Wild About Utah

  Wild About Utah is a weekly nature series produced by Utah Public Radio in cooperation with Stokes Nature Center, Bridgerland Audubon Society, Quinney College of Natural Resources, Cache Valley Wildlife Association, Utah State University and Utah Master Naturalist Program - USU Extension. More about Wild About Utah can be found here.

Utah is a state endowed with many natural wonders from red rock formations to salt flats. And from desert wetlands to columns of mountains forming the basin and range region. When we look closer, nature is everywhere including just outside our door.

Ways to Connect

Antelope Island.
wnk1029 / Pixabay

It was early afternoon in mid-July 2019 and my first time setting foot on Antelope Island. As a newcomer to Utah, I was itching to explore the local sights and had come to learn about the impressive annual shorebird migration from my friend, a bird enthusiast and fellow graduate student.

Wild About Utah: the natural ebbs of the world

Nov 9, 2021
Hans Benn / Pixabay


I can never tell if the anachronism of daylight savings is ironic. Maybe that’s due to my newly syncopated circadian rhythm. Or maybe it’s all a dream. Or perhaps, it’s somewhere in between.

Wild About Utah: brushes

Nov 2, 2021
Shannon Rhodes


Of all the lovely wildflowers to enjoy in Utah, Indian paintbrush has to top my list. The nickname “prairie fire” is an accurate one, highlighting the variety of colors we find: reds, oranges, yellows, pinks, purples and sometimes a mixture of two. 

Wild About Utah: the wonders of bird migration

Oct 20, 2021
Antranias / Pixabay

As I watch waves of migrant birds move through our valley, beginning in mid-July with rufous hummingbirds and a few early shorebirds, followed by raptors pouring over the Wellsvilles mountains in mid-August, then September when many of our songbirds head for the tropics, and lastly in November come the waterfowl- ducks, geese, and swans stream through by the thousands, I am thunderstruck. The remarkable physiology that allows our avifauna to find their way through storm and unimaginable distances to their destinations defies logic. Fraught with peril, it is the most dangerous part of their existence since leaving the nest.

A close-up of an otter.
No-longer-here / Pixabay

This summer, while running on the river trail, I saw an otter. A real life river otter. It leapt out of the water and darted into a pocket between rocks on the bank, with a trout in its mouth! It was one of those moments where I was confronted with something that was, in my mind, so wildly outside the realm of possibility that it took me a minute to figure out what the blurred brown weasel-shaped thing even was.

Wild About Utah: sermons of birds

Oct 5, 2021
Pixabay


There is a story I like of an old Zen master who one day was asked to speak wisdom to his acolytes as they were sitting outside. He obliged. He rose and walked to the front of the students. He waited a moment to think carefully about his words, opened his mouth, and then just as he was about to speak, a bird in a nearby tree sang its beautiful warbling song. The master did not interrupt but instead simply listened and waited until the song finished, and the bird had flown away. When it had, he finally spoke: “The sermon has been delivered,” he acknowledged, and took his seat once more.

Mary Heers

The following is an unedited transcript.

At 11:00 last Friday, I was standing alone outside a 120 ft pigeon loft in Fielding, Utah, scanning the sky for incoming birds. A few minutes later, the loft owner, Derek Alder, pulled into the driveway. "I passed them in Malad," he said, hopping out of his truck. “They should be here in about 10 minutes."  Earlier that morning, Derek had driven 250 pigeons to Spencer, Idaho, 180 miles away. He had released them at 8 a.m. and had barely beaten them home.

Roger Lewis / US FWS

I first met the Great Salt Lake in 1964 with two CMU college buddies on our way to Los Angeles. We heard you could float in its magical waters. Sure enough it worked and we bobbed in its gentle waves, oblivious to the many other virtues of this extraordinary water body.

Wild About Utah: In Equal Measure To Our Fears

Sep 7, 2021
iris4me | pixabay.com

Doubt is a tricky thing. It’s neither good nor bad, it is simply the axis upon which the scales of hope and fear balance. It is the prerequisite of faith, belief, disbelief, and nihilism, all equal paths of equal circumstance. It is the fork in the road which Berra told us to take all the same.

Wild About Utah: Mormon Crickets

Aug 23, 2021
Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

 

The following is an un-edited transcipt.

