Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Arivaca Cienega- I Hear the Cottonwoods Calling...

Each spring the cienega goes though an amazing transformation and standing there is this one particular Fremont Cottonwood that acts as the unofficial greeter to those us fortunate enough to visit this unusual and captivating place. As most of you are aware water in the Sonoran Desert can be hard to find especially in quantities that will support cottonwood trees. The large size that some of these trees attain is truly colossal and if you care to know more about them you can check them out at:
On our visit to the cienega this week the water levels were somewhat less than I expected and the cottonwoods were beginning to leaf out which means that the demand for moisture will increase rapidly as their canopies fill out and provide cover for the many nesting hawks and other birds that make the cienega home. We spotted a Gray Hawk sitting in a tree overlooking the trail but did not see a mate. There are approximately 100 breeding pairs of Gray Hawks in Arizona and we have been fortunate enough to see about a dozen of these birds in our travels along the Mexican border.
The 1 1/4 mile trail is an easy walk and you never know what you might encounter. We have spotted many different hawks including Northern Harrier, White-tailed Kite, Swainson's Hawk, Red Tailed Hawks and many Turkey Vultures along the path. There are usually Black Phoebes and Vermillion Flycatchers as well as Phainopepla, Eastern Meadow Larks, and Summer Tanagers at different times during the year to name just a few.

I always enjoy my visits to the Arivaca Cienega which is a small part of Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge and on my next visit to the area I will check our Arivaca Creek where we saw nesting Gray Hawks a couple of years ago.


  1. I love both these places. I know exactly which Cottonwood you are talking's a great hike. I heard that Gray Hawks nested there, but I haven't seen them yet.....:)

  2. Nice post. Our central NM cottonwoods show no signs of budding.