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Hidden nest Zebra slot canyon | by oldmantravels
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Hidden nest Zebra slot canyon

May 9th, 2007 my hiking partner, John, spotted this beautiful bird nest in a most improbable location. It was in a tight narrow slot canyon, called Zebra slot canyon (named for the striped Navajo sandstone), in the Escalante region of Utah. The nest and eggs were located on a tiny ledge about five feet above the dry canyon floor (slot canyons have water in them some years, other years not). The canyon was deep and narrow at this location.


We never did spot the adult bird and since the canyon was so exceedingly narrow, there was no place to hide and wait to see what the adult looked like. We needed to clear out for the adult to return to her nest.


Ever since that time I have combed the internet trying to identify the nest, eggs, and likely adult bird - - based on the photo and the general topography and location of the nest. I have no credentials as a birder at all, just a genuine curiosity of all things of the natural world and the great outdoors.


It was perplexing to see how much variations there were in nests and eggs (even egg color) among the various species of birds. I emailed a number of my "birder" friends; a nature museum in Arizona; and even a couple of University biology departments (I admit it, I was then on a quest).


I have now received (March of 2008) what I think is the best and most educated guess as to the "owner" of the eggs and the bird that made or at least "used" this nest in Zebra Slot Canyon in the Escalante River canyon country of Utah:


Canyon wren: Catherpes mexicanus - - or

Black phoebe: Sayornis nigricans


The gentlemen that was kind enough to offer his opinion is a professional biologist with a PHD, working with a major high quality university. I was pleased that he would offer any opinion given that he had only a couple of photos, such as this one, from which to hazard a guess. I would be a fool not to accept his "educated best guess".


He did note that canyon wren eggs usually have some faint spots BUT as mentioned above, bird eggs of the same speicies can evidently vary considerably in color.


So to those of you who helped I.D. this nest - - thank you. Forgive me for not giving your full name and title in credit but to do so might swamp your email "in box" with casual questions from curious folks like me and I don't want to reward your efforts by doing that.


[Thank you Dave, Dale, and Frank].


Nest location in 2007: N 37 39 56 W 111 24 52 ZEBRA SLOT CANYON.


photocredit: [Duvall, Washington]


UPDATE: July 1, 2008: I saw a photo of Zebra Slot Canyon by GristMill so I commented and asked if by chance he had seen this nest when hiking in Zebra Slot in early May of 2008. He sent a photo of the same nest (without so many feather lining the inside) that he took and in it were THREE eggs. Life lives on in Zebra Slot Canyon.

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Taken on May 9, 2007