Children’s author George Selden described the impact of a cricket’s chirping in the bustle of a subway station in his book “The Cricket in Times Square” like this: “Like ripples around a stone dropped into still water, the circles of silence spread out. …Eyes that looked worried grew soft and peaceful; tongues left off chattering; and ears full of the city’s rustling were rested by the cricket’s melody.” Combine this musical talent with Jiminy Cricket’s gentle reminder to always listen to my conscience, and it is no wonder that I would drift to sleep on summer evenings enamored with cricket songs. How, I thought, could such a beautifully-sounding insect be the villain in Utah’s legend we know as the Miracle of the Gulls, memorialized in Minerva Teichert paintings and Temple Square monuments?

Wild About Utah: Intelligent Squirrels

Aug 20, 2021

  

  The following is an unedited transcript.

Primates of the northlands. I consider tree squirrels to be on par with many primates for intelligence and agility.  Those who have bird feeders may agree with me as they vainly attempt to thwart squirrel’s from invading their feeders. We have red squirrels visiting our bird feeder regularly. I’ve outsmarted them for the moment, but they continue to work on the problem I’ve presented them and feel a failure coming my way!

Wild About Utah: Bird-Friendly Coffee Conserves Habitat

Aug 9, 2021

Since 1956, the Bridgerland Audubon Society has been documenting about one hundred bird species braving our northern Utah winters, but there’s an equally wonderful array of birds that spend their summers in Cache Valley.

Wild About Utah: Take The Plunge

Aug 6, 2021
Patrick Kelly

Probably yesterday by the time you hear this, I will have proposed to my now fiance. I wanted to do it earlier, but life held me off from doing it in Utah. Utah wouldn’t let me say what Poland, her home country, was there for. The land needed to be a part of the process.

Mary Heers

The minute I heard there was a well-stocked community fishing pond just five miles down the road from where I live, I dusted off my old fishing pole, slipped out of the house, and threw my line into the Wellsville Reservoir. I had the place to myself. There was snow on the ground but the water wasn't frozen. Within the first hour, I felt the tug on the line and reeled in a 12-inch trout. I was hooked! I returned just about every evening to catch my limit of 2. I called all my friends who liked to eat fish and started to consider adding fresh fish delivery to my resume.

Wild About Utah: Birds And Fires

Jul 19, 2021

Holy smokes! Once again, our summer has become a smoke-filled world we’re warned against breathing. I often wonder how our feathered friends are weathering the pall.

A Moment to Think About Our State Bird

Jul 13, 2021
Credit Courtesy and Copyright 2003 Jack Binch All Rights Reserved

Utah’s state bird is is commemorated as the seagull, more accurately the the California Gull. Known in Utah for having saved the pioneers from the Mormon cricket invasion of 1848 and subsequent years, gulls hold a hallowed place in local history.

Wild About Utah: At Home In The Dark

Jul 6, 2021
Courtesy & © Katarzyna Bilicka, Photographer

All year I wait for the summer evenings. All year I long for the oddity of ‘warm and dark,’ of trilling owls flickering from treetop to treetop, and for the scent of hot baked earth cooling as on a sill. Summer evenings evoke in me joy in being out of doors, living within the intact Eden which lies just below our own preconceptions and deepening my appetite for life. Summer evenings, those dark arid cradles of Utah’s providence, have other benefits, too.

Wild About Utah: The Bobolink

Jun 30, 2021
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Steve Maslowski, Photographer

Many years have passed and yet I still have vivid memories of the skylark- a joyous bird of the English countryside whose aerial song lifts one’s spirit to mingle with this buoyant beauty. Thankfully, we have our own version of the skylark whose name reflects its unforgettable song. 

Wild About Utah: Malacomosa Dance

Jun 23, 2021
Shannon Rhodes


My father’s first caterpillar encounter has always been a bedtime favorite. The story goes that a plump fuzzy one was crawling on his picnic blanket one afternoon. I would imagine him watching its five pairs of prolegs innocently undulating along. Then, Dad ate it, hairy bristles and all.

Credit Courtesy & © Mary Heers

Just imagine waking from a very long sleep into a bright May morning in Cache Valley. This is the story of Luci, a western firefly, told charmingly by Melissa Marsted and illustrated by Liesl Cannon in their new children’s book, The Mystery of Luci’s Missing Lantern. 

