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HOUSTON AUDUBON BEAK OF THE WEEK:

Barred Owl (Strix varia)

Family: Strigidae

Barred Owls are large, stocky owls with rounded heads, no ear tufts, and medium length, rounded tails. They are mottled brown and white overall, with dark brown, almost black, eyes.

The Barred Owl’s hooting call, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for y’all?” is a classic sound of old forests and treed swamps and may often be heard in the daytime.

Originally a bird of the east, during the twentieth century it spread through the Pacific Northwest and southward into California. The expansion of its range has had a significant detrimental effect on the threatened Spotted Owl as they compete for food and nesting sites.

Barred Owls are common throughout the year in Houston and nest in our area. One of the best sites to look for Barred Owls in Houston is along Patterson Road, on the southern boundary of Bear Creek Park and along Sharp Road, in far northwest Houston (Katy Prairie).

(read more: Houston Audubon)

photos: Houston Audubon, Mwanner,  and Mdf

Wild Bison’s Long-Awaited Homecoming Continues

by Juditch Kohler

Two decades of work to restore wild bison across landscapes they once dominated continues to pay off.

The latest good news is that Fort Peck in northeast Montana is getting more Yellowstone bison. The state Fish and Wildlife Commission has decided to transfer 146 bison from Ted Turner’s Montana ranch to the reservation. The animals will join the 50-some already at home on the rolling prairies on Fort Peck land.

The commission’s decision to send all the bison to Fort Peck instead of three or four separate locations follows the transfer of 64 genetically pure bison from Yellowstone National Park in 2012. Last year, Fort Peck shipped 34 of the animals to the Fort Belknap reservation, also in northeast Montana. The bison that will be relocated from Turner’s ranch were originally intended for the Wind River tribes, which have renewed efforts to return wild bison to their lands…

(read more: Wildlife Promise - NWF)

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The focus of today shall be: the Mouse Tank Petroglyphs of the Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada, USA.

Mouse Tank falls within a region which was occupied by Puebloan farmers from about AD 1 to 1200, and contains many Puebloan-style petroglyphs, as attested to by the photographs shown above. At about 1200 Southwestern farming cultures experienced significant drought, which ultimately resulted in the abandonment of the site.

Interpreting Puebloan rock art, to date, remains problematic. However, a few lines of thought can be given to aid us in our understanding. Here I will be summarizing a few key points from the work of Dr. David S. Whitley, who is generally regarded as one of the world’s leading experts on rock art.

Whitley suggests that some aspects of the rock art are likely shamanistic in intend and origin -elements of shamanism have continued through to Puebloan religions today. “Furthermore, we know that one of the characteristics of these archaic shamanistic practices was the making of rock art.” It is also thought that much of the art references the neuropsychological model of motif forms, which derived from altered states of consciousness. Whitley notes that much of the petroglyphs at Mouse Tank display entoptic patterns which are “common percepts in the first stage of a trance.” This includes spirals, parallel lines, zigzags, and other more complicated geometric forms. In essence, Whitley concludes that the Mouse Tank petroglyphs reflect “an expression of what are presumably formal religious cults and rites such as those still practiced by Pueblo groups today.” The figurative images, such as displayed in the 5th photo, likely represent ritual participants, deities, and the like.

Photos taken by & courtesy of George Lamson. Recommended reading: essentially anything from David S. Whitley, in particular: Discovering North American Rock Art (University of Arizona Press 2006) & Introduction to Rock Art Research (Left Coast Press 2011).

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