Search Results for "common raven"

  • The Common Raven

    By Peter Pierson From the northernmost reaches of the Arctic, through the mountain and boreal regions of the U.S. and Canada, to the desert highlands of Central America, the Common Raven provides an iconic symbol to the most diverse of places. As the largest member of what’s called “songbirds,” the raven has a wide range of vocalizations, including unique local dialects that can catch experienced birders by surprise. In his book “Mind of the Raven,” Bernd Heinrich writes that ravens possess what appears to be remarkable intelligence. Their capacity for complex problem solving may contribute to their adaptability to our presence. At 5 a.m. in Nome, Alaska, hordes of ravens pick through the remains of bar trash around the famous wooden arch at the finish of the Iditarod on sunny -27 F mornings during lulls between arriving teams. Just down the road some 600 miles, if a road existed there, employees of Pogo Mine can be disciplined for leaving food in the back of their trucks, as ravens open lunch boxes and scatter their contents across the snow. In Prescott, they seem to have figured out the meaning of picnic grounds and the relative safety of building a nest in a tall Ponderosa just above the accepting residents of Prescott College’s student housing. Let’s just say they’re resourceful. Ravens, as Heinrich and others have noted, also have a strong inclination

  • Bird of the Month: Ravens

    Jun 27, 13 • ndemarino • 5enses, Jay's Bird Barn's Bird of the Month14 CommentsRead More »

      By Eric Moore “The big black birds that I’m seeing, are they crows or are they ravens?” I get that question a lot. Prescott is home to Common Ravens (Corvus corax), an abundant, year-round Central Highlands resident. They’re intelligent, adaptable, playful, and resourceful. Ravens are omnivorous and opportunistic; they aren’t picky about food. You can often spot them patrolling roadways for fresh road kill. During breeding season, they even raid bird nests and steal eggs and baby birds. Ravens live in every habitat and frequent high-traffic urban areas like Granite Creek Park and shopping centers, where they’re known to Dumpster dive. Perhaps their most endearing feature is their unique vocalizations. They’ve got a range and repertoire of sounds that’s both surprising and impressive. ***** Eric Moore is owner of Jay’s Bird Barn, 1046 Willow Creek Road in Prescott. Contact him at Eric@JaysBirdBarn.Com

  • Highland Center for Natural History’s Oudoor Outings: Let it snow

    By Jill Craig White curtains of snow drift down from dark clouds. They obscure the sun for hours as they cover rabbit holes and chipmunk burrows with fluffy white flakes. Finally, winter comes to Prescott! Granted, the snow comes and goes throughout the winter.  It seems that just as the streets are cleared and the slush sloshed away, we get another storm and start the entire process over again. I love to be outside during snow flurries. I’m not talking about the big, blustery storms, but the ones that dust your scarf and hat and make the forest sparkle like a fairy land. It’s the perfect time to be outside. Everything is quiet and, if you close your eyes, you can imagine you’re the only person in the world. You’re not, of course. A keen eye can easily detect animal tracks ruffling the white blanket of snow. Over there—a murder of ravens recently played in the freshly laid snow. Some preened, dipping their heads in the soft mounds and shaking them off with vigor. A few walked as if out for a Sunday stroll.  Heads cocked to one side, maybe they inquired about the ensuing snow party. Others squawked and jumped as if dancing, jumping up a foot or two with a flap of wings and landing again in the soft snow. Along with the tracks remains a question: Were

  • News From the Wilds: October 2018

    Oct 5, 18 • ndemarino • 5enses, News From the WildsNo CommentsRead More »

