City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

November 12, 2016

November 12th

Filed under: Brown Trout, Fish, Flood retention pond, Stream, Water Treatment Plant — canopus56 @ 3:23 pm

Trout Vision

10:30 a.m. On this warm weekend day, the canyon is again full with twenty to thirty people, and I stop at picnic site 6 to look at the trout in the stream pool (Oct. 21st, Nov. 4th, Nov. 10th). Today, there is a large brown trout in the middle of the pool facing away from me. The line of sight from his nose to my position subtends 150 degrees. Nonetheless, the trout immediately spots me and bolts for cover. Thomason explains that trout not only have color vision, but they also have a 180 degree field of lateral vision, 10 degrees of which is forward-looking over-lapping binocular vision (id. 184-187). The trout can see 170 degrees on each of its sides, and has only a blind-spot around its tail. This is why the smart trout in the pool today apparently, like your mother, has eyes in the back of its head. But its vision for distant objects is poor, and for far objects, it can only see moving shapes. The true size of those shapes are also distorted by the refracting property of the stream’s surface. The trout’s eye is remarkably different from our own. The human eye is egg-shaped and we focus by using muscles to distort the eye’s lens. The trout’s eye is a circular affair with a circular lens, and it focuses by using muscles to move the entire lens backwards or forwards. This also allows the trout to see nearby objects in great detail. Thus, the trout’s vision is well-adapted to its needs. It has a wide field-of-vision necessary to quickly avoid predators, good close vision to identify both nearby water-dwelling insects and land-insects that have fallen into the water, and narrow forward-looking binocular vision to direct the final strike on its insect prey.

A man-made obstacle prevents the trout to moving above the flood retention ponds at mile 3.1 (Sept. 10th). There a sluice gate prevents their travel upstream into the remaining 11 miles of canyon stream. Perhaps there is some reason for this, i.e. – the need to protect machinery at the water treatment plant or the desire to have the highest quality water above the plant’s intake by banning defecating trout. But I cannot imagine that the trout would generate any more bacteria than the hapless insects who drown in the stream and on whom the trout feed. The sluice gate could be easily modified to allow the trout into the upper reaches of the canyon. It is a simple concrete box about thirty feet long across which water moves spread out at a depth of about 1 inch. One-half the sluice ramp could be changed into a series of steps and pools that the trout could easily traverse. I forward my idea for a fish ladder at the sluice gate to the City through one of its many websites (Nov. 10th), but I expect no reply. Such governmental websites are meant only to provide the appearance of responsiveness to citizens. No one actually reads or replies to them, and if a reply is received, it is usually a well-written note by a communications major who does not know anything about the topic, who has no power of decision-making, and who is practiced at deterring citizen involvement with a template response stating that of course nothing can be done.

November 10, 2016

November 10th

Filed under: Avenues, Brown Trout, California gull, Fish, People, picinic site 5, Places, Plants, Seasons, Tamarisk — canopus56 @ 5:24 pm

Last Falling Leaf Day

9:30 a.m. On October 21st, I noted that there are various markers of Fall seasonal change, e.g. – the last flying insect, the last crawling insect, the first freeze, the first leaf fall, etc. Today is the day of the last falling leaf below mile 2.0, or nearly so. There are maybe one-quarter of a percent of leaves left to fall and tamarisks at picnic site 10 still need to loose their top leaves, but I will call it as done and over. The trees are now all bare, and it is the day of last leaf fall. Even so, a canyon of grey, brown, red, and tan sticks has its own appeal. This is especially so, because it is just over a week since cars (except for those of a few water treatment plant workers) have been banned from the canyon. If solace could be quantified or was one of the ancient Greek’s four humours, there is more of it in the canyon’s air.

It is a another beautiful warm, fall day, and I have taken to jogging in the frosted mornings to get some cold conditioning. The warm afternoon weather is making me too susceptible to catching a cold. In the lower shaded canyon, my breath is visible with each step. A professional ski team is doing pre-season conditioning in the canyon, along Bonneville Drive and along 11th Avenue. They are “double-poling” up the two to four percent grade of the canyon on roller-ski blades. This makes each skier do several hundred crunches per canyon mile. I am sure that it hurts as much as doing several hundred sit-ups, but the scenery provides some compensation and must take their minds off of the pain.

As is my usual practice, I stop at those locations that might feature notable insect or animal characters in the canyon, to see what is new with them, and today, at picnic site 5, I am rewarded by seeing trout jumping upstream over rocks. We have all seen representations, that is images on television, of salmon fighting their way upstream over natural rapids or man-made fish ladders, only to plucked from the air by a waiting bear. A miniature version of this occurs at picnic site 5, where the pool has been created by a man-made twelve inch line of rocks. Water pours over the rocks on the down-stream end and makes a mini-water fall. I notice a small splash at the rock pour. A small brown trout spelt is swimming furiously just on the upstream side of rocks. Then a nice 6 inch trout leaps over the rocks and lands next to the spelt. The spelt is swept back over the rocks, and a few moments later, tries again and lands in the pool. This time its vigorous swimming pays off, and it breaks free of the fast moving water near the falls into the calm water at the center of the pool. Although this is a trivial experience, I realize that I have never seen this before in person, but only through media, and it is all the more satisfying because it is a personal and not manufactured experience.

