Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sonoran Desert or New England?

If you were to see the picture above in say Yankee Magazine you might assume it was a quaint New England dirt road. With late May patches of snow along the sides of the road and dandelions popping up with their bright yellow flowers you just might think it was Vermont in springtime or perhaps Western Massachusetts where I grew up.

You would be wrong by about 3000 miles. The scenes are actually pictures I took at the top of Mt Lemmon in Arizona yesterday. Closer examination will reveal that the maples and oaks that are common to New England are replaced here by the Aspens and the white pines that are prevalent up north are Ponderosa Pines here. The feel of a walk in the woods is the same though, the quiet rustling of the leaves in the breeze, the singing of robin redbreasts and of course the melting snow is mostly gone and very dirty just like it would be in New Hampshire or Maine at this time of year.

There is of course the effects of the 2003 Aspen fire that killed so many of the majestic Ponderosa Pines that 7 years later looks like nothing I have ever seen in New England. The recovery is painfully slow in human terms but in terms of the forest is well under way.

Another place I like to visit when I want the New England feel is Ski Valley where you can ride the ski lift to the top of the mountain through the grassy meadow. So much of New England is green and so much of Arizona is not that a visit here refreshes my spirit in a way that you can only imagine. I will return here often this summer to escape the plus 100 degree heat and slip quietly back into my youth.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Born and Hazed in Montana The Real Story of the Yellowstone Buffalo

Once again I am deeply disappointed by the actions of the State of Montana and the National Park Service in regards to their treatment of the Yellowstone Buffalo. Some time ago in response to this treatment I decided to personally stop eating beef and I would like to report that I have kept my word even though it has not always been easy. Recent reports from the Buffalo Field Campaign have reinforced my decision but clearly more needs to be done to stop the cruelty that has become a way of life for the Yellowstone Buffalo.

Unfortunately we will never stop the hazing and murder of the buffalo in Yellowstone without a concerted, coordinated approach to convincing the Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar that this is an unacceptable approach to the management of these magnificent animals. Please read about the plight of the Yellowstone Buffalo at  and contact Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar here:

I have included just a small portion of what you will find at the Buffalo Field Campaigns website.

How do you begin to write about a time such as buffalo have had this week? We have witnessed--and the buffalo have endured--so much this week: a wild buffalo being born the day before Mother's Day, wildlife coming into the world between a fence and a highway; being graced with the gift of a bull buffalo migrating through our yard. Before the week is over, a total of 600 buffalo will have been needlessly and aggressively forced off of their chosen ground in Montana, and hundreds more buffalo deep inside Yellowstone are being harassed to make room for those forced to leave the state. Welcome to West Yellowstone: it is that time of year when the appeasement of cattle interests attempts to overpower ancient natural law, the approach of the nonsensical May 15th deadline when the Montana Department of Livestock demands that no more wild buffalo exist in Montana.

Please do what you can.

Friend of the Yellowstone Buffalo

Ray Goodwin

Sonoran Connection

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Catalina Highway 5 A.M.-9 A.M.

It usually takes about an hour to drive to Catalina Highway so I had to get up at 3 A.M. to get ready to leave the house around 4 A.M. if I was going to have a chance to catch the sunrise. There were ample clouds to make for a decent colorful sunrise unfortunately it really did not develop as well as I had hoped.
Still it was a treat to be on the mountain at that time as there was no one else around. I could hear the birds singing absent the traffic noise that can be prevalent on the week ends.
The sun came up in a way that didn't produce allot of color but it was still quite beautiful and with temps around 50 degrees it was nice weather to walk.
Catalina Highway rises from around 3000 ft to 8000 ft above sea level and the views can be spectacular.
These shots were directly into the sun which sometimes produces nice effects.

The view as the sun cleared the cloud cover.
This natural arch is directly next to the highway and is quite impressive.

As you near Summerhaven evidence of the 2003 Aspen fire is everywhere. As you can see some areas have not recovered a whole lot.

These Turkey Vultures circling the burn area gave it a sci-fi feel.

The sky was gorgeous at this point above one of the rebuilt homes in the area.
On the trip down the mountain I spotted this Cooper's Hawk standing watch.
Information on the Cooper's Hawk can be found at:'s_Hawk

Hidden in the rocks.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

White Faced Ibis and American Avocet

We took a ride to Sweetwater Wetlands to take a walk and check out the wildlife. It was already fairly warm with lots of sunshine so we moved from shady spot to shady spot taking a few pictures along the way. We weren't really seeing much for birds as the ducks had mostly migrated northward and then all of the sudden I spotted what at first looked like cranes. However as they got closer it was apparent that we had a flock of approximately 30 White Faced Ibis.
They flew directly overhead so I was able to snap several shots as the passed over.
They turned sharply and I could tell they were on a landing glide path that would take them to the first pond which still had some water in it. We headed back to see them on the ground but could not get very close as the gate which had been open earlier was now locked.
While I was taking these shots we noticed two American Avocets wading among the Ibises. Apparently Avocets breed locally in this area.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Thoughts from the Gulf of Mexico

Sarah Goodwin-Nguyen Journal

Tuesday, May 4th 2010
12:51 PM
BP Oil Spill and Ecological Disaster
As I write, an amount of oil I cannot wrap my brain around is spilling into the Gulf of Mexico every day.

