City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

May 13, 2017

May 11th

Giant Crane Flies

6:30 p.m. Starry solomon’s seal has grown several inches in the last week, and now before twilight, numerous of these plants open their blossoms. At the seep below picnic site 6 (May 6th), six stick-like Giant Western Crane flies (Holorusia rubiginosa). They look like a cross between dragonflies and giant mosquitoes with long extended three inch abdomens, but like the Black-tailed bee fly, are “off” – they have only two transparent wings. Four are smaller, but the two larger are engaged in mating. They facing away from each other, and join at that the rear of their abdomens. Sometimes they can be seen in this ritual dance while flying. Their larvae feed on algae, and the female deposits her larvae in mud, similar to the boggy soil at this seep. Sadly, they live only a few days, and their elongated, spear-like proboscis is suitable for only sipping the small amounts of water and nectar needed to keep it alive for that short period.

The cattail grove, that was removed here last autumn, has begun to regenerate. A small cattail patch has reached almost three feet in height. Below picnic site 2, the year’s first blue penstemon (also called foothill beardtongue) (Penstemon heterophyllus). Penstemons are usually confined to the high meadows of the Wasatch Front Mountain Range, and there at the height of summer below the tallest peaks, great fields of blue can be found. This single explorer is a welcomed reminder of the high mountains.

Near picnic site 1, I stop and listen for bird songs, and tracking one back find a bright male red and yellow Western tanager perched on the highest dead branch of a tree. The bottom of the tree is in twilight, and the tanager enjoys the last yellow rays of setting sunlight.

At Guardhouse Gate, the circular class=”sigil_index_marker” title=”Orb weaver spider” orb weaver spider web is gone (May 7th). Orb weaver’s rebuild their webs each day, but a tangled, chaotic web has taken its place. No spider is present, but the form of the web suggests it was constructed by a house spider.

* * * *

On May 11, 1896, the Salt Lake Tribune cryptically reports that the dry bench (Avenues) farmers “are getting the best of it this year”, and this probably reports a wet spring. That year, 1896, was a flood year, and this year, 2017, is also wet. The hillsides above the Avenues and that surround the canyon are now covered in deep green grass.

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