Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Return to Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge

Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge is home to at least 6 endangered or threatened species and I went in search of them today. I had hoped to see at least two of them but it was not to be on this trip. The Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Pronghorn Antelope, Masked Bobwhite, Chiracahua Leopard Frog, Lesser Long-nosed Bat, Pima Pinapple Cactus, and the Kearney's Bluestar all live on the refuge.

Buenos Aires is a sea of grass but it is also miles of streamside riparian habitat. The 118,000 acres is a rich combination of grassland, wetland, cottonwood lined streams and sycamore/oak mountain canyons.

This female Masked Bobwhite is one of only two that I spotted during my 5 hour visit. This highly endangered bird is being bred in captivity on the refuge and released into the wild.

The trip yielded approximately 25 hawks including Red Tailed Hawks and American Kestrels. I kept an eye out for an Aplomado Falcon which is a local resident in the area
Buenos Aires used to be a cattle ranch and there are many old remnants of that era including what I think were stock yards.

While searching in vain to see the Pronghorn I spotted this lone coyote.

On my second trip around Pronghorn Drive I spotted this Mule Deer and three others feeding about a hundred yards off the road.

The entire time I was at the refuge it stayed at 36 degrees with a cool breeze. It's hard to look for movement when the entire landscape is swaying in the wind however it was so peaceful that I hardly noticed the cold.

Mesquite trees dot the landscape but are not native plants at this location. Prescribed burns are being used to remove the Mesquite in an effort to return to a more natural environment. Habitat restoration is the major focus of the refuge's effort to return to the open, semi-desert grasslands of pre-settlement times.

It was extremely quiet the entire time I was there and I saw very few other human beings except when I stopped at the refuge headquarters where they were friendly and helpful. I have yet to visit the riparian areas at Arivaca Creek and Arivaca Cienega or Brown Canyon but I will definitely put them on the schedule in the near future.
This closes out my 100th post here on Sonoran Connection as well as my last post of 2009. I am grateful to those of you who have spent time here and I hope you have found it both interesting and educational. I look forward to an even more exciting 2010 traveling through the Sonoran Desert. Happy New Year!

Monday, December 28, 2009


On many occasions I have tried and failed to get a decent picture of a Verdin. They rarely stay in one place long enough to allow me to focus the camera.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


Black Phoebe taking wing.
And landing.
Yellow Warbler feeding in mid air.
Northern Shoveler
Their ability to move through the air at amazing speeds with even more amazing accuracy is what makes them so unique.Moving from place to place with ease and grace as they search for food, build their nests and raise their families or migrate is nothing short of a wonder. Here are a few shots of birds doing what they do best.

Black-Crowned Night Heron

We decided to go back to Sweetwater and try to locate the Hooded Merganser that we could see in one of my pictures but were unsuccessful. We did however get to see this Black-Crowned Night Heron as well as a Great Blue Heron and the Great Egret!
Other birds that we spotted were Ruby-Crowned Kinglets, Black Phoebes, Vermilion Flycatcher, Bufflehead, Blue-Winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, Northern Shoveler, American Wigeon, Yellow Rumped Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Ring-Necked Duck, Mallards, American Coot, Yellow-Headed Blackbirds, Great Tailed Grackles, Gambel's Quail, Flicker and Roadrunner.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Day Two- Sweetwater Wetlands

We closed out our week-end of water at Sweetwater Wetlands located right in the middle of Tucson Arizona. This is a water reclamation project that provides water to city parks and golf courses and serves as an urban wildlife habitat and classroom. It's really quite ingenious and very beautiful as you will see from the photos.

It was a day of ducks which were in abundance. These are Northern Shovelers which numbered in the hundreds if not thousands.

I spent allot of time just trying to capture their personality and behaviors.

This female at rest kept a watchful eye on me.

It seems strange to see cattails here in the desert but it also reminds me of home in New England.
The other duck that was most prevalent was the American Wigeon.

At one point the American Coot was standing on the turtle.
As you can see there were lots of ducks.
We saw this Great Egret a couple of different times during the day. He was hunting very successfully although I'm not sure what the main course was.

A large flock of blackbirds flew in and I got a few shots of this Yellow- Headed Blackbird.

American Wigeon and Northern Shovelers.
This was the prettiest of them all. The Cinnamon Teal was present in small numbers.

Very fall like colors throughout the facility.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Water in the Desert Day One

We set out to go to the Sweetwater Wetlands but on the way we stopped at Silverbell Lake. It's not really a lake, more of a pond but here in the southwest any reasonably large body of water is called a lake.
On my list of things that you don't expect to see in the middle of Tucson Arizona is this Great Egret. The water is stocked with fish for an urban fishing program run by the city so my guess is that this is home for this guy. Learn more about the Great Egret here :
There were quite a few American Coot in and around the water. The Coot is actually a Rail and not a duck. Information on these birds can be found here:

This Mallard is another bird that I don't see everyday here in this desert city. Check it out
Lots and lots of blackbirds everywhere including this Brewers Blackbird as well as Red-winged Blackbirds.

This Great Blue Heron is probably a resident as well. It was not afraid of people and just tried to spend it's time in quiet areas of the lake.
When you live here in the desert water can be very uplifting and relaxing at the same time.

A couple of Great- Tailed Grackles. The one on the left was wet and putting on quite a show trying to dry off.

I believe this is a female Great- Tailed Grackle.
This Cooper's Hawk was keeping a watchful eye out for lunch.
I got really excited when I spotted this Vermilion Flycatcher. There were a pair but I could only get a shot of this one.

This is the second White Crowned Sparrow I've seen in the last week.
Stay tuned as we will head out to Sweetwater tomorrow to explore the wetlands. Sweetwater Wetlands are part of Tucson's water reclamation project and were created as a water treatment facility, urban wildlife habitat and as a classroom.