Harrison, Nicole and I are back from a beautiful time in Utah. Songscape: Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge kicked off on October 14th and we picked up Conner Youngblood, our videographer, Tazer Landow from Holler Films, and Southwest Airlines author, Michael Graff, that morning. The hour drive north from Salt Lake City brought us to the charming town of Brigham. There's an old sign above main street that proudly brags about the refuge, just 10 minutes west.
After stocking up on the week's groceries and candy for Youngblood, we headed over to the Visitor's Center at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge (MBR). We were warmly welcomed by refuge staff (Bob Barrett, Kathi Stopher and intern Nina!) and got acquainted with the refuge's layout and the work they're doing to create top notch habitat for migrating birds and waterfowl.
We were super fortunate to have Kathi and Bob set up a great Welcome Party kick off- there were over 40 attendees from the surrounding community. Volunteers, kids, staff, UT Public Radio and even the local tourism board. Bob even made venison chili with the mule deer he harvested that week. Conner topped off the night with a great acoustic set and everyone is excited to hear what he comes up with for this Songscape. Kathi told us, "Our volunteers loved it," and "felt honored to have this special opportunity here."
On the second day we got up early and headed out for a tour of the giant refuge, to see some of the many feathered residents. We saw golden eagles, harriers, giant white pelicans eating fish, western grebes.... a whole lot. I think the species count nearly reached 30! The refuge manages the marsh water levels to provide habitats tailored to a variety of birds- shallow waters for shorebirds to forage in, deeper waters for diving ducks and fish-eaters, open waters and marshes thick with reeds. Ryan Moehring, Public Affairs Specialist for the USFWS- Mountain Prairie Region, got some great wildlife and project shots and further explained to us the role that National Wildlife Refuges have in protecting habitats for wildlife.
After a bird-filled morning, we went to the bunkhouses for a feast on the Welcome Party potluck leftovers. We're very fortunate to have two outlets covering the Songscape story, so Harrison and I did a short interview with Rhesa Ledbetter from UT Public Radio and then with Michael Graff, who's writing the feature story for Southwest: The Magazine. Our board secretary, Nicole Reese, collected some footage to put together a behind-the-scenes Songscapes video, and I learned that Harrison and I are very bad at film interviews.
We had a great time the two days we spent at Bear River MBR and from what I've heard post-retreat, Youngblood had "some of the best days he's had all year." We can't wait to hear the music he's created from the refuge inspiration! The full story and song will be out January 1, 2018.