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The View from Bald Hill: Thirty Years in an Arizona Grassland

CARL E. BOCK
JANE H. BOCK
WITH A FOREWORD BY HARRY W. GREENE
Copyright Date: 2000
Edition: 1
Pages: 221
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1ppg4b
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  • Book Info
    The View from Bald Hill
    Book Description:

    In 1540 Francisco Vasquez de Coronado introduced the first domestic livestock to the American Southwest. Over the subsequent four centuries, cattle, horses, and sheep have created a massive ecological experiment on these arid grasslands, changing them in ways we can never know with certainty. The Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch in the high desert of southeastern Arizona is an 8,000-acre sanctuary where grazing has been banned since 1968. In this spirited account of thirty years of research at the ranch, Carl and Jane Bock summarize the results of their fieldwork, which was aimed at understanding the dynamics of grasslands in the absence of livestock.The View from Bald Hillprovides an intimate look at the natural history of this unique site and illuminates many issues pertaining to the protection and restoration of our nation's grasslands.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92426-0
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-X)
  3. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. XI-XIV)
  4. LIST OF TABLES
    (pp. XV-XVI)
  5. FOREWORD
    (pp. XVII-XX)
    Harry W. Greene

    With the publication of Carl and Jane Bock’sThe View from Bald Hill, the University of California Press inaugurates a new series on organisms and environments. Our central themes are the distribution and abundance of organisms, the ways in which plants and animals interact with their surroundings, and the broader implications of those relationships for science and society. The series goals are to promote unusual, even unexpected connections among seemingly disparate topics, as well as to encourage books that are special by virtue of the unique perspectives and talents of their authors. Other volumes in the series include an ethnoherpetology...

  6. PREFACE
    (pp. XXI-XXIV)
  7. One THE GRASSLANDS OF CORONADO
    (pp. 1-12)

    On the sonoita plainb, beyond the far northern edge of the Sierra Madre Occidental, lies the small town of Elgin, Arizona. For many years there was a gas, grocery, and post office place in Elgin with a sign over the door that said simply, “Where the sun shines and the wind blows.” The sign and the store are long gone, but it still is sunny and windy out there, especially in the dry months of May and June.

    Elgin was scarcely alive in the summer of 1991, after they closed up the post office and moved the school. But its...

  8. Two ON BEING THE CONTROL
    (pp. 13-18)

    In any well-designed scentific experiment, there must always be a control. For field research, the control usually is an unmanipulated site, against which a manipulated experimental site can be compared. Without the control site, we have no way of knowing for sure if the manipulated site changed as a result of the experiment or for some other reason. Many of the stories we have to tell about the Research Ranch have to do with its history and continuing function as a control. What follows is one example.

    Burroweed (Isocoma tenuisecta) is a small native shrub that in certain places in...

  9. Three WAITING FOR RAIN
    (pp. 19-26)

    The rhythms of life are driven by climate in the Sonoita Valley-mostly warm but sometimes frozen cold, mostly arid but sometimes soaking wet. Wild things have evolved to tolerate such extreme and unpredictable changes in their environment, otherwise their ancestors would long since have gone extinct. Humans, or at least those living there now, have a much more difficult time of it. We have never lived in another place where people are so obsessed by the weather. This is especially the case in the heat of June, when the parched land and everybody on it awaits arrival of the summer...

  10. Four FENCELINES
    (pp. 27-44)

    Most rangeland fences in the Sonoita Valley were built in the 1930s, out of barbed wire and wooden posts made from the trunks of alligator junipers, which are particularly resistant to decay. Foothills surrounding the valley probably were locally depleted of junipers, so great was their harvest by the builders of these original fences. Since those days, waxwings and solitaires and bluebirds have helped to replenish junipers all over the region, by eating their cones and dispersing their seeds. One irony is that lots of new young junipers are growing next to the steel posts that have largely replaced their...

  11. Five HERPS
    (pp. 45-54)

    There are about eleven thousand species of reptiles and amphibians in the world. Collectively they are called herps, and the people who study them are herpetologists. Herps constitute less than 1 percent of the animal species known to exist. However, they have received attention all out of proportion to their numbers because herpetologists are relatively abundant among biologists and many of them are wildly enthusiastic field naturalists. The result is that we know a great deal more about the natural history of reptiles and amphibians than we do about most other kinds of living things, with the exception of birds...

  12. Six ISLANDS OF FIRE
    (pp. 55-68)

    In the flint hills of eastern Kansas there is a grassland preserve called the Konza Prairie. Owned by the Nature Conservancy and managed by Kansas State University, this site is one of the largest remaining tracts of true (or tallgrass) prairie—that treeless, grasses-up-to-your-nose landscape that originally characterized the eastern third of America’s Great Plains. It once extended from southern Manitoba to northeast Texas, but most of the tallgrass prairie was lost to the steel plow during the nineteenth century because of the extraordinary agricultural potential of prairie soils and climate. The Flint Hills are too rocky to plow, and...

