Falconer, Earth Day draw visitors to Santa Clara Arboretum

SANTA CLARA — The Santa Clara City Arboretum hosted “A Day in the Arboretum: Birds and Botany” on Saturday in honor of Earth Day with a local falconer on hand, guided tours from a professional botanist highlighting the local flora and musicians playing cedar flutes.

The Santa Clara City Desert Arboretum hosted a "Birds and Botany" event on Saturday, April 23, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News
The Santa Clara City Desert Arboretum hosted a “Birds and Botany” event on Saturday, April 23, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News

Lael Christensen, falconer, brought his red tailed hawk Ella to the event and gave a series of presentations on raptor behavior, biology and training. He explained the variety of equipment used in falconry, such as jesses and hoods, and how falconers capture their birds. Children were givem a faux eagle feather.

Christensen has been a falconer for approximately three years, he said. He had always had an interest in birds of prey, and a chance encounter with an old high school classmate and local falconer spurred his interest and he entered an apprenticeship.

Eventually Christensen took the requisite tests, passed the home inspection and became a licensed falconer. He has had Ella for a little under two years.

Susannah Nilsson, board member of the Santa Clara Historical Society, said the impetus behind the Day in the Arobretum event was to highlight not only the local plants and animals but to give the community an opportunity to visit the arboretum and see what it has to offer.

The Santa Clara City Desert Arboretum hosted a "Birds and Botany" event on Saturday, April 23, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News
The Santa Clara City Desert Arboretum hosted a “Birds and Botany” event on Saturday, April 23, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News

“We decided we wanted to do some outreach programs with the historical society,” Nilsson said. “I wanted to really highlight the arboretum here in Santa Clara. My neighbor Lee Hughes, who is an actual botanist, he kind of collaborated with me and we decided to put together this birds and botany day in the arboretum.”

The botany walks, led by Hughes, were meant to focus on the historical use of native plants, Nilsson said.

According to the City of Santa Clara Website, The Santa Clara City Arboretum was originally founded by Dr. Robert Shepherd, who built much of the arboretum by hand in the 1980s.

By 2003, much of the park’s wetlands were being smothered by non-indigenous tamarisk trees. A Dixie State Community Day helped clean up the park in 2004 but a fire that same year swept through the tamarisk trees and destroyed much of the arboretum.

Grants from the Utah Quality Growth Commission in 2005 and 2008 helped build a cactus garden, install irrigation and remove weeds and tamarisk. Floods have since damaged portions of the arboretum but it remains open and has several trails winding through its mix of lava flows, wetlands and desert.

Wooden signposts identify many of the plant species in the park. Benches are placed along the trails and there is a gazebo with benches set amidst the lava flows.

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Email: dgilman@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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1 Comment

  • Susannah April 24, 2016 at 6:49 pm

    Thanks to Don Gilman for his great coverage of the Birds and Botany Earth day celebration in the Santa Clara Arboretum.

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