Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Birthday in Paradise, continued...

Birthday in Paradise, continued...  Yesterday afternoon we went (per Debbie's birthday wishes) for a wildlife-seeking drive up Blacksmith Fork Canyon toward Ant Flats.  We were a bit disappointed with the wildlife at first, as all we saw was some trout.  Then Debbie spotted a kingfisher (we think they're belted kingfishers we're seeing, like the one at right, which is not my photo, dang it!) and we felt a bit better about our success.  Shortly afterwards Debbie spotted something much more interesting: a young beaver!  It was roughly half the size of the adult beavers we've seen, and chugging fast downstream.  We're guessing it was born this past spring.  This was in Mill Creek, roughly a mile on Ant Flat Road from the turn off of state 101.  We had two good sightings of it, just 30 seconds or so each.  It disappeared from our view fairly close to its lodge, so we suspect it ducked in there to get away from us.

After that we headed to Jack's, Debbie's choice for a birthday dinner.  There we had a delicious soup (“chicken velvet”), an equally delicious pizza, and a killer dessert we've had several times before – their lemon cake, which we split a single gigantic piece of (my photo at left).  We always have great food and friendly service at Jack's, and yesterday was no exception.  But we had a special treat yesterday: the woman who creates their soups was there, and actually served us our soup.  We had a chance to talk with her, and telling her how much we've enjoyed her soups over the past year and a half.  When we discovered who she was, I told her that I felt like I should get out from my booth, then bow and genuflect before her.  Her smile and obvious pleasure at our enjoyment of her soups was a lot of fun for us :)  We talked with her for a while about her various creations, and she brought over a sample of another of her soups (one I couldn't possibly eat, though: cream of jalapeno).  That was a great experience, and especially nice as it was Debbie's birthday dinner.

Then (again at Debbie's request) we headed out over the pass toward Liberty for some more wildlife viewing.  We saw almost nothing this time.  There were a few deer in the farmers' fields before we got into the National Forest, but otherwise not a darned thing.  We did hear some intriguing bird calls (like a meadowlark, but with a different “tune”), but never managed to spot them.  Instead of wildlife, we got weirdness and a beautiful sunset.  In the first two photos below are bundles of bamboo sticks we found carefully hung on some tree trunks.  There were five bundles within a few feet of each other.  We couldn't imagine what the heck they were for, but guessed it might be an insect habitat.  A little googling led me to think they are intended for either mason or leaf-cutter bees.  Then about a quarter mile away, we found the “thing” in the next three photos.  It was lying on the ground, semi-hidden from the road behind a tree trunk.  On examining it carefully, I saw that it was made from layers of plastic foam with cardboard tubes inserted.  Five sides were covered in thin aluminum held together with duct tape (is there anything that duct tape can't do?).  The sixth side was open, but facing down.  After photographing it, I put it back exactly where it was.  Another insect habitat?  I couldn't find anything by googling, so this one remains a mystery.  Finally, the last photo is of the gorgeous sunset we enjoyed as we exited the canyon and drove toward Avon.

It was an especially lovely day in Paradise...


  1. The reed bundles are absolutely intended as nest sites for solitary native bees (i.e. not honeybees). Both leafcutter and mason bees will use these tubes for nest sites. You can see many of the tubes plugged with mud in the end view pictures. I've actually been building a bunch of these nest boxes as give-aways for my Texas Master Naturalist chapter. I'm glad to see someone in your area is doing the same!

    Native bees turn out to be pretty important pollinators. Honeybees get all the publicity, but the bees native to a particular area tend to be much more effective at pollinating the plants that are native to a particular area. For the usual reasons (habitat loss, pesticide practices), native bees seem to be in trouble, especially in developed areas. Providing nest sites is one easy way to give them a hand. Plus, it is a lot of fun to watch them. Put one of these nest boxes outside a window ...

    I have no idea what the foam/tube thing is, unless it is another bee nest box that got knocked over. There are a lot of ways to build bee tube nest boxes, but I've never seen that one.

    My next project is to build a couple of bumblebee boxes. They don't have a good record in the literature of attracting colonies, but I'm going to give it a shot.

  2. Thanks, Richard! I'm pretty sure that the second thing we found was deliberately placed on the ground with those tubes facing down. There's no sign that it was ever secured in place by anything other than the rock I found weighting it down.

    Now I'm wondering who would be building these bee nest boxes, and putting them up in the middle of a National Forest...