by Marilyn and Keith Davis

"Time to Visit Zion"

Blue Grosbeak

blue grosbeak      Cottonwoods are one of my favorite trees.  We have several Cottonwood trees  around our place.  I love the color of the bark and the leafless branches during the winter.  I love the large green leaves in spring, and the cooling shade it gives in summer.  When the wind blows, I love the rustle of the leaves and to watch the tiny white parasols burst from the seed pockets  to fly away forever.  

       Recently the Red Cliffs Audubon made a birding field trip to Zion National Park.  It was shocking to see the Cottonwoods along the Virgin River and into Zion Park, for they were devastated by tent caterpillars.  This kind of devastation was something I have rarely seen happen.  Almost every Cottonwood tree was without leaves.  It looked like winter for sure . . . except all the other trees and shrubs around them were green.  The only good thing about this was, the trees weren’t dead, and birds are easier seen in leafless trees.    

       At Zion we walked along the South Campground Trail by the river.  Birds were singing everywhere.  And then, in the top of one of those leafless Cottonwood trees, we spotted a Blue Grosbeak.  Wow!  What color!  The bird was so bright it didn’t look real, and it seemed to know that it was supposed to stay right there until the rest of the birders came along.  This was a "life bird" for some in our party.  

       It was an unforgettable experience for all of us, to see this beautiful blue bird with silvery bill and chestnut wing bars.  The Blue Grosbeak gets it name from its color and size of a beak.  The Blue Grosbeak is a migratory bird, with nesting grounds across most of the southern half of the United States and northern Mexico.  In winter months they are found in Central America and as far south as Ecuador, South America.  
       This is a great time to visit Zion.  Be there in the early morning hours when the adult birds are busily hunting for insects to feed to the young--beautiful birds like the Blue Grosbeak, Summer Tanager, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Robins, Goldfinches, and many, many more.  I know you will love it.  Many thanks to Brenda Rusnell, our artist, for drawing the Blue Grosbeak.  For information about birds or Red Cliffs Audubon activities, call 435 673-0996.  Saturday’s field trip will be to see the California Condors.  Public is always welcome.

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