Two California gulls soar above the canyon at milepost 1.5. They are either going from their nesting grounds at the Great Salt Lake for a breakfast of scavenging in the dumpsters of restaurants in Salt Lake City, or they have finished breakfast and are going back to the lake.

In “Four Seasons” on this date, Barnes while describing a walk to the end of the road, provides an extensive list of flowers and weeds in City Creek that bloom during the spring through autumn (id. Nov. 10th).

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on November 8th, 1850, he records the increase in stillness during the Fall.

November 4, 2016

November 4th

Filed under: Brown Trout, Flood retention pond, People, picnic site 1, Stream — canopus56 @ 7:05 pm

No Where to Hide

4:00 p.m. Today, the lower canyon is without leaves. The chestnuts have dropped almost all their leaves, and The Golden Living Room at picnic site 1 is gone (Oct. 29th). Except for one or two shoots, in the flood retention pond at mile 0.0, the cattail grove has turned completely brown.

During the spring and summer, the stream is illuminated only by indirect light, and without polarizing glasses, the stream presents a blue reflective surface. Trout can easily hide in under this reflective surface. But today, most of the undergrowth foliage has also died back, and the stream is now exposed to shafts of low-angle sunlight, and this light makes the stream transparent. From thirty-feet away, I can seen into the stream clearly, and trout are easily visible. Instead of running up the road on the pavement, I jog along its dried leaf covered shoulder, while peering into the stream whenever possible. In the first mile, I look into the stream at seventeen locations. Of those seventeen, ten locations meet all three of the following criteria: at least six inches deep; contains slack water; and, is illuminated by low angle light. Of those ten, eight pools contain ten brown trout. Previously, I had thought that were perhaps one to three trout in the first mile of canyon stream. During the summer, many anglers can be seen along this first mile of stream bed, and these trout are what they have been chasing with their expensive sunglasses and fly rods.

October 21, 2016

October 21st

Smart Trout

1:30 p.m. At the water striders’ pool at picnic site 5 (Sept. 12th), I see the first brown trout in the canyon for over a month. The light filtering through the trees brings out the molted spotting on its upper skin. This trout hides in the pool under a branch that dips across the pool’s middle. I remain motionless for a minute and in reply it station-keeps with one eye gazing at me. When I make a sudden move by taking one quick step the right, the trout frantically swims under a stream-cut overhang that is covered by dense foliage. It has excellent eyesight even through the water’s surface. In one corner of the pool is a single water strider, and these are what the trout has been feeding on. Later, the trout is joined by two smaller companions.

Today, the yellow tube of falling leaves (Oct. 11th) is over and temperatures have risen into the sixties. The predominate colors between mile 0.0. and mile 2.0 is brown and grey. Like the last sunflower (October 14th), this is another marker of seasonal Fall change. Because of the temperature, insects have again become active, but I count only thirty on the road, including possibly two Yellow-head bumble bees with black rumps, a Variegated Meadowhawk dragonfly, a large unidentified blue dragonfly, and, in the box at picnic site 11, a sole European Paper Wasp (see Oct. 11th). These rare late season insects are now more visually striking; they provide the only accents of bright colors now that the leaves have fallen. Crickets are still heard in meadows and forest undergrowth and some have come to die on the road. At picnic site 12, a woodpecker can be heard but not seen. Common woodpeckers in the canyon that drum on trees are the Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) and the Northern Flicker.

Together, they will swim upstream to join their mates at a shallow fifteen by twenty foot pool below an outdated flood gate at mile 2.8. A regulatory “no fishing” sign on the sluice box protects them from humans. During the winter, ten or fifteen trout can be found there, resting in water so cold that it would kill a person in two or three minutes.The next marker of the seasons, as winter storms reappear at the beginning of November and December, will be season’s end for the flying insects, season’s end of the crickets, and the falling of the last remaining leaves during a heavy snow storm.

September 20, 2016

August 4th

Filed under: Brown Trout, Fish, Stream — canopus56 @ 10:43 pm

Trout Hideout

3 p.m. When the spring warm up first came to the canyon, it was common to see one or two brown trout in the stream with the aid of polarized sunglasses. Now it is rare to see any trout. For the last month-and-a-half, recreational fisher-persons have prowled the lower stretches of the stream. Are the shallow holes of the lower canyon stream fished out? Near campsite XXX there is a short stretch where the stream is constrained by a rock and bail wire flood control wall, that was installed after the hundred-year flood of the mid-1980s. The stream narrows to 3 feet in width and on the east side is over hung by bushes. This forms deep narrow pools of cool water that are shaded from the Sun. A tight school of 10 trout are hiding here. The catch-and-release anglers have not fished the stream out. The trout have become more skilled at evading their pursuers. Since the trout do not use the internet and to keep the game fair, later I decide to redact the campsite number in this note that discloses the location of their hiding place.

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