Flagstaff, AZ – Earth Notes: Hummingbird Monitoring Network
Can you imagine a world without hummingbirds? That central question drives the work of the Hummingbird Monitoring Network, a nonprofit group dedicated to conservation, education, research, and habitat restoration for these jeweled wonders of the bird world.
The monitoring program includes banding studies that generate information about hummingbird diversity and abundance, timing of the birds' movements, and population trends.
The seed catalog for "Native Seed Search," a Tucson-based seed source, plaintively allows that "farming in the Southwest is challenging."
Anyone who's ever tried to coax lush lettuce out of desert soils, or harvest a crimson tomato before the first frost, knows how true this is. In the upland Southwest, gardening challenges include short growing seasons, frosty nights, arid conditions, and blistering winds. But there's a one-size-fits-all solution: hoop houses.
For countless generations, Native Americans have used eagle feathers in sacred ceremonies. Those of bald eagles, in particular, play a prominent role.
But federal law closely protects all eagles, and distribution and possession of their feathers is carefully controlled. Except for the Hopi, it is also illegal to take eaglets from nests in order to raise them for their feathers.
Flagstaff, AZ – Each spring, common black hawks soar into Arizona skies from their wintering grounds in Mexico. These large, coal-black raptors, with distinctive white-banded tails, will spend six months here breeding, nesting, and raising young.
In courtship, black hawks put on spectacular aerial displays. They soar, twirl, and exchange sticks as they dive and issue their shrill call. Once mated, they construct their nests, almost always in the tallest cottonwood or sycamore alongside flowing water.
Flagstaff, AZ – In southwest Colorado's La Plata County, thousands of small hands are cultivating eighteen different school gardens. From preschoolers to high school students, children are participating in the cycle of food and sowing the seeds of their own school lunches.
The Garden Project of Southwest Colorado has been setting up school gardens since 1998. Food is only one of the many notable things harvested.
Flagstaff, AZ – Earth Notes: The Juniper Pollen Project
For many people, spring arrives with the sighting of the first wildflower or first robin. But for some, spring brings a problem: it means the arrival of juniper pollen, a common cause of asthma and allergies in the upland Southwest.
Now researchers are relying on citizen science to track when the pollen is on its way. The Juniper Pollen Project needs volunteers to observe individual junipers near their homes and note when the trees release their fine yellow dust.
Flagstaff, AZ – Students at Northern Arizona University are literally putting some of their own "green" onto the field of sustainability. Last March, NAU students voted to add five dollars a semester to their tuition to finance environmental projects on campus.
Modeled after a fund at the University of California Berkeley, NAU's is the first in Arizona's university system to be up and running. A committee of six student and three non-student representatives oversees the fund.
Flagstaff, AZ – In 1894 Percival Lowell established an astronomical observatory on a northern Arizona mesa just outside the tiny town of Flagstaff. Why? He'd searched around the world for an appropriate place for a major telescope. When he settled down, it was in part because of good viewing conditions but also because he found suitable land close to a town with amenities and good transportation.
Flagstaff, AZ – Earth Notes: The Bite of the Rattlesnake
Everyone knows rattlesnakes are dangerous. But to say they're simply venomous is as overly simple as it is to say that the Southwest is dry.
Rattlesnakes abound in the Southwest thirteen species occur in Arizona alone. Each has its own venom recipe. And each snake can inject widely differing quantities of venom with a bite, from lots to none at all.