Walking Rocks?

Query: When I was in Death Valley earlier this year, I saw some enormous 750-pound rocks that appear to travel across the desert on their own. I remembered your article about rock tortoises, and wondered if that’s what these rocks could be?

Corn of Plenty (Part 4 of 4): A Field Guide by Dr. Midas Welby

Corns of the Air: Air-corns utilize their horns for jousting, playing tic-tac-toe, and spearing food in mid-flight. Air-corns often lurk undetected in trees, wood piles, and rain gutters. When bored, they use their horns to ring the doorbells of unsuspecting humans. When the door begins to open, the air-corn flies away.


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Going On Hiatus

December 6, 2014: I am loving college, but I have to admit, I’m overwhelmed.

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Pine Cone Feeders

A Present For Imaginaries: When winter comes, I get concerned about providing extra shelter from the elements for Imaginaries. Recently, I read about people who build wildlife brush shelters out of branches and plants in their yards, and thought this was a great idea.

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About Those Flying Reindeer: Every year at this time, people ask me about the flying reindeer that are said to pull the sled of that most famous of elves, Santa Claus. We don’t keep any reindeer at the Iranigami Preserve, because they don’t like the hot desert summers here, but I once spent a year traveling above the Arctic Circle, where I had the privilege of meeting quite a few reindeer.

Several species of known reindeer live above the Arctic Circle. The only Imaginary reindeer, the Yule reindeer (scientific name Rangifer tarandus volaris) is the most northern-dwelling reindeer of all. Very shy and extremely few in number, they are almost never encountered by humans in the wild.

Many species of reindeer live successfully in captivity, and are domesticated to pull sleds. The elven huldufolk of the northlands refuse to confirm that they’ve domesticated the Yule reindeer, but they don’t deny it either.

Yule reindeer are closely related to the Svalbard reindeer (scientific name Rangifer tarandus platyrhynchus) of Norway. While most reindeer stand about 4-5 feet high at the shoulder, Svalbards, like Yule reindeer, are about half that size, and have thick, feathered coats to protect against the harsh cold of the Arctic climate. While I’ve never seen a Yule reindeer myself, I imagine it would look very much like a Svalbard (see photo).

The way Yule reindeer can fly is very interesting. With so little grass available in the far north, Yule reindeer graze upon lichens, a kind of moss which grows on rocks. These lichen have absorbed many of the minerals from the rocks, and when these mineral-rich lichens are taken into the reindeer’s stomachs, they react with stomach acids and produce hydrogen. The hydrogen, in turn, gives the Yule reindeer “lift” in much the same way a hydrogen-filled balloon can rise in the air. In the thin atmosphere near the poles, this “lift” allows the Yule reindeer to soar effortlessly through the air for distances of up to a mile. If the reindeer wishes to stay airborne even longer, the thick fur on her legs acts like feathers, and she can “swim” through the air, traveling great distances, although just how far a Yule reindeer can travel before she needs to land is unknown.

The reason I say “she” is because most male reindeer lose their antlers in the wintertime, whereas females keep their antlers all year long. Since every description we have of the reindeer that might pull Santa’s sleigh includes antlers, we guess that they would have to be females.

I don’t know if an elf named Santa Claus actually flies a sleigh all the way around the world on Christmas Eve, but if he does, those wonderful flying Yule reindeer would be the ones to get the job done. - NONNY, Keeper of the Preserve and Iranigami sympathizer


Copyright © 2012, 2013, 2014 by Penelope Stowell. All rights reserved. This website is a work of fiction and does not depict any actual persons, creatures, places or events.