During last Spring’s WV service project in the Dark Canyon Wilderness of southeastern Utah, I heard the strangest and most interesting of sounds. Each night, in the evenings and early mornings I heard a repetitive “boop, boop, boop”, akin to the monotonous pinging of a submarine’s sonar that we’ve all heard in movies. Throughout the week our group was perplexed; was it a frog or toad down in the creek bottom, or was it a bird we’ve never heard before? While it remained a mystery during our trip, it wasn’t until later in the Fall that I uncovered the answer. While assisting on a Fall migratory raptor count in western Nevada, a raptor expert produced a very cool app on her phone with hundreds of bird calls. As we carefully listened to each nocturnal bird call, suddenly I heard it loud and clear “boop, boop, boop” over and over again! Turns out, the Northern Pygmy Owl, most active at dawn and dusk, is native to all of Utah, and tends to perch high in evergreen trees on canyon slopes, which are aplenty in Dark Canyon. Listening to and learning about new critters like the Northern Pygmy Owl is one of my favorite things to do on WV trips, and it’s a big reason I go from state-to-state to immerse myself in new places and to discover ever more new branches on the mysterious tree of life. Consider joining WV on this year’s adventure in Woodenshoe Canyon, Dark Canyon Wilderness, May 13-19.
Photo by Jack Binch, Sandy, UT on utahbirds.org