Rose Houk

Land Lines

The “yuk factor” is definitely there: owls regurgitate little packets of undigested bones, fur, and feathers left over from animals they ate a few hours earlier.


Have cellphone, will travel: that’s the mantra in today’s device-driven world. Now, with a smartphone camera and a special app, a new project is providing virtual tours of archaeological sites in northern Arizona.


Insects and the plants they pollinate have evolved to fit like a key and a lock. 


To avoid the first frost, Navajo herders move their livestock to lower ground when aspen trees drop their leaves. Others watch the stars and the moon to gauge the timing of seasonal movements. But with changing climate in the Southwest, nature’s signs have become less reliable.


For millennia, people have coveted rare goods they could get only through trade with others. The Ancestral Puebloans of the Colorado Plateau were no exception. They traveled great distances to exchange items like local turquoise, hides, and pottery for exotic shells, copper bells, and cacao.


The name is practically as long as the animal itself: the “chisel-toothed kangaroo rat.” It lives in desert landscapes from Oregon and California through Utah and into northwest Arizona. 


Among well-known western writers, the name Wallace Stegner ranks right at the top. He grew up western, and consistently and eloquently captured the region’s sense of place.   


The high plateau of Cedar Mesa in southern Utah is a stunning bit of scenery and archaeology. Early Puebloan farmers grew crops there and built stunning dwellings inside snug, dry sandstone alcoves. When they departed, they left behind tantalizing traces of their lives.


Sometimes what looks like a white plastic bag snagged in the top of a pine tree is only a plastic bag. Sometimes it’s something else – a bag of bugs, you might say.


With their bald heads, beady eyes, and habit of shredding messy roadkill, turkey vultures look like birds only a mother could love. But this week we all should look up and tip our hats at the key role they play in the natural world. Saturday September 5 is International Vulture Awareness Day.

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