City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

December 17, 2016

December 17th

Filed under: Birds, Colors, Elk, Insects, Light, Pepper-and-salt Moth, Seasons, Unidentified — canopus56 @ 7:51 pm

Late Signs of Coming Winter

5:00 p.m. Another arctic front came through last night, today there was light snow, and temperatures have dropped into the twenties in the city and into the teens in the canyon. For jogging, it is time to start dressing for the coldest part of the year. I start layering up by putting on two warm turtleneck shirts, a wind breaker, and then a sweater. For the lower body I have two socks and a light stretch running pants and a second heavier running pant. With heavy gloves, I am comfortable enough, if moving.

Everything in the canyon is frosted with two or three inches of snow. The Sun is near its most southern position on the ecliptic, and it sets behind the south wall at mile 1.0 and not the north wall. At dusk at milepost 1.5, a warm ray of sunshine breaks through the clouds and casts a warming light the western hills. The ray disappears, but as sunset continues, the cloud that obscures the sun is highlighted at its fringes with bright orange-yellow glow. Through the orange light at the distant canyon mouth, a raptor glides through yellow light. No elk or deer nor their tracks are seen.

5:00 p.m., December 12th, 2016 (Supplement). Winter starts on the 21st. Below Black Mountain, I can see elk tracks that traverse from the Avenues ridgeline down to the canyon road. For me, this is one of the early signals of true winter, which is in five days. The beginning of winter is not first snow, the frost, or even the first real cold spell. It is when the elk collect and migrate out of the higher mountains through Red Butte, Little Mountain Pass, Emigration Canyon, and upper City Creek. Four the next few weeks, they will congregate and file past this mid-elevation of Black Mountain, cross City Creek Canyon, and climb up to winter grazing habitat behind Ensign Peak. Black Mountains’ snow covered lower slope betrays their movements.

At Guardhouse gate, there is small pepper-grey winter moth (probably a Pepper-and-salt moth) that is, for the lack of a better word, panting like a dog. It flutters its wings in a slow sinusoidal rhythm and not in the frenetic flapping before flight. It must be warming its muscles.

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on December 17th 1850, he observes that the practical working length of twilight is lengthened by light reflecting from snow. On December 17th 1853, he finds more moth or butterfly cocoons hanging from trees. On December 17th, 1856, he finds a winter scrub oak forest to be beautiful. On December 17th, 1859, he finds small seeds on the snow surface that have been dispersed by the wind.

On December 17, 1926, the Salt Lake Telegram reported that a mature chestnut tree, that was being dug up at the corner of 100 South and 300 East, was being donated and relocated to Memory Grove Park in City Creek Canyon.

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