by Marilyn and Keith Davis

"A Snowy Zion"

Dark-eyed Junco

        I’m thinking people have got to be just a little crazy to get up before dawn and drive an hour in the dark . . . with snow falling out of the sky . . . just to spend the rest of the whole day outdoors driving icy roads and wading through snow so they can count birds. Saturday was the Christmas Bird Count at Zion National Park and we wanted to be there. We were part of those ‘a little crazy’ people. When we dark-eyed juncoarrived at Zion the snow was falling. We traveled up the switchbacks and found snow plows sweeping the center of the road so people like us could see the yellow lines and know where the middle was. The plows kept going and the snow kept falling. We were fortunate to have four wheel drive, and at 10 mph on the ice it seemed like we were dangerously speeding.

        The Christmas Bird Count had begun! We were committed to Zion’s East Entrance area where we hoped to find a few brave birds, willing to go out in the storm. Yehhhhh! There were birds! But the birds stayed near and in the road hoping to find a few tidbits where the snow plow cleared away the snow. As the morning light got stronger, more and more birds came out in the open. What a surprise to find the birds were all Dark-eyed Juncos. There was a variety of birds, but we knew they were all Juncos because of the white on either side of the tail as they flew. Juncos began covering both sides of the roadway in flocks. They weren’t afraid of the cold, and they knew they could crawl up a seedy weed stem next to the road to find food. In the following miles we saw Juncos everywhere . . . swooping down and away showing their characteristic white on either side of their tails . . . belly landing in deep snow, harvesting the weed seeds of plants barely sticking out of the snow. Soon the large flocks of Juncos moved away from the roadway and began their search for food on the snowy landscapes.

        We saw other birds like Eagles, Ravens, Falcons, and Hawks searching for dinner as they sat in the tops of trees, paying little attention to the snow storm. The roads of morning were really bad. By noon, the plowed roads were again filled with visiting vehicles. Our count may not have been as good as other years, but the beauty of a snow covered Zion was unbelievable.

         If you would like to add a little adventure in your life, try a Christmas Bird Count. The St. George CBC is December 26 and the Silver Reef CBC is December 28. We promise great weather, great people to meet, and a great event in your life. For more information, call me at 435 673-0996.

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