Happy Monday, Here’s what’s happening at Alta

Alta Nest Box monitoring:

If you’re unfamiliar, nest box studies with Tracy Aviary and Friends of Alta happen weekly. They’re “citizen science” projects, which means that anyone interested in monitoring nest boxes around the Alta area is welcome to come, help and learn. It’s like a snowshoe hike, turned scavenger hunt, turned science project. Participants snowshoe around Wildcat base, the Albion Basin, the summer road and more to look for nest boxes – wood homes for songbirds and, hopefully, owls to lay claim to.

This week, there were still just signs of nesting in one of the owl boxes around Alta’s Wildcat Base. But, signs of nesting is promising! We aren’t completely sure yet what the developments in this box means, but we will hopefully see more concrete evidence of visitation in the coming weeks. Owls take a while to warm up to nesting spots, and no owl nesting has been detected in the past two years of monitoring. Just two types of birds have made nests in songbird boxes in recent years: Chickadees and House Wrens.

Owl box BXP, near Powder Ridge Drive, showing unconfirmed, but possible signs of nesting.

A GPS is used to find the boxes, and there is an observation period when they are located. Scientists stick a camera into the hole of the nest box and snap a photo, later reviewed to check for signs of nesting. It’s an easy project to get involved in, and an easy opportunity to learn about the birds of the Wasatch.

There are two types of nest boxes scattered around the Alta area: songbird boxes and slightly larger owl boxes. Both are made of wood and are rectangular with a flat roof. Both have a small hole for entry on the front panel of the box. To check on nest development, surveyors stick a small camera into the entry hole and snap a photo.

Owl box monitoring happens from March to June and every two weeks to start, then once every week when a nest is detected. Songbird boxes are monitored from May to July and checked once every week to start, then every three or four days upon nest detection.

Surveyors will continue to monitor the boxes as the seasons continue to change and the weather warms up to late spring and early summer.

And, here’s what else you should know:

  • UDOT continues to have a comment period for those who would like to weigh in on their Transportation Action Plan, which addresses transportation issues in regard to Little Cottonwood Canyon. You can make a comment here.
  • In relation to this issue, Friends of Alta is advocating for a capacity study for Little Cottonwood Canyon, which would measure the amount of acceptable human activity for the area. It is unknown how much unrestricted human activity would change the watershed, and a capacity study would provide the information needed to protect the properly before any damage has been done.