Sunday, May 25, 2014

Public Service

I'm dedicating today's post to two outstanding park rangers, which is completely unfair because we've met dozens of helpful, knowledgeable, patient, and dedicated rangers. But these two employees distinguished themselves in an important regard--you guessed it: birds.

On May 17th, Capitol Reef park biologist Sandy Borthwick led a 2-1/2 hour bird walk, held in honor of International Migratory Bird Day. Several park employees came along on this hike, which started at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday. We're grateful to all who represented the park service and especially young Sidney, who found the elusive yellow-breasted chat for us to see. Overall, the group bird walk was one of the best we have done, largely because of the 20 or so birders who participated. To a person, they were pleasant and helpful companions who shared our love for all things aviary. Great, great hike, Sandy, and thanks for the excellent birthday gift.
Bird nerds doing their thing at Capitol Reef National Park, Fruita.

On May 23rd, Rex and I attended what turned out to be the best ranger talk we've ever attended. Ranger Kevin Doxstater of Bryce Canyon National Park lectured on bird migration for almost an hour. He was riveting. Even the couple beside us, who showed no special interest in birds, was enthralled.

I can't begin to properly summarize Ranger Doxstater's talk, but here's an example of the fascinating things we learned: How can the arctic tern, which migrates from the Arctic to Antarctica, possibly achieve this feat? Doesn't it sleep? Yes, but only one hemisphere at a time: The bird has evolved the ability to continue flying while one side of its brain gets the needed rest, then it switches, putting the other half to bed. Gives a whole new dimension to bird brain, no?

Birding, of course, is not the sole or even the main duty of either of these rangers. You can read more here about Ranger Borthwick's work to protect park plants, specifically a rare cactus that is being poached. When we left Ranger Doxstater on Friday night at 9:30, he was still answering questions of the small crowd gathered around him. We saw him again at 7:55 am the next day--a Saturday--opening the Bryce Canyon visitor's center. Rangers must wear many hats, apparently.

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