City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

June 14, 2017

June 11th

Filed under: Ants, Canadian cicadas, Crow, Song sparrow — canopus56 @ 4:46 pm

Harassed Crow

7:30 p.m. Today, I just do a short, evening run to milepost 0.5. The heat wave continues to abate, and cool breezes run down the canyon. On this Sunday, there are only a few people, mostly couples, strolling along the road. The half devoured husk of a Canadian cicada is on the road, covered with ants. Going down canyon, an American crow skims the tree tops. Above the crow, a single Song sparrow flies about five feet above the crow and is repeatedly dive bombing the larger bird that is at least 20 times its size. The small bird is winning, and the pair moves together flying out over the low eastern ridge near the canyon’s mouth.

For avian life, I have noticed that invasives, such as starlings and House sparrows, are not really that competitive with native birds in the non-urban canyon environment. In the more natural setting of the canyon, native birds dominate, and invasives are rare. In contrast, invasive birds dominate around my home and in urban environments. Song sparrows occur, but are rare in the city compared to starlings, House sparrows and Mourning doves. Warbling vireos are almost non-existent in the morning chorus that I hear through open my windows while still half-asleep. Invasive birds might be said to be better adapted to human environments than to the land.

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In Thoreau’s “Journal” on June 11th, 1851, he describes how objects look different under moonlight, and he observes that whippoorwills are not found in urban areas. On June 11th, 1852, red-eyes are the most common bird and he hears an oven bird, a thrasher and crickets singing. He sees lupines, snapdragons and bladderwort. He observes some red maple leaves giving way to spotting disease and wilting. On June 11th, 1853, he notes that grass fields are loosing their deep green color and red sorrel is dying. Blackbirds are numerous. On June 11, 1856, he finds a bream’s nest with eggs and sees a partridge followed by its brood. On June 11, 1860, he notes the contrast between evergreens and deciduous trees. He again notes fungi growing on maple leaves. He observes that the green leaves of younger trees are lighter in color.

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On June 11th, 1952, the City Department of Water Supply and Waterworks in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service promulgated new watershed protection rules, including camping and building fires only in developed campsites and no wading in the stream when fishing (Salt Lake Telegram). On June 11th, 1887, the Salt Lake Democrat recommends that office workers take short camping trips in City Creek Canyon in order to rejuvenate themselves.

June 7th

Clicking Katydids

4:30 p.m. This is the fifth day of ninety degree temperatures, and I go for a short jog up to milepost 0.5 and back down the Pipeline Trail. Looking at the jet stream charts at the California Regional Weather Service and National Weather Service maps for the last few days, the jet stream has broken and disconnected over much of the western and central continental United States. A large high pressure zone has disrupted spring’s conveyor belt of cooling ocean air.

Going up canyon near mile 0.4, I check one of the blue paint mosquito tree holes, and inside is a one inch beetle that is colored with Frank Lloyd Wright’s bright Cherokee red. (Later, after checking my insect guides, I am unable to identify it.) Just past the turn-off from the road to the trail, I begin to hear an odd clicking sound coming from the trees, and I stop the Gambel’s oak grove mid-way between road and Pipeline Trail. The sound is all around, but I cannot see its cause. There are also some small birds in the trees that confuse the source, but after a few minutes, I notice two or three insects on the branches that look like a large cricket but they have clear wings. These may be annual Mountain or Canadian cicadas (Okanagana canadensis). They are most probably Mormon crickets, which are katydids and not crickets. Katydids come into two forms: annual hatching and the more famous periodic hatching that rise from the ground once every 17 years. I cannot get close enough to identify these tree dwellers with certainty. I suspect that since they are newly hatched, their wings are still too soft to make the loud clicking sounds.

Along the Pipeline Trail, the blossom heads of Arrowleaf balsamroot plants that recently dominated the hillsides (April 29th) are all dried husks and full of seeds. The hot Sun has done more of its work. Along the road, the Western salisfy first seen a week ago (June 2nd) along the road, have exploded into a showy ball of white tufted seed.

Along the powerline, an American robin, a Lazuli bunting, a Song sparrow, and a Black-headed grosbeak, all rest in the afternoon sunlight singing loudly. There are several more buntings replying on the western hillside. Further down trail near mile 0.2, two more grosbeaks call from the oaks, and this corresponds to the position where they are heard when along the road.

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In Thoreau’s “Journal” on June 7th, 1853 he records red clover, buttercups, cinquefoil, blueberries, and huckleberries. He hears quail and sees an oven bird and a night-hawk in its nest. On June 7th, 1854, he notes large sized green berries, blueberries, and choke-cherries. He hears honey bees. He sees a yellow-winged sparrow, a night-hawk, and the first fire-flies of the season. On June 7th, 1858, he observes that wind blowing across grass silences crickets. On June 7th, 1860, white clover has bloomed and he again hears honey-bees.

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In a June 7th, 2005 letter to the editors of the Salt Lake Tribune, Chuck Tabaracci related the saving of his dog after it had been swept away in the high waters of the canyon’s stream (Salt Lake Tribune). Two women lept into the stream to save the dog and where also swept downstream. All were saved and one woman suffered hypothermia and the second a concussion. Tabaracci also noted that people walking up the road refused to help the women and eventually they were transported to LDS Hospital by ambulance. On June 7th, 1913, the Commercial Club in a report, opposed building a highway up City Creek to connect with Morgan County (Salt Lake Tribune). On June 7th, 1893, City Council President Loofbourow proposed banning all of the new bicycles from the City (Deseret Evening News). He stated that, “I would encourage a movement to send them (all the bicycles) to the head of City Creek canyon and keep them there, as they are an intolerable nuisance” (id). A June 7th, 1887 Salt Lake Herald editorial proposed a system of reservoirs in City Creek Canyon in order to solve a shortage in the City’s water supply.

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