Sunday, April 25, 2010

Return to Brown Canyon- The Arch Trail

It was a perfect Southern Arizona day when our group of fifteen set out to hike the Arch Trail in Brown Canyon which is a restricted area of Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge which consists of 118,000 acres with several very diverse habitats is home to the Masked Bobwhite which by itself makes this a very unique place. For those of you who have never visited it is a very special treat to be able to do a little birding at the Arivaca Cienega or along the Cienega Creek Trail or maybe go and look for Pronghorns along Pronghorn Drive.
Lead by Richard Conway and Mary Scott our day would focus on the geology, butterflies, birds and wildflowers of the canyon.

When we first arrived we were able to do a little bird watching at the first gate. I always have trouble making positive ID's of sparrows so feel free to let me know what you think of these guys.

When we reached the education center we spotted a couple of high flying raptors. There was allot of discussion but no consensus so I took some photo's and guess what folks we were looking at a pair of GOLDEN EAGLES! Information on Golden Eagles can be located here:

Richard saw me take this shot and was kind enough to let me know that this little beauty is Desert Chicory. More information on Desert Chicory can be found at

Richard likes to use the walls that were built by former inhabitants of the canyon to talk about the geology of the canyon. As you can see there are two very different walls built within the canyon.

The views of the Baboquivari range are spectacular. Baboquivari is the granite peak to the left in the above shot. Find out more about Baboquivari here:

There are quite a few abandoned buildings as well as evidence of a bygone era when the canyon was used as a cattle ranch including branding pens, cattle tanks and windmills to bring water to the surface. Some of the windmills were spinning in the wind as we arrived.

As I said there was quite a bit of talk about butterflies including this Tiny Checkerspot sunning itself on a rock.

This tiny little ground hugging plant is Rattlesnake Weed.

On Friday April 23rd it snowed here in the canyon. The very next day the snow had disappeared and it was in the low 70's. With an abnormal amount of rain this year the canyon was very green and the wildflowers were amazing.

Talking rocks and sharing knowledge. What could be better than being in this place at this time in it's history. Everywhere I looked there was another wonder to explore. People should check out the Friends of BANWR website for Brown Canyon overnight educational programs that are held in the Education Center which has great accommodations and I hear great food as well.

Hooded Oriole

We saw a number of birds during the hike including two pair of Scott's Orioles that were first time visitors to the canyon. We also saw this Hooded Oriole and Broad Tailed Hummingbird, Broad Billed Hummingbird, Rufous Crowned Sparrow, Mexican Jays, a pair of Gray Hawks, a pair of Golden Eagles, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Lesser Goldfinch, Cardinal, Black-tailed Gnatcatchers and more.

Checkerspot that caught my eye.

One lone Saguaro in the canyon

Coccinia and Agerata cling to life in a rocky environment

Intrusion just before we reached the Arch

This was my first impression of the Arch and amazingly there growing on top of the rock formation is the most perfect tree.

This is one of the few natural bridges in Arizona, and the only one in Southern Arizona. It's span is 47 feet.

I always enjoy lone trees on the horizon as they almost always make for a great shot.

What was that bird song? I am convinced that it's time to take my birding a little more high tech and get connected in the field for these trips.

Tiny Checkerspots do their dance.

Stachy's Coccinia or Scarlet Hedge Nettle

Sotol remains after being burned in a wildfire.

I wonder what this little guy will become! Answer: A Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly!

This picture is for Richard who loves his rock walls!

I will look forward to my next visit to Brown Canyon which hopefully will very soon.


  1. Nice Post~!!!. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

  2. Beautiful pictures; I am really looking forward to my first hike there next Wednesday 3/9!! Thanks for your post.