A Wild Utah Thanksgiving

Box Elder Bug on Milkweed Courtesy US FWS, Chelsi Burns, Photographer
Box Elder Bug on Milkweed
Courtesy US FWS, Chelsi Burns, Photographer

Perigrine Falcon Courtesy US FWS, Alan Schmierer, Photographer Perigrine Falcon
Courtesy US FWS, Alan Schmierer, Photographer

Northern Shrike Courtesy US FWS, Dave Menke, Photographer Northern Shrike
Courtesy US FWS, Dave Menke, Photographer

Robin with Chicks in Nest Courtesy US FWS, images.fws.gov James C. Leopold, Photographer Robin with Chicks in Nest
Courtesy US FWS, images.fws.gov
James C. Leopold, Photographer

Jerusalem Cricket Orthoptera: Stenopelmatidae Copyright 2013 Holly Strand Jerusalem Cricket
Orthoptera: Stenopelmatidae
Copyright 2013 Holly Strand

A Wild Utah Thanksgiving: Wild Turkeys
Courtesy Pixabay, Public Domain Images Wild Turkeys
Courtesy Pixabay, Public Domain Images

Wild Turkeys: Wild Turkey Tom Courtesy Pixabay, Biggles55 Contributor & Photographer Wild Turkey Tom
Courtesy Pixabay
Biggles55 Contributor & Photographer

Wild Turkeys: Rio Grande Turkey Tom, Meleagris gallopavo, Courtesy US FWS, Robert H. Burton, Photographer, images.fws.gov Rio Grande Turkey Tom
Meleagris gallopavo
Courtesy US FWS
Robert H. Burton, Photographer

I’m Giving thanks for a Wild Utah, which is all around us- in our yards, downtown, and even in our homes. I will make my case with the following vignettes.

Box elder bugs are my nemesis, reproducing numbers far beyond what their predators can control. But my grandkids adore them. Calling them “Boxies”, they are enthralled with their “cute” little friends. They will make a home for them in a jar, making sure they’re comfortable and well fed with collected leaves.

While sauntering through Temple Square on a lovely June day, I was startled by the kee-kee-kee call of peregrine falcons. One lit atop Moroni’s head, which adorns the temple, soon to be joined by another. The elder missionary who had begun his missionary pitch to me was aghast as I explained the peregrine coupling on their sacred figure.

My grandkids and I were keeping track of a robins nest which had been built over our front door facing. Checking the eggs, which were near hatching, we discovered a great basin gopher snake had crawled up the vertical house wall for egg soufflé, devouring all four eggs. How in the world did this reptile even know there was a nest with eggs in this unusual location, and make the vertical climb to eat them? A natural wonder!

Our bird feeder is quite popular with predatory birds. We noticed a darling little saw-whet owl sitting in the tree where the feeder hung with a junco in its beak. On another occasion, my wife alerted me to a stellar jay sitting on a limb outside the kitchen window with a fat meadow vole dangling from its mouth.

A few weeks ago, my daughter texted me a photo of a mystery bird that had slammed into their window. What is this bird? A northern shrike was the victim- a rarity indeed. Fortunately, it recovered, hopefully without serious injury, to hunt her birds another day.

When our children were young, a Jerusalem cricket was discovered in the basement. These Tonka Toy-like insects are marvels- and very scary. It kept our children occupied for hours. On another occasion, we came home to find baby skunks had invaded us. One of our sons had found them near their road-killed mother and adopted them. These cute little critters soon adapted to our presence, and no one was sprayed, but they did harbor a skunky odor for some time, probably from their deceased mother.

Given the Thanks Giving season, I’ll wrap this up with turkeys. Downtown Logan had four tom turkeys who were causing mayhem with traffic at the Center and Main intersection. Our fearless law officer were called out to remediate the situation. Following an hour of frantic scramble, the officers were defeated, as were the turkeys, who found an open door for refuge in a butcher shop. True story.

Wishing you a Wild Utah Thanksgiving!

This is Jack Greene for Bridgerland Audubon Society, and I’m wild about this Utah!

