This was my sixth trip to Sabino Canyon in December and I decided to take the 10 A.M. tram to the end of the road and walk back the 3.8 miles to the visitor center. When I started out it was cold in the low 40's and never warmed up all that much which made for comfortable walking.
Sabino Canyon is one of the most popular if not the most popular destination in Tucson. The trams were mostly filled and the roadway had more hiker's and runner's than I'm used to seeing on my early morning visits. On the ride up we were informed that another mountain lion had been spotted in the lower canyon around stop number one the previous day. This sighting brings the total number of sightings that I am aware of to four for December, all in the lower canyon.
As a wildlife enthusiast I love being close to nature and am constantly looking for signs of movement. Now that water has returned to Sabino Canyon you can see some unusual birds along the creek including the Belted Kingfisher that was spotted feeding at the pool in the above picture. The kingfisher is a winter resident and feeds almost entirely on aquatic life so I'm curious what was on the menu here in the canyon. You can learn more about Belted Kingfishers at: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/belted_kingfisher/id
It was also near this location that I saw, for the very first time, a Greater Roadrunner in flight. I have seen and photographed many roadrunners in the last seven years and just happened to get this roadrunner shot here in the canyon last week but only once in all that time have I witnessed one airborne. I would have to describe what I saw as a "glide from one high ridge to another lower one". There was no flapping and no attempt to gain altitude just a simple and quite beautiful glide from one place to another.
The Gila Chub is the only native fish that lives in the creek and it's story is one that I find immensely interesting. I am currently doing a little research on life in the canyon and what is really going on from an ecological viewpoint. It's sometimes hard to understand that a place such as this with it's enormous beauty and abundance of wildlife can also have serious issues that effect the plant and animal populations in a very negative way. It is not only the impact of the thousands upon thousands of humans that trek through the canyon but also the non-native grasses, trees, shrubs, frogs, fish, and on and on. I am also curious about the effects of damming the stream at multiple points and the over use for recreation by the public. Here is a book preview by author David W. Lazaroff that I have only just begun to digest but so far it is extremely interesting so I thought I would share it. http://books.google.com/books?id=xvMetes37UUC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Amphibians+and+Reptiles+and+their+habitats+at+Sabino+Canyon&hl=en&sa=X&ei=QyHfUPPLMcOorAGOw4DwBA&ved=0CDsQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false
Also spotted on this walk were a few Canyon Wrens, Black -throated Sparrows, and Phainopepla. I did not get into areas that I traditionally see more birds like above the dam because the stream in the upper and mid canyon was my focus so I could prepare for future visits once I understand the ecology of the canyon a little better
One of the dams currently referred to as " a bridge" which is a function they do provide but I see them more as dams based on the way that they limit the flow of the creek. It will be interesting to research how they effect the ecology of the canyon.
Saguaro's have a prominent place throughout the canyon perched precariously on the canyon walls. I have included a national Park Service link on how Saguaro's grow which is very informative. http://www.nps.gov/sagu/naturescience/how-saguaros-grow.htm
There is allot to see and even more to learn about the canyon's and riparian areas here in the desert and I have chosen Sabino Canyon as my classroom for a couple of reasons. Number one is it's high usage as a recreation area and secondly it's diversity in the face of that human encroachment.
Keep an eye out for what I learn about Sabino Canyon and riparian areas here at Sonoran connection. I still am on the lookout for the ever elusive mountain lion also known as the "Puma"