the Virgin river. The Virgin River Narrows tugged at their sense of adventure as many “Narrows” hikers clothed in waders, holding wooden staffs, came trekking out of the “Gateway”.

Canyon’s deliver our waters and nurture our souls. Majestic rivers- Green, Colorado, Yampa White, San Juan, the Bear, offer all levels of boating thrills from placid to riotous. I’ve experienced many with family and students in various crafts- rafts, canoes, kayaks. Much of the country they cut through is remote and wild. Desolation, Dinosaur, Arches, Canyonlands NP, Bears Ears. Many meander through terra incognito, roadless wilderness, sliced and diced into alluring slot canyons where the sun never shines. Mysteries to behold, and flash floods to unfold.

My daughter-in-law and grandchildren experienced a grand adventure in the Zion subway slot canyon. A beautiful, blue-sky day with no hint or forecast of rain. Midway through their passage the water began to rise. Unknown to them, a heavy downpour had occurred miles above. Fortunately, they were able to scramble up to a ledge where they spent a long, cold, hungry night as the waters continued to rise. Not until the following day did the stream drop enough to allow their escape.

Where else can one take refuge from our overheated summers. Adventure awaits. Hiking, climbing, skiing, wildlife watching, botanizing- all there beckoning!

Birders delights from American dippers to Great Blue Herons. Soon to be filled with bird song as spring unfolds- fox and song sparrows, MacGillivray and Wilson warblers, warbling and plumbeous vireos, black headed grosbeaks and bullock orioles, lazuli buntings, join at least 20 other species adding to the chorus. Resident canyon wrens often announce their presence in vibrant, cascading song.

Beyond their stunning beauty and endless adventure, our canyons encompass myriad watersheds which capture the masses of snow melt resulting in most of our desert state’s water. Additionally, healthy watersheds feed our iconic Great Salt Lake, a critical western hemispheric shorebird refuge, and essential to our well-being in so many additional ways.

These priceless landforms deserve our love and protection. Threats of gondolas, mining, road improvements, and other human activities will continue to be challenges. “Save Our Canyons”, a SLC organization is laser focused on keeping Wasatch canyons from being further compromised. We must all become canyon advocates for the infinite joy and countless gifts they unflinchingly provide.

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

Credits:

Images: Kolob Canyon Landscapes Courtesy Pixabay, Joe Russell_Photography, Contributor https://pixabay.com/photos/kolob-canyon-landscapes-outdoors-5215253/
Snow Canyon State Park Courtesy Pixabay, AlpineDon, Contributor, https://pixabay.com/photos/snow-canyon-state-park-utah-1066145/
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/

Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park, National Parks Service, US Department of the Interior, https://www.nps.gov/zion/planyourvisit/kolob-canyons.htm

Matcha (Contracted content), A Visitor’s Guide to Zion’s Kolob Canyons, Utah Office of Tourism, https://www.visitutah.com/Articles/Kolob-Canyons-Visitor-Guide