Picture: Peregrine Falcon, Courtesy US FWS, Alan Schmierer, Photographer
Picture: Northern Shrike, Courtesy US FWS Dave Menke, Photographer
Picture: Robin with Chicks, Courtesy US FWS, James C. Leopold, Photographer
Picture: Jerusalem Cricket, Copyright 2013 Holly Strand
Picture: Courtesy Pixabay, PublicDomainImages AND https://pixabay.com/photos/autumn-woodland-through-walking-387109/
Picture: Courtesy Pixabay, Biggles55 Contributor & Photographer,
Picture: Courtesy US FWS, Robert H Burton, Photographer https://images.fws.gov/
Audio: Courtesy & © Vince Guaraldi
Text: Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/
Additional Reading: Lyle W Bingham, Webmaster, and Jack Greene, Author, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading:

Jack Greene’s Postings on Wild About Utah, https://wildaboututah.org/author/jack/

Greene, Jack, Wild Turkeys, Wild About Utah, November 22, 2021, https://wildaboututah.org/wild-turkeys/

Bingham, Lyle, Read by Linda Kervin, Wild Turkeys – Recently Moved to Utah, Wild About Utah, November 19, 2009, https://wildaboututah.org/wild-turkeys-recently-moved-to-utah/

Strand, Holly, Boxelder Bug Poetry, Wild About Utah, March 3, 2009, https://wildaboututah.org/boxelder-bug-poetry/

Kervin, Linda, Shrikes, Wild About Utah, October 31, 2013, https://wildaboututah.org/shrikes/

Peregrine Falcons: Fierce predators rescued from the abyss

Peregrine Falcons: Fierce predators rescued from the abyss: Falco peregrinus, Tooele County, Utah, 21 Jun 2009. Photo Courtesy & Copyright Kent R. Keller and found on utahbirds.org
Peregrine Falcon, Falco peregrinus
Tooele County, Utah, 21 Jun 2009
Courtesy & Copyright © Kent R. Keller
from Utahbirds.org

PeregrinePeregrine Falcon
Courtesy US FWS
Frank Doyle, Photographer

Click to view larger image of a Peregrine Falcon in Flight. Courtesy US FWS, Katherine Whittemore, PhotographerPeregrine Falcon in Flight
Courtesy US FWS
Katherine Whittemore, Photographer

What predatory bird can guide a screaming 200 MPH freefall dive to intercept a flying duck, killing it with a blow from a fist of talons? Tornado winds howl at 200MPH. Even flying horizontally, this bird can accelerate to 70MPH. No animal is faster. It must therefore be a falcon, in today’s case, the Peregrine Falcon. This species inhabits all continents but Antarctica. The Peregrine likes cliff ledges for nesting, such as the high basalt walls at the Birds of Prey Refuge along the Snake River near Boise. In such places, listen for its call, which is very similar to this Prairie Falcon:

Kevin Colver recording: Songbirds of the Southwest Canyon Country

Fifty years ago, the Peregrine Falcon was in a different dive, a plunge to extinction. The culprit was DDT. It wasn’t poisoning the birds, but it insidiously interfered with birds’ calcium metabolism, leaving thin-shelled eggs that broke under brooding parents. DDT is persistent. Worse, DDT bioaccumulates in fats of species high on the food chain, birds like falcons, eagles, and pelicans. Robins provided the first persuasive evidence of DDT bioaccumulation.

On December 28, 1973, President Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act into law. The peregrine falcon was immediately listed. DDT use in the United States was banned. Worried wildlife researchers undertook a bold program to rescue intact eggs from cliff-face nests. The captive nestlings were raised up and taught to hunt. Over the years, 1600 peregrines were released into the wild. The peregrine’s population plunge was halted, then reversed. In 1999, it was formally delisted. By 2003, 3000 pairs bred in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. Peregrines have never been common, but today, you are four times more likely to see a Peregrine Falcon in Utah than 30 years earlier. You can see similar rebounds in Red-tailed Hawks, Brown Pelicans and other predatory birds by going to the website of the National Audubon Christmas bird counts. This is an environmental success story worth celebrating.

This is Linda Kervin for Bridgerland Audubon Society.


Photo: Courtesy & Copyright Kent R. Keller and

Courtesy images.fws.gov

Text: Jim Cane, Bridgerland Audubon Society

Bird Recordings Courtesy and Copyright Dr. Kevin Colver,https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections & WildSanctuary, Soundscapes, https://www.wildsanctuary.com


Additional Reading:

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, May 2006, https://library.fws.gov/ES/peregrine06.pdf

Christmas Bird Count, National Audubon Society, https://birds.audubon.org/christmas-bird-count

The Birder’s Handbook: a field guide to the natural history of North American birds : including all species that regularly breed north of Mexico [Book] by Paul R. Ehrlich, David S. Dobkin, Darryl Wheye

Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle, Thor Hanson, Illustrated. 336 pages. Basic Books.

Salt Lake City Peregrine Falcon Cameras, Wildlife.utah.gov, https://wildlife.utah.gov/dwr/learn-more/peregrine-cam.html