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July 2023 Newsletter

Hello members and subscribers! This month we celebrate the graduation of Cohort 2 and two revitalization and restoration projects. We also have a profile of Pinyon Jays. We hope you enjoy! Please send feedback and submissions by replying to this email.

Congratulations to Cohort 2!

The graduation ceremony in May welcomed fourteen new members into the Highlands Chapter. All fourteen completed an intensive 60-hour training program. See our chapter website for more information about the program.

524 Kiddos Impact Their School Outdoor Habitat and Community

By Ray Sherer and Chris Schneider

In 2015 the Highlands Center built a schoolyard habitat at Granville Elementary School. Fast forward to 2023, it was time to revitalize! Beginning in March, in partnership, a customized six-week program was created, and the 21 classrooms of K-6 graders brought the program to life. The students began with the "what's alive inventory," followed by the massive clean-up of the garden. Tarp after tarp of trimmings were hauled! An incidental nature habitat was created with the trimmings pile and a family of quail, roadrunners, and rabbits now call this home. Observations and journaling captured learnings and wonders each week. When the time came to get our hands dirty, we were ready for making and planting seedballs! The students raised the bar with their seedballs. In addition to new plantings in the garden, they also made seedballs for the Prescott National Forest restoration project along the Verde River. Special events sprinkled in more awe and sensory awakening, with the release of Principal Scarpa's milkweed seeds, the final star event. Teachers were excited and adopted the habitat, taking advantage of the outdoor classroom. A bulletin board in the main hallway showcased weekly photos of students in the habitat and was a special point of interest for the children. The school has invited us back! We'll continue our restoration and education next Fall and Spring with the students.

Would you like to adopt a school in your neighborhood? The vision of the Highlands Center is to replicate this in other schoolyard habitats. This includes leveraging corporate participation, using AZ state tax credits, sponsorships, and involving more Master Naturalists. You will hear more about this opportunity at our July 12th AZMNCH meeting. (Side bonus: lots of volunteer service hours for your Master Naturalist certification šŸ˜Š)

The students were so proud of the difference they made! This two-minute video highlights their impact.

All around WIN! The children, the school, and our community.

Video production: Jim Presley

Preserving the Draw of

Munds Draw

By Shawn Major

Three Master Naturalists participated in an erosion control project this past May at Munds Draw in collaboration with the Natural History Institute, Friends of the Verde River, and Prescott National Forest.

The morning began with an hour-long scenic drive to Munds Draw, a remote site on National Forest land east of Paulden. The beauty of the region is breathtaking, with boundless skies, the red rock formations of Sycamore Canyon visible in the distance, and no human development as far as the eye can see in all directions.

After a brief tour of the site, the team worked together to build loose rock structures called "single-rock dams." These rock structures (seen in the photo below) are designed to slow water movement within the naturally-occurring gullies.

This workday was part of the Natural History Institute's "Healing the Earth, Healing Ourselves" series. Photos courtesy of NHI's Jessie Rack.

Featured Bird: Pinyon Jays

By Andie Rorick

Pinyon Jays, Gymnorhinus cyanocephalusare, are birds about the size and shape of a small crow that are overall blue-gray in coloring. The females and males are colored and sized similarly and are difficult to tell apart. The Pinyon Jay's primary food source is piƱon nuts although they do eat other seeds, berries, and insects. They are found year-round in 11 western states with about one-third of the population in New Mexico. They are found in the Central Highlands but are uncommon.

They nest in the late winter with the male providing nesting material to the female. These jays are known to steal nesting materials from other birds' unattended nests. Rude! Pinyon Jays travel and nest in flocks. Some of these groups can contain several hundred birds.

Pinyon Jays are considered a keystone species for the piƱon/juniper forests where they live. The jays and the piƱons are interdependent. The piƱon nuts are sustenance for the jays, and the jays provide seed dispersal for the trees. This connection between the jays and the pines provides habitat for other birds and animals.

Pinyon Jays are on the Red List and considered vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Partners in Flight estimates that 83% of the Pinyon Jay population was lost between 1967 and 2015. Much of their habitat is lost due to development, grazing, and thinning/burning for wildfire prevention.

The Great Basin Bird Observatory has a community science initiative that is gathering data on Pinyon Jays. You can find the link to participate at:

Image source

Featured Hike: Lynx Lake Loop

This easy, 2.6-mile hike takes about an hour to complete. It is a popular spot for hiking, birding, and fishing. During wetter times, be prepared for a couple of shallow water crossings.

Upcoming Events

Chapter meeting: July 12, 2023, 1:30PM, at the Highlands Center for Natural History ramada (weather permitting)

Tom Davis will be our speaker, presenting the following:

"Earth, Wind, Fire and Water - Living on the Edge"

  • Earth - What is the Wildland/Urban Interface (WUI)?
  • Wind - Climate and WUI
  • Fire - History, threats and management
  • Water - Central Highlands dynamics, quantity, quality and post fire impacts

Upcoming events/web links:

  • Highlands Center Adult Programs, see
  • NHI upcoming events, see
  • Plans for the Watson Woods Riparian Area, see
  • September 7-9 AAEE meeting, Yavapai College Prescott Campus, see
  • September 20 CNSS speaker, to be held at Highlands Center for Natural History at 12:30PM, details forthcoming
  • October 18 CNSS speaker, to be held at Highlands Center for Natural History at 12:30PM, details forthcoming
  • November 15 CNSS speaker, to be held at Highlands Center for Natural History at 12:30PM, details forthcoming
Arizona Central Highlands Master Naturalists

1375 S. Walker Road, Prescott, AZ

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