    By Ty Fitzmorris October in the Mogollon Highlands is one of the great turning points of the year — the warmth and activity of summer drops into the lower deserts and valleys as the cold of the coming winter (borne by heavy, cold air) slithers down the creek beds from the uplands. The evening air carries a sliver of ice and brings smells of wood smoke and high mountains, while the days are filled with dried grasses and the last of the year’s butterflies, native bees and flowers. The monsoon showers have finally passed, leaving a wave of activity in their wake — insects laying eggs, plants setting seed, birds migrating, and mammals preparing winter stores and putting on fat for the coming time of scarcity. In October the second dry season of the year typically begins as the heat-driven summer monsoon pattern, which draws moist air masses north from the Gulf of California, shifts to the storm-driven winter pattern based in the Pacific Ocean, where massive storm systems catapult smaller, moist low-pressure troughs across our region, bringing snow and rain. And during this changeover the skies over the Mogollon Highlands tend to stay clear, though it is also during this time that the Pacific hurricane season is at its peak, and some of these hurricanes move through our region, dropping sometimes large amounts of precipitation. October reliably brings our

  • News From the Wilds: September 2018

    Aug 31, 18 • ndemarino • 5enses, News From the WildsNo CommentsRead More »

    By Ty Fitzmorris September glows in golden light, rich with scents of late summer — its sunrises are heady with the fragrance of white Sacred Datura flowers, fading into the noontime butterscotch of sun-warmed Ponderosas, and then into the dusk sweetness of bricklebush. In much of North America, September marks the beginning of the colder part of the year, with last harvests and cold nights. But in the lower latitudes, such as the Mogollon Highlands of Arizona, September is still summer, though with hints and foreshadowings of autumn. The monsoon rains usually continue into the early part of the month, tapering off eventually into glorious sunny days, with extraordinary flowering of purple four-o-clocks, asters, and morning-glories, red penstemons and Scarlet Creeper, yellow sunflowers and daisies, and the tall, strange tree-like Wright’s Thelypody (Thelypodium wrightii), with its white flowers. Insect diversity, too, continues to grow and change, with some of the largest insects of the year making their debut. Look for the large brown Rhinoceros Beetle (Xyloryctes jamaicensis), the Great Ash Sphinx Moth (Sphinx chersis), and the gigantic leaf-mimic katydids of the genus Microcentrum, as well as the harmless (though somewhat alarming) Giant Crab Spider (Olios giganteus), which is often seen in houses as temperatures fall outside. It is in this time of extraordinary plenty that many creatures begin to prepare for the coming cold season. Most of our woody plants

  • News From the Wilds: August 2018

    Aug 3, 18 • ndemarino • 5enses, News From the WildsNo CommentsRead More »

    By Ty Fitzmorris August susurrates with storm and shower interwoven with the cacophony of resonant thunder and the assonance of cicada song. In the high heat of summer, the monsoon rains turn the land to emerald, and it seems as though living things are everywhere. Many mammals are teaching their young to forage in this time of plenty. Meanwhile, young birds are on longer and longer forays away from their parents. Ectothermic animals, such as lizards and snakes, whose body temperatures are tied closely to ambient temperatures, are at their most active now, chasing insect and rodent prey, while insects, from the minute leafhoppers to the massive Saturn moths, enter their time of greatest abundance. The majority of woody plants bear their seeds during this season, including Coffeeberry (Rhamnus californica), Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), Apache Plume (Fallugia paradoxa), and all seven of our oak species. Many herbaceous (non-woody) plants are growing and flowering now, most of which are specialist monsoon plants and did not appear in the spring. This is the time of plenty for many birds and mammals, as insects of all types proliferate, from giant moths to enormous strange and beautiful beetles, to dragonflies, who reach their peak now, while alien-like cicadas measure the day’s heat with their shrill cries. This second flowering brings with it a glut of insect prey, which sends a wave of life through our

  • News From the Wilds: July 2018

    Jun 29, 18 • ndemarino • 5enses, News From the WildsNo CommentsRead More »

    By Ty Fitzmorris July in the Mogollon Highlands of Arizona growls with the rumbling of the afternoon clouds and rings with the first drops from the monsoon storms. After the high temperatures and low relative humidity of June, the plants and animals of the wild areas are at their most stressed and are at high risk of death from extreme temperatures and lack of water. But during this time, many species gave birth to their young, provisioned nests, and lay eggs, in anticipation of a coming time of abundance and growth. Though this is a gamble, the first, massive raindrops near the beginning of the month (and the first flush of monsoon flowers that follow) prove it to be well-founded. And so the second grand flush of life begins. Though the climate of the Central Highlands can be harsh for part of the year — dry and fire-scorched in early summer, cold and snowy in the winter — these tough times are typically followed by some of our most exuberant seasons. So it is with the annual drought of June, which is followed by the coming of the monsoon rains in July. Especially in drier years such as this one (Prescott’s 2016 total so far is just over 72 percent of average), the July showers are a real cause for celebration. They are, however, something of a mixed blessing —

