They’re unlike any other of Utah’s birds. These tiny birds range from 2¾ to 4 inches tall and have some of the highest metabolisms in the world, with heart rates around 1,250 beats per minute. At night, their hearts slow to between 50 and 180 beats per minute, which enables them to tolerate some below-freezing temperatures.
The day was gorgeous, the weather was great, the scenery was interesting and colorful and there were plenty of deer for us to watch through binoculars. Fortunately, it’s a big area and we were able to find some wildlife close enough to photograph.
Everyone was eager to not only see these mysterious creatures up close, but to touch and even smell the furry little flyers. Seeing everyone in the dark was difficult, but characterizing the mood of this group was easy: Bring on the bats!
When the mob of chicks came back to my edge of the fence, I just reached in and picked one up. That, of course, left its beak free to protest by pecking the top of my head. I got the little guy under my arm quickly and was able to hold a hand over his eyes, which calmed him down.
Thanks to the web cams in the nest box, we’ve been able to watch (in high def!) this year’s lone peregrine falcon chick grow from a tiny fluffball into an almost-adult predator preparing for life outside the box. But what’s even better than seeing falcon action in high definition? Seeing it right in front of you!
Next cast… score! You know what I mean if you’ve ever seen someone holding a fishing pole get a bite that bends the pole. I still remember their lower lip bites and looks of concentration and wonder as they worked to reel in that big fish.
In late April, my regional supervisor, Bill Bates, forwarded me an email asking for help retrieving a transmitter from the study. The osprey carrying it had died, then been covered by snow over the winter. The transmitter sent out a signal in October of 2012, but went silent after being covered in snow.
Looking at the calendar, I’ve noted that it’s time to prepare for the upcoming 2013 Great Salt Lake Bird Festival (GSLBF) happening May 16-20. Since 2009, I have co-led a GSLBF birding field trip in downtown Salt Lake City with the expert assistance of bird watching enthusiast Terri Clemons. The excursion is called the City Center Bird Walk.
I knew my job with DWR would provide me some cool opportunities, but never could I have guessed I’d end up on top of one of the tallest buildings in Salt Lake, holding a box with a peregrine falcon inside.
I was so nervous, I froze. All I could do was watch them walk by. All of a sudden they ran and I knew I had missed my chance. Of course, my daddy and husband made fun of me for choking under pressure. I hunted for seven days during that trip and never saw another deer.
Because these ducks are cavity nesters, nesting habitat was mostly unavailable at the pond. Cavities are most commonly found in stumps and dead trees, which are almost always removed from city parks. It was obvious that lack of nesting habitat limited population growth for wood ducks.
My favorite part of the festival was the trip that went to the extreme southwest corner of the state to a place called Lytle Ranch. I was with a group of bird photographers and we were richly rewarded for our efforts.