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Natural History Articles

A collection of natural history articles about the desert from our Desert Place newspaper column. Click on the titles to see and download them to your computer. DAC members' enthusiasm about various aspects of life in the desert inspired their research and writing over the last few years.


Desert Awareness Park in Cave Creek, Arizona

Desert Awareness Park
in Cave Creek, Arizona

A Desert Place by Geoffrey Platts. The first “A Desert Place” column from 1983.

Adventure at Your Doorstep by Margaret Stewart. In tune with the world of the Sonoran Desert.

Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral? by Jim Blackburn. Taxonomists add increasing complexity to our old understandings.

Biodiversity by Patsy M. Miller Ph.D. What is it and do we need it?

Cooking in the Desert by Jim Blackburn. Solar cooking is another way to enjoy our unique desert climate.

DAC 30th Anniversary by Margaret Stewart. Preservation and education remain the mission.

Dark is Great by Jim Blackburn. Living in the desert: clear skies, brilliant stars, luminous moon.

Fire: the Good, the Bad and the Necessary by Margaret Stewart. Use defensible space to protect your home.

Desert Awareness Park by Stephanie Bradley. A family park in the heart of Cave Creek.

How to Plant a Rock by Patsy M. Miller Ph.D. All about landscape boulders.

Learning to Know the Desert Takes Time and Patience by Desert Awareness Committee. Your reward is a beautiful new experience.

Letters from the Desert by Diane Vaszily, with Letters from Nan Byrne. Want to feel at peace?

On Caring for Spaceship Earth by Kay Vargas. We’re all crew members and we’re all stewards.

Rabies by Tanya Wyman DVM. A disease to be aware of and respect.

Spring Comes to the Harcuvars by Jacky Davis. A desert awakens.

Summer is Here by Nancy Laizure. Use your senses to detect the signs of summer.

Take Home A Boor Site by Margaret Stewart. Let no one say all was beauty here until you came.

Water Filled Jugs Can Cause Fires by Jim Blackburn. Convex lenses can concentrate the sun’s rays.

Weather with the Weathersmith by Patsy M. Miller Ph.D. Tips to cope with our unique Arizona weather.

When Civilization Encroaches by Marshall Fancher. We benefit when we leave the desert as natural as possible.


Bobcat and House Cat have Close Encounter in Cave Creek (photo courtesy Dick Mueller)

Bobcat and House Cat have
Close Encounter in Cave Creek
(photo courtesy Dick Mueller)

Alert! Wildlife Poisonings by Barbara Sciacca. There are more humane methods to eliminate rodents.

Bark Scorpions by Mia Ditson. Nothing to mess with.

Barn Owls and Mineshafts by Bob Gaulden. The symbiotic relationship of barn owls and old mineshafts.

Be Aware of the Buzz by Patsy M. Miller Ph.D. The defensive Africanized honeybee.

Black Cardinal is Really Phainopepla by Nancy Laizure. The “Shining Robe”.

Bobcat by Margaret Stewart. The most common, but rarely seen, southwestern cat.

Brave Heart by Janet Law. The remarkable hummingbird.

Brown Spiders by Cliff Faver DVM (adapted from his information). Equally as menacing as the Brown Recluse.

Cattin’ Around with the Bobcats by Lynne Hoss. Enjoy what you can see in our Sonoran Desert foothills.

Cave Creek: Refuge for Desert Fish by Thom Hulen. Their presence testifies to the incredible nature of the Sonoran Desert.

Cobwebs by Jim Blackburn. A sure sign your house is being cleaned.

Coyote, God’s Dog by Margaret Stewart. We are fortunate to have the coyote as our Foothills neighbor.

Crotalus in the Cabin by Geoffrey Platts. A remarkable encounter.

Desert Bighorn Sheep in the Cave Creek Area by Thom Hulen. Reintroduction possible into the Desert Foothills.

Did You Know? by Tanya Wyman DVM. Unusual, perhaps useful facts, to know.

For the Birds by Geri Rodin. Bird feeding and unintended consequences.

Got Bugs? by Cliff Faver DVM. We may have a dry heat, but don’t take them for granted.

Greetings from the Critters by Penelope Cox. A report on a few recent sightings from my “roost”.

Hawks and a Year in the Desert by Jeanne Kiefer. The joys of living among exotic wildlife.

If You Find a Baby Quail by Jeani Garrett. How you can help baby quail survive.

Invasive Crayfish by Thom Hulen. Another example of unintended consequences.

It’s A Bullsnake, But It’s No Bull by Abby Hemingway. What to do when you encounter a bullsnake, or two, in your house.

Large Black Birds by Jacky Davis. How to tell ravens from crows.

Little Brown Towhee Wears A Rusty Beanie by Nan Byrne. Who is that little brown bird?

My Friend, Jack by Marguerite Lanham. That is, Jack, for jackrabbit.

Nature Is Evil? by Diane Vaszily. Is it really that scary out there?

New World Turkey Vultures by Penelope Cox. Soaring beautifully over the Desert Foothills.

Our Backyard Watering Hole by Kiki Young (as told to Diane Vaszily). Hardly a day goes by without some sort of performance.

Quail Log: March 26th to May 4th by Gerry Rodin/Jeani Garrett. A primer on quail birthing.

Quail Show Concern for Babies by Linda Voremberg. Bonding within quail families.

Small Birds Give Ground to Thrasher by Nan Byrne. You’ll know me by my distinctive whistle.

Snakes and Spiders Won’t Do It Alone by Jim Blackburn. Why I like snakes and spiders.

Solitary Bees by Mia Ditson. Distinct from honeybees and vital to the Sonoran Desert.

