Sunday, August 9, 2015

Citadel of the Gods, Afterthought of the Birds

This past weekend took Butler's Birds up to Utah for a friend's wedding. There was not really time nor was it the place to go chasing for Chukars, alas, but it was the time and place to view one of America's natural wonders: Zion National Park. The steep, jutting red rocks make for pretty impressive, scenic fews, but not so much for good birding--at least not the Angel's Landing area Apologies for the light dose of birds here. 

With the added effects of some heavy cloud cover and light rain, the whole place had a pretty groovy, Jurassic Park feel to it. The dinosaurs were pretty small though:

The Angel's Landing hike is a pretty steep trek up one of the Zion pinnacles. Wildlife was pretty minimal, but given the harsh conditions that was to be expected. Speaking of dinosaurs, the remains of some ancient trees made for interesting viewing. Did the trunk twist and warp from several hundred, even thousands of year of high winds? Did it just have scoliosis? 

Most of the canyon erosion in Zion is attributable to the Virgin River, a 162-mile tributary of the CO River that is untouched by dams (although the name comes from one of its American discoverers, Thomas Virgin, infamous for his poor social skills when chatting up the ladies).

Supposedly 270 bird species have been recorded at Zion, (215 according to ebird), most of which are found, no doubt, in the riparian corridor. The steep rock faces leave little soil and hold little water. As such there is little vegetation and even less room and resources for birds to fine purchase. Even so, Zion National Park is essentially a series of gorges and canyons, and some birds are unscrupulous skanks for that kinda stuff.

As This Machine pointed out a little while ago, July is not really the best time to be birding in most of the U.S. Migrations and vagration are mostly non-factors, and breeding activity typically has died down. Furthermore, lots of the birds are no longer as dapper as they were earlier in the spring. This Steller's Jay, while still a tasty piece of eye candy, had some weird neck-molt going on, a trademark of Jays and Cardinals.

It won't be too long now until the shorebirds start their trans-hemispherical odysseys, and the pelagic birding boats are already throwing back port on their starboard. This summer's birding had a couple of fantastic personal highlights but was bittersweet in that it did not get the full time and commitment commensurate to my anticipation back in May. Even so, it's a big and beautiful country and I got to see a little bit more of it.
10/10 would recommend.