Zion Canyon and Wild Turkeys

November 27, 2014


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Photographer: Ray Boren
Summary AuthorRay Boren

Some 240 million years ago, the Zion region was part of a relatively flat basin near sea level, where eroding sands and other materials were deposited in layers during great spans of time, the National Park Service notes. The compressed layers sank and rose for millions of years. Seabeds under pressure became limestone, and desert sand lithified as sandstone, while uplift eventually pushed Zion’s highest elevations to 10,000 feet above sea level. The landscape’s gradual rise gave streams like the Virgin River and its forks and tributaries great cutting force; the streams carved and widened crevices, slot canyons and Zion Canyon itself. Landslides, meanwhile, occasionally created lakes in the canyon, somewhat flattening the sandy bottom, where the Virgin River’s riparian ribbon — a relative oasis — now hosts cottonwood trees, willows, herbaceous plants, flowers, ferns and grasses that in turn provide habitat and fodder for insects, mammals, reptiles and birds — including flocks of wild turkeys.

Turkeys forage and preen in the bottomlands of Zion Canyon, above the Virgin River and below the park’s majestic sandstone cliffs and monoliths. The wild turkey, Meleagris gallopavo, was notably touted by Benjamin Franklin as a candidate to be a national symbol of the then-new United States of America. The turkey already had been a favorite food of Native Americans and colonists, and its domesticated cousin is a main dinner course and symbol of the nation’s harvest holiday, Thanksgiving.

Franklin, a writer, publisher, diplomat and scientist, as well as a U.S. founding father, disdained the (still) popular bald eagle. He considered the raptor to be more like a haughty thief, “a Bird of bad moral Character,” a lurking bully more apt to rob other birds of their prey than to diligently hunt and fish for its own meals. By comparison, a turkey, Franklin wrote in a 1784 letter to his daughter, is “a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America.”

Photo details: Top - Camera Model: NIKON D3200; Lens: AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED; Focal Length: 70mm (35mm equivalent: 105mm); Aperture: f/10.0; Exposure Time: 0.0050 s (1/200); ISO equiv: 400; Software: iPhoto 9.5.1. Bottom - Camera Model: NIKON D70; Focal Length: 105mm; Aperture: f/4.5; Exposure Time: 0.0080 s (1/125); ISO equiv: 200; Software: QuickTime 7.6.4.