City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

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Together, they will swim upstream to join their mates at a shallow fifteen by twenty foot pool below an outdated flood gate at mile 2.8.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.

October 14, 2016

October 14th

The Last Sunflower

4:30 p.m. As the canyon opens up at mile 1.2 into Pleasant Valley, the character of the meadow has changed. The yellow tube of leaves below this point has extended up into the meadow. The Gambel’s oaks have all turned a rich dark golden brown, and the are set off by accents of a few bright red maples that remain. All this sits in a sea of light brown meadow grass. Green is only an after-thought. Some new growth of grass is in the meadow. Some green tamarisk (genus Tamarix) hugs a seep at picnic site 11. At picnic site 12, there are two now out-of-place dark green pine trees.

In the Pleasant Valley across from picnic site 11, the last sunflower of hundreds remains in bloom. All others have already died and turned brown, or if still yellow, they are shriveled. The last one in full bloom is at the north-east corner of the gas pipeline check value.

On the south-side of the road, hidden in the trees, a flock of Black-Hooded Chickadees can be heard playing.

October 2, 2016

October 2nd

Filed under: Colors, Insects, Picnic Site 12, Places, Praying Mantis — canopus56 @ 10:06 pm

Camouflaged Mantises

3:00 p.m. At mile 1.6 near picnic site 12, a praying mantis, an ambush predator, is on the road. It may be sunning itself on the warmer road, or it may be in distress, because as it is approached, it does not fly off, and it struggles forward with a slow award gait. This mantis is light tan in color, and that is same color as the dried grass in the surrounding meadow. Two days ago at mile 0.6, there was another praying mantis also sunning itself on the road; that mantis was was slate grey; and the surrounding foliage consisted of green plants over grey-brown soil. Its color was also excellent camouflage for its surrounding.

Elsewhere, I have seen this same color camouflage used by prey insects. In the heat of summer while jogging along the Bonneville Shoreline Trail behind the university hospital, twenty or more small, tan-colored grasshoppers can be flushed out by disturbing the dried, tan meadow grass. Running a third of a mile up nearby shaded Dry Fork Canyon, the foliage is green, and grasshoppers flushed there are green colored.

September 20, 2016

August 16th

Filed under: Insects, Picnic Site 12, Plants, wasps — canopus56 @ 11:03 pm

My Pet Wasps

6 p.m. There are two functioning faucets in the lower canyon: one at picnic site 10 and a second at picnic site 12 at mile 1.7. This evening and throughout the summer when I stop at these faucets for a drink, wasps fly in, land on the puddled waste water, and also drink. I take to occasionally stopping at the faucets to briefly run the water, and a refill my pet wasps’ water bowel.

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