  • News From the Wilds: June 2018

    Jun 1, 18 • ndemarino • 5enses, News From the WildsNo CommentsRead More »

    By Ty Fitzmorris June can be a pretty tough time in the Mogollon Highlands of central Arizona. It is reliably the driest month of the year, with nearly two out of five years receiving no precipitation at all, and most others receiving only the most minute amounts. If there is any rain, it comes at the end of the month with the first of the monsoonal storms. In fact, the drought of June is critical in bringing about the rains of July, because as the hot, dry air in the Sonoran Desert and the Interior West rises it draws the moist, humid air from the Sea of Cortez northward into our region. Whenever these wet air masses enter our area from the south they bring the possibility of rain, but without the heat that accumulates this month the rain will not fall. But it is possible to observe this large-scale, regional climatic pattern evolve by watching the movement and development of the different cloud species as they move across our skies — a pursuit known as cloud spotting. June mornings tend to dawn clear and bright, but especially toward the end of the month, cumulus clouds appear and begin to build in the hot afternoons. These clouds may start as relatively small Cumulus humulis, wider than they are tall and uniformly white, and then turn to Cumulus mediocris, as tall

  • News From the Wilds: May 2018

    May 4, 18 • ndemarino • 5enses, News From the WildsNo CommentsRead More »

    By Ty Fitzmorris May is the great turning of spring to summer in the Mogollon Highlands of Arizona. Winter is firmly past, and in most years the seasonal creeks run with the very last percolating snowmelt while extraordinary flowers abound — though this last winter was the ninth driest on record, so creeks are running well below average. But May is also the beginning of the dry season as regional climate patterns shift and the winter storms that had been flung our way from large storm systems over the Pacific are replaced by northering warm, wet air masses from the Sea of Cortez. Eventually, these air masses will mature into the titanic cumulonimbus and torrential rains of our summer monsoon, but they are fueled by heat, which will not build sufficiently until late June. We are lucky enough to have not one, but two distinct flowering seasons per year. Our first great flowering happens this month, though it will be muted by extremely dry conditions. The other great flowering is after the monsoon rains of mid-summer. Interestingly, many of our flowering plant species are unique to one or the other period. This bimodal flowering season is matched by peaks in activity in our animal species, as well. Insect activity follows flowering very closely, as insects either pollinate flowers or disperse the seeds that result from that pollination. The peak in

  • Myth & Mind: Stop … hammer time

    May 4, 18 • ndemarino • 5enses, Myth & MindNo CommentsRead More »

    By Reva Sherrard Thor was wearing a dress, and he didn’t like it. Loki, in female guise and a skirt, looked a hell of a lot more comfortable as he played the role of handmaiden to a bride, pealing with girlish laughter while his eyes flashed wickedly. But Thor hadn’t come to the realm of giants for anyone’s amusement: He was here to get his hammer back. Thor was the child of Odin and the Earth — in other words, of pure spiritual and natural power, and as such immensely strong and as terrible in striking as the lightning. With his weapon, the magic hammer Mjölnir, in his hand he was nearly invincible. No matter how far he flung Mjölnir it always returned, boomerang-style, and its force was capable of crushing mountains. Thor needed only the hammer and two other pieces of magical equipment, a strength-enhancing belt and a pair of iron gloves, to defeat his foes the giants again and again. This time the giants had resorted to a ploy. Their king, named Þrymr, stole mighty Mjölnir and let it be known he wanted the beautiful, fertility-giving goddess Freyja as ransom, to be his wife — a ransom that Freyja declared no one would pay, stamping her foot in rage and making the hall of the gods shake. So it was Thor who had to don a bridal gown

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