City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

May 5, 2017

May 1st

Start of the Vernal Season

2:00 p.m. The first of May marks the start of the ecological vernal season. It ecological season in which most plant growth occurs, and is sometimes also called the pre-estival, that is the time before the hottest time of the year (Feb. 16th). This warm, sunny day is a good marker of the change, and in response, the parking lot is again full on a Monday. May 1st also marks the time in which total solar influx on an average day reaches three times the amount received during the winter solstice month of last December (March 29th). It is the cross-quarter day, that is the mid-point between the start of spring and summer. Plants, insects and people respond accordingly. Where trees have extended leaves, the leaves are growing quickly. Near mile 0.3, a red maple tree, that I had thought leafless two weeks ago, now sports a full set of three inch leaves. Below mile 0.5, all of the trees have leafed out except for the Gambel’s oaks, and the road looks about fifty percent of its maximum green. Immature sedges and the weeds Dyer’s Woad (Isatis tinctoria) dandelion, grow along the roadside, and all are being fed upon by butterflies, moths and bees, including White cabbage and Painted Lady butterflies. Near dandelions, two millimeter bees feed alongside the larger unidentified brown, furry bee, and a black and white butterfly with checkerboard-like wings, probably the Checkered white butterfly (Pontia protodice)

Most notable among the moths today is one similar to the White-lined sphinx moth, also known as the Hummingbird moth (Hyles lineata). Today, it floats between the dandelions. It is an impressive sight with large brown forewings, orange rear wings, and white and orange-brown alternating abdominal segments. The wings beat faster than the slow motions of the butterfly, but slower than the invisible high-speed flaps of the bee. During motion, its wings are visible as smears of color, but is sufficiently fast that like bees and hummingbirds, the white-lined sphinx is capable of hovering and flying backwards. Its mass is too large to land on flowers, so it hovers mid-air and extends a lengthy proboscis in order to sip nectar. It is another fantastic, unbelievable insect, like the Giant Ichneumon seen during the summer (August 26th).

It is Monday, but the parking lot is full.

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On May 1st, 1994, two joggers reported a mountain lion stalking a cougar in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune, May 11, 1994). Utah Division of Wildlife Resources officer Steve Phillips commented that, “Putting a sign up City Creek Canyon saying there are cougars in the area is kind of like putting up a sign on Interstate 80 saying there are cars in the area. . . .” (id). On May 1st, 1993, the Earth Day Spring Pedal Cup sponsors a bicycle race up City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune, April 26, 1993). On May 1st, 1918, City Water Commission C. Clarence Nelson reported that 1,000 Lodgepole Pines had been planted in City Creek Canyon, and that he will shortly cause another 1,000 Norway spruce to be planted in the canyon. The Norway Spruce will be planted in Cole and Barney’s Hollow and in the vicinity of the high line station (at elevation 5030 feet) (Salt Lake Tribune). (Barney’s Hollow is near mile 2.2, and in 2016, some Norway Spruce can be seen at picnic site 12 near mile 1.7.) (See January 10th, 1918, Salt Lake Tribune and Herald, regarding the original proposal.) On May 1st, 1909, city construction contracts were bid, including one for the reconstruction of a screening tank and house for the Twentieth Ward City Creek pipeline (Salt Lake Herald). On May 1st, 1905, Land and Water Commission Luce recommended the widening of the road up City Creek and that the mouth of the canyon be turned into a park (Salt Lake Tribune). On May 1st, 1888, the Salt Lake Herald in an editorial approved of the City commissions resolution to build a carriage road up City Creek Canyon. The Herald proposed that the canyon be closed to stock and fishing. The Herald reported that the stream had been fished out of trout.

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