Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Nature Experienceship: Birding with Merrill Webb

Birds, birds, and more birds! This past Saturday, as part of our Nature Experienceship, we had the opportunity to go birding with the wonderful Merrill Webb. The day started early as we headed down to Farmington Bay, a waterfowl management area in Farmington, UT. As soon as we were there we spotted our first bird, a Snowy Egret. From then on we were able to spot a lot more species. Our first location at Farmington Bay was a nice little lake where there were hundreds of birds. We spotted more Snowy Egrets as well as some pelicans and avocets feeding, which was quite the sight. We also were able to spot a beautiful Great Blue Heron and a group of Great Egrets. Dr. Webb did a great job helping us spot lots of birds as well as help us identify them. With the help of some guide books, everyone became experts at identifying all of the birds we were seeing.
After spending some time looking at and identifying all of the birds on the water, we headed farther into the management and stopped at a place called Egg Island. On our way to Egg Island, we were able to see a few more birds including a bird of prey, the Northern Harrier. Egg Island isn’t really an island, but it’s hill where you can see birds on all sides, it was the perfect spot to find some birds. Once we were on Egg Island, we began spotting and identifying even more birds. To the left of us were thousands of ducks on a lake. They were too far away to really identify and their winter plumage made it that much harder, but we were able to identify the Ruddy Duck from the group because of its stiff-tail. Through the scope on the right of us we could see some gulls and sparrows and we even saw some wooden ducks that hunters had put up. After some time looking at all of the wonderful birds, we decided to head out and stop by one more place
We left Farmington Bay having seen 29 bird species and hoped we could find one more to make it a perfect 30. Dr. Webb took us to a nice place called Powell Lake in Lehi, UT in search of our last bird species. Unfortunately, there weren’t very many birds at Powell Lake, except for the Mallard, but right as we were leaving we saw one more bird fly over head that we were able to identify as the California Gull. And with that, we had spotted 30 different bird species just in one morning. It was quite the day for both the beginner and the more practiced bird watcher. If you’re interested in learning more about the different Nature Experienceships and learning opportunities that we offer at the museum check out our website or sign up for our mailing list on the right side of this page! You won’t want to miss out on our next adventure!

Paige, museum educator

Here is the full list of all of the bird species that we saw:
Snowy Egret
Pied-billed Grebe
Forster’s Tern
Red-winged Blackbird
American White Pelican
Great Egret
Great Blue Heron
Greater Yellowlegs
American Avocet
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Ring-billed Gull
White-faced Ibis
Franklin’s Gull
Black-billed Magpie
Violet-green Swallow
Northern Harrier
Ring-necked Pheasant
European Starling
Barn Swallow
Western Grebe
Black-necked Stilt
Double-crested Cormorant
American Coot
Ruddy Duck
Eurasian Collared Duck

California Gull

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Nature Experienceship - Insects with Dr. Shawn Clark

It’s a bug eat bug world out there! Did you know that there are over 900,000 different species of insects in the world?  It is estimated that there are still 2 million to 30 million species that still have not been discovered! That is a lot of creepy crawlies! Museum patrons were able to dive into this vast world of insects by attending the Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum’s annual Insect Nature Experienceship.  Patrons were able to learn the basics of entomology (the study of insects), through the help of the museum’s very own Arthropod Collection manager, Shawn Clark.  Dr. Shawn Clark has dedicated much of his life to observing, researching, and collecting various species of insects found throughout our world. His superior ability to teach and inspire others made him the perfect person to lead the patrons through in-depth discussions about insects.
The Experienceship began with a backstage tour of the Arthropod Collection, where patrons were able to see why Dr. Clark collects insects for research, and how to properly document and display them as specimens. Though insects may be small, it still takes a large team of researchers to be able to maintain the vast collection of insects the museum has. Through the tour of the collections, patrons were able to see how collecting specimens allows researchers to learn more about insects, so that they may be able to understand each species and how they relate to the circle of life.
Once the patrons learned about insects and collections, they had the opportunity to put their knowledge and skills to the test. As the collections tour came to an end, it was time for the patrons to pack up the van with supplies, and head to South Fork Canyon to capture their own insect specimens. With nets in hand, and with some guidance from Dr. Clark, the patrons began to search and capture their very own insects. Dr. Clark explained the best methods of capturing insects, and how to store them properly for later use in their collections. The patrons did not have to wander through the wilderness far before they had some exciting catches. Museum educators and Dr. Clark were on hand to help patrons extract many kinds of insects from their nets and assist in identifying each species. Some of the insects discovered included crab spiders, blister beetles, stinkbugs, wasps, caterpillars, and many more!
As the patrons collected their insects, Dr. Clark explained to them what insects were good to keep as specimens, and how to properly document them. This would not only help them remember the great experience they were having, but it would also help in properly documenting their research efforts for the future.  With every new species caught, the patrons would share their finds to one another as Dr. Clark gave background information on each species. In the end, every patron went home with a full jar of specimens to use for their own collections.

Throughout the Insect Nature Experienceship, the patrons had incredible opportunities to explore and discover the insect world that is always around them. Not only were they able to tour a real museum insect collection, but they also had the opportunity to head out into the field and have hands-on experience capturing their own insects. Each patron had a wonderful time on the trip and learned on a personal level, that it really is a bug’s life! We encourage anyone who would like to have this once in a lifetime experience to join us in the coming years to the Insect Nature Experienceship.  After all, it is the bee’s knees!