Wild About Utah: Full Moon Serenade

Jun 7, 2021
Swainson’s Thrush & Western Meadowlark Courtesy US NPS Robbie Hannawacker, Photographer (thrush) Albert Myran, Photographer (meadowlark) Combined by Patrick Kelly

The serenades around where I live begin early. Today it was during the full moon at 3 a.m., in a break from the blessed rain. The chorus is mostly of robins, but one voice sticks out as new; a call I do not know; a love letter to the curiosity of who could make such a call. I have hope that I’ll be able to find who sings like a Geddy Lee who has found Xanadu. It isn’t the first mystery bird I’ve encountered though.

Liesl Cannon, Illustrator

Just imagine waking from a very long sleep into a bright  May morning in Cache Valley.  This is the story of Luci, a western firefly, told charmingly by Melissa Marsted and illustrated by Liesel Cannon in their new children's book, The Mystery of Luci's Missing Lantern.  After completing her transition from a larva to an adult firefly, Luci notices she has no light.  She flies up Logan Canyon looking for her missing lantern, where the animals she meets encourage her to keep looking.  But its a bluebird on top of Mt. Naomi, the highest point in the canyon, who turns Luci around and sends her back to where she was born, the Nibley Firefly Park.  

There Luci finds her light. She sits down near the top of a tall blade of grass, and suddenly males fly by, flashing their lights, trying to get her attention. Luci discovers she can flash back. It's a party - a big courtship dance.

Wild About Utah: Utah—A Love Story

May 25, 2021
Zion National Park

“…[A] word of caution: Do not jump into your automobile next June and rush out to the canyon country hoping to see some of that which I have attempted to evoke in these pages. In the first place you can’t see anything from a car; you’ve got to get out…and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail you’ll see something, maybe.”

Wild About Utah: Acorn Woodpecker

May 25, 2021

My first encounter with an acorn woodpecker occurred many years ago in California, a species unknown to me. I was surprised to find a small flock of these comedic-looking birds—most unusual for woodpeckers, which are generally solitary other than with mates or young. And those startling yellow eyes! 

Nature perseveres in even the most built environment. The cycle of life continues, in our parks, our backyards, and the green spaces in between. Hawks hunt for rodents, rodents forage for seeds, and both seek out mates, no matter how temporary. 

Patrick Kelly

I love the sun. Now, I don’t always like it, but I always do love it. It’s a relationship that is both iterative and consistent, built by years of experience, and yet left open for surprises. It provides, draws me out, pushes me inside, and draws me out once more. Like the four valves of our hearts, the seasons each give new direction.

Shannon Rhodes

In Kathryn Lasky’s picture book “One Beetle Too Many,” we read, “Charles [Darwin] learned the names of everything he collected, for to know the names of these things was important, and it might be the one time when adults would actually listen to a child speak.” As an elementary school teacher, I ponder its message, reflecting on my wilderness experiences enriched by children. In fact, some of my best discovery days have been when I was led by a curious child. 

Wild About Utah: The Glacier Lily

Apr 19, 2021
Courtesy Andrea Liberatore, Photographer

I find it difficult to leave my canyon home in northern Utah especially during April and May. Every day brings new bloom and bird song. On April 12, I returned from nine days in Georgia for a family event. I quickly retreated to the canyon where I found spring in full bloom—spring beauty, balsamroot, Indian potato, locoweed, violet and perhaps my favorite, the glacier lily. It often appears at the edge of receding snow banks.

Wild About Utah: Swans

Mar 29, 2021
Mary Heers

A few months ago, I was driving a car on an interstate road trip when a picture of a coffee cup suddenly appeared on my dashboard with the question, "Need a rest?" I was a little startled to suddenly be getting questions from my car, but I must admit I felt a surge of relief when a large truck stop soon came into view. 

Wild About Utah: Questions

Mar 22, 2021
Stacy Spensley, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Buttercup, bluebell, dandelion, fern.

Mountain, river, and cascading falls.

 

Kingfisher, lark, cygnet, heron.

 

Adder, otter, and newt.

 

What? Why? How?: my favorite wild words of all.

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