  13. Seven OAKS, ACORNS, AND RUGGED GROUPS
    (pp. 69-80)

    There is an elevated spot next to Turkey Creek on the Research Ranch that affords a fine sweeping view down the drainage and north toward the Mustang Mountains. An old stock tank and a windmill called McDaniel Well occupy the foreground (Fig. 17). Off to the right is a grove of good-sized Emory oak and Arizona white oak trees, whose spreading crowns provide shade and perches for birds and mammals that come to drink.

    While most of our workdays were spent in open grasslands on the northern part of the sanctuary, there seemed to be something magical about this wooded...

  14. Eight LITTLE BROWN BIRDS
    (pp. 81-98)

    Sparrows are among the dullest and most enigmatic of birds. Nearly all are cryptically patterned in subtle shades of brown and gray, and they spend most of their lives on the ground, quietly searching for seeds and insects while avoiding being eaten themselves. They are conspicuous and distinctive only to the ear and then only at breeding times, when they sing to proclaim their territories and attract mates. Yet sparrows can be powerful indicators of environmental condition, and they have much to tell us about the ecology of the grassland communities of which they are a part. More than twenty...

  15. Nine FRAGMENTS
    (pp. 99-110)

    A wright’s sycamore stands tall and absolutely alone in the middle of O’Donnell Canyon below East Corrals (Fig. 23). In 1981 it became riparian tree #70, thanks to a small aluminum tag we nailed to its trunk. Of course, this sycamore had survived for centuries without the benefit of a number, perhaps even since the time of Coronado. Somehow it had endured the flash floods that have scoured O’Donnell Creek over the years and the fires that have burned through the adjacent sacaton. But southwestern riparian—or streamside—habitats as a whole have suffered grievously from historical changes in the...

  16. Ten THE NEST BOX EXPERIMENT
    (pp. 111-118)

    One november afternoon in 1986 we were having coffee in our backyard at East Corrals, looking off down O’Donnell Canyon toward sycamore #70. It was one of those late fall days when much of North America is starting to worry about winter, but when things are just about perfect in southeastern Arizona. The leaves had fallen from the branches of sycamore #70, revealing the white and silver bark normally hidden under its canopy. Sacaton and other grasses on the slopes of the canyon were cured to their own particular shades of gold and russet and bronze. The sky was clear...

  17. Eleven PLAINS LOVEGRASS
    (pp. 119-128)

    Plains lovegrass (Eragrostis intermedia) is a tall bunchgrass that has become much more common on the Research Ranch since livestock were removed in 1968. It starts growing in early summer, before the grama grasses, and by late summer its characteristic branching seed heads can give whole hillsides a striking purple hue. In fall, plains lovegrass seed stalks break off from the parent plants and tumble across the landscape. Frequently they catch and accumulate in the branches of oaks, mesquites, and shrubs, giving these woody plants a shaggy appearance that lasts through the winter.

    To those of us working and living...

  18. Twelve COTTON RATS AND REAL DOGS
    (pp. 129-136)

    Rodents, though much less influential than cattle or people, are the most abundant mammals on the Sonoita Plain. Yet because wild mice and their relatives mostly are nocturnal and inconspicuous, it is necessary to set traps to find out who is out there, in what numbers, and in which places.

    The simplest metric by which mammalogists compare rodent abundances across time or space is in numbers captured per trap-night. One trap-night involves a live-trap being baited with something rodents like, such as rolled oats or peanut butter, and placed out for one night. Traps are opened in the evening and...

  19. Thirteen ALIENS
    (pp. 137-146)

    One day in 1975 ariel appleton described for us a strange tree she had found growing below Post Canyon dam. Ariel is a keen observer of the natural scene and intimately familiar with the Research Ranch. This particular tree was like none she had ever seen before. It had rather wispy branches covered with gray-green scalelike leaves, and numerous pink flowers. It was growing with a stand of young cottonwoods that had become established along the Post Canyon stream bank subsequent to cattle removal in 1968.

    The strange tree proved to be a tamarisk. Also known as saltcedar, this aggressive...

  20. Fourteen THE WORLD IS FULL OF LIFE
    (pp. 147-152)

    For a variety of personal and professional reasons, we took a break from the Research Ranch at the end of the 1991 field season. We thought at the time that it might have been for keeps, but the lure of the place proved too strong. We have come back, though in a different capacity. The simplest way to describe it is to say that we promoted ourselves from parents to grandparents. We still care deeply about the place, and we have some personal research projects going. But now it is somebody else’s problem to balance the budget, to fund the...

  21. Appendix SCIENTIFIC AND ENGLISH NAMES OF PLANTS AND ANIMALS
    (pp. 153-158)
  22. NOTES
    (pp. 159-170)
  23. LITERATURE CITED
    (pp. 171-192)
  24. INDEX
    (pp. 193-197)
  25. Back Matter
    (pp. 198-199)