Tarantula Crossing the Road by Geri Rodin. The gentle giants of our spider world.

The Green Umbrella by Janet Law. Mourning doves take up residence.

The Kissing Bug by Nan Byrne. You can call this sneaky bug by many names.

The Ringtail by Penelope Cox. When is a cat not a cat?

There’s a Quail Nest in My Geraniums by Jeani Garrett. Quail can live happily alongside humans if humans cooperate.

Turkey Vultures Return for Summer by Nancy Laizure. Turkey vultures do their share to keep the world clean.

We Brake for Baby Quail! by Brenda Olive. May we protect this never-ending source of enjoyment.

Whatever Happened to the Horny Toads? by Lynne Hoss. Thriving in the wild.

Who’d Choose a Cactus Wren as Arizona’s State Bird? by Jim Blackburn. A unique and independent character.

Who’s Not Appreciated? by Jim Blackburn. Lizards: kind of nice to have around.


Ironwood in full bloom along the Go John Trail 
		[Olneya tesota] (photo courtesy Dave Mills)

Ironwood in full bloom
along the Go John Trail
[Olneya tesota]
(photo courtesy Dave Mills)

A Pretty Parasite? by Patsy M. Miller Ph.D. Here in our Sonoran Desert, there is a parasite that is actually pretty.

Bulbils and Our Century Plant by Jim Blackburn. A reproductive oddity.

Cattails at the Jewel of the Creek by Patsy M. Miller Ph.D. Is this good news or bad news?

Climate Change, Precipitation, and Native Vegetation by Patsy M. Miller Ph.D. The importance of those not-so-pretty shrubs for erosion control.

Desert Plants Kept Native Americans Healthy by Diane Vaszily. How did the indigenous people stock their medicine chest?

Don’t Bust the Crust by Margaret Stewart. Why cryptobiotic crust needs to be protected.

Fires Threaten Balance by Lynn Walsh. Non-native grasses, introduced by man, are the culprit.

Fountain Grass by Thom Hulen. A beautiful, but invasive grass, not to be befriended.

Growing Wildflowers in the Sonoran Desert by Lynn Walsh. Tips for growing Sonoran wildflowers in your garden.

How Plants Keep Their Cool by Patsy M. Miller Ph.D. They can’t move out of the sun; so how do they survive?

Identifying a Plant Community by Jim Blackburn. What’s it like to live in a 1,154.121 plant community?

Let the Games Begin! by Margaret Stewart. The olives are ripe!

Mesquite by Nan Byrne. Lush refuge.

News Flash: Desert mistletoe is not a threat to native trees by Steve Jones. Rather, we are the threat.

Our Desert by Jim Blackburn. A land of thorns, prickles and spines.

Raking (Or Is It Raping?) the Desert by Patsy M. Miller Ph.D. Why not tidy up the desert?

Salt Cedar Eating Beetle by Thom Hulen. Beneficial beetles take a bite out of salt cedar.

Savvy Can Keep Desert Broom in Check by Nan Byrne. How to reduce the proliferation of this native plant.

Seeds by Margaret Stewart. The interesting diversity of seeds.

Self-Guided Nature Trail by Gretchen Mills. DAC helps private community create nature trail.

Sonoran Desert Edible Plants by Lynne Hoss. A rich harvest is available to you without planting or watering.

Spring Wildflowers in the Desert by Desert Awareness Committee members. Learning about Sonoran Desert ephemerals.

Stop Winter Seeds Now by Lynn Walsh. How to use pre-emergents compatibly with native plants.

Stress On Agaves by Lynn Walsh. A tiny weevil can take this noble stalk down!

Sun Stunts Plant Growth by Jim Blackburn. A provocative idea.

The Curse of the Salt Cedar by Thom Hulen. Best intentions lead conservationists astray.

The Desert Pharmacy by Diane Vaszily. A natural pharmacopoeia for you in the Sonoran Desert.

The Hard Life of a Desert Giant by Patsy M. Miller Ph.D. Saguaros cope with their natural challenges or die.

The Sacred Datura by Margaret Stewart. Thornapple, Moon Lily, Jimsonweed, Whatever.

Tree Growth and Pruning by Jim Blackburn. How to prune Sonoran Desert trees.

What Does CAM Mean to Your Cacti? by Patsy M. Miller Ph.D. My cactus grows very well, thanks to CAM.

Wildflowers, Weeds and Wildfires by Thom Hulen. Let’s be part of the solution, not the problem.


Archaeology in the Northern Periphery by Grace Schoonover. Are we in danger of “using up” the Desert Foothills?

Rock Art Call Waiting from 2000 BC by Grace Schoonover. Communicating through the eons.


Illustration from Just How Steep Is That Trail?

Illustration from Just How Steep Is That Trail?

Bag-It by Jim Blackburn. Be a special hiker - carry a plastic bag with you.

Desert Appreciation by Thom Hulen (as summarized by Fran Wylie). Personally enjoying the beautiful Sonoran Desert.

Just How Steep Is That Trail? by Jim Blackburn. A geometry primer applied to hiking.

Take a Hike! by Nan Byrne. Commune with nature in our most uniquely beautiful desert.

The Hare and the Tortoise by Jim Blackburn. Pace hiking.

Who Goes There? by Geri Rodin. Tracking wildlife.

Desert Awareness Committee Hike 2010

DAC Event Schedule

DAC Calander Thumb

Cave Creek Trail Run

Sun., Apr. 5, 2015

at Spur Cross

Desert Awareness Committee

DAC Calander Thumb

Desert Harvest Medicine Plant Seminar

Sat., May. 9, 2015

at Desert Awareness Park

Desert Awareness Committee