City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

November 9, 2016

November 9th

Filed under: Gambel's Oak, gnats, Insects, moss, Plants, Variegated Meadowhawks — canopus56 @ 6:09 pm

Ghosts in the Canyon

9:30 a.m. As I run up-canyon, the morning cold is still on the road. Coming down canyon, the Sun hits the road in the lower canyon and a few gnats have begun to rise. Gnats, small non-biting flies, live off the moss that grows profusely in the stream and rotting vegetation at its banks. In the afternoons, there are still one or two Variegated Meadowhawk dragonflies, but they are not enough to keep the gnats down. In this season’s colder weather, gnats like to stay in the warming sunlight. On November 4th at 5:00 p.m., backlit by the sun’s rays, I estimated that there between 200 and 300 gnats near Guardhouse Gate. On October 31st, while running down canyon at milepost 1.5, the line of the setting sun was above 20 feet above the road. There were no gnats at the level of the road in shadow, but looking up into the backlit sunlight, I estimated about 100 gnats were following the rising sunline. Like Gambel’s oak acorns, the prolific gnats are another base of the canyon’s food chain. They are food for dragonflies and birds.

There are many now little-used names for groups of animals, e.g. a gaggle of geese on the ground, a skein of geese in flight, or a murder of crows. A flock of gnats is called a ghost. It is an apt name. A flock of gnats in the canyon are not bothersome. One can walk or run through one without noticing them, unless one of hundreds happens to fall into your mouth, but flocks of hundreds of gnats visually appear and disappear like ghosts depending on their back-lighting.

In “Four Seasons” on this date, Barnes describes finding a sunflower in bloom in City Creek. (id. Nov. 9th).

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