Do the oil executives cry, the way I have been crying, spontaneously, over the last few days, measuring the damage? I don’t imagine they fret for the senseless death of innocent creatures who have never used a drop of oil. I doubt they lose sleep over the imperiled reddish egret, whose nesting sites are in the path of danger. I don't suppose they are concerned that those of us who care about nature, who wake up in the morning and LIVE for the sight of the pelicans jumping for pinfish or an osprey soaring above the turquoise blue water, those of us who equate encounters with dolphins and sea turtles as religious experiences, we are walking around feeling like we've been kicked in the gut.

There is something so wrong, so arrogant, with us descending into the depths of the ocean, a still, alien environment where we clearly do not belong, doing damage. The idea is abhorrent, that we should be puncturing giant holes in the ocean floor to suck out black oil. We have no right to disrupt this ecosystem, so complicated and so interdependent, that the tiniest planktonic larva can affect the magnificently intelligent and humongous whale. We should not BE there if all we are going to do is make a mess of things.

So far, says the news reports, 29 Kemp's ridley sea turtles, the smallest, most adorable, and most endangered sea turtle of the 7 species of sea turtles on the planet (all of which are either threatened or endangered) have washed up dead over the last few days. There are maybe a few thousand of them in the whole world. They only lay their eggs on a few tiny beaches off the Gulf of Mexico.

When I worked at the Aquarium, I got to know two Kemp's ridleys: Lola and Pepi. Pepi was born in a laboratory, where she did not thrive. She was permanently disfigured and floated around, lopsided, only swimming to the left. Every day, customers would tell us one of our turtles was dead as she napped at the top of the tank, floating, her shell sticking out of the water at an awkward angle. But Pepi held her own against the stingrays and cobia in her tank. She bullied Lola. She was crazy about squid, and pushed her way to the front of the tank during feeding. Her tankmate, Lola, was a victim of a fishing line entanglement, like so many of the wild animals I've met in the Keys. Lola lost two flippers because of it.

I remember when a colleague and I drove to Marathon to fetch Pepi and Lola in a truck. We had to continuously moisten their flippers and eyes with vaseline, and they made stressed gasping noises that tugged at my heart. They belonged in the water. But humans had so botched the stewardship of these creatures that here they were, some of the last of an ancient species, mangled. They were given a permanent home at the aquarium, where they learned to enjoy having their backs scratched with a pool brush, having their picture taken, and being hand-fed as much squid as their bellies would hold.

Twenty-nine Kemp’s ridleys. And counting.

For some reason, these oil rigs were built, knowing that this could possibly happen, yet only NOW, when precious weeks, days, minutes will be lost do they think to build something to fix the problem. Why wasn’t something in place BEFORE the problem occurred? Why were these rigs built if we do not even have the technology to fix a massive oil spill should it occur? Because it is always only a matter of time before it occurs. We know this, because it has happened before, and it was just as awful then.

Who is in charge? Who is in charge of this ocean?

I took a bike ride along the beach and mangroves and kept thinking this might be the last time for decades the water will look so clear There’s something called the “Loop Current,”and if the spill hits it, a slick the size of states will reach the Florida Keys, home of the only living (barely) coral reef in North America. Elsewhere, someone else’s view has already been tainted for months to come, they will look upon a graveyard where used to be a cauldron of life.

The waters off Key West are far from pristine. They are littered with human debris: air mattresses, plastic bags, and soda bottles. Cruise ships dump their filth here. People fish rapaciously, leaving injurious monofilament lines everywhere. Sometimes, they leave the heads of nurse sharks they’ve slaughtered for no reason at all. I see the results of human callousness every day at the Wildlife Center: birds with hooks in their eyes, wings broken from fishing line, mouths filled with bacterial infections from the poisoned water.

Still, wildlife perseveres. Until it can’t.

And what is there for someone like me to do about this? I still have to live in this world, which, apparently, needs oil. Already, I don’t drive a car. I try to make “green” choices. The heart of the problem is ARROGANCE; You can marvel at the works of man: ships and cars, televisions and oil rigs, but nothing made by human hands, no bridge or painting, no poem or weapon of mass destruction is as marvelous as what was already here, created by God or by Nature, whichever you prefer to call it. The problem is GREED which has run unchecked: Wall Street is bloated with it, the banks, the oil companies, the car makers.

11 workers died in the explosion. They are hardly collateral damage.

Then, there’s the actual collateral damage, the fishermen, hotel workers, boat captains, restaurant workers; the people who live off the tourists. As usual, the people most hurt by catastrophe are the ones who live paycheck to paycheck. The oil guys, even the ones who get fired, probably still have assets and big 401k’s.

I am having an emotional response to this oil spill. No, more than that: I'm having a PHYSICAL response. My head, my stomach. I am mourning, something I loved has been hurt badly. I am not the only one.

Look, just stop the offshore drilling, okay? Find another way. Do not destroy the ocean. Do not kill all the animals in the sea and on the shore. Let’s just start with that.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Oil Spill Headed to the Florida Keys

At this point the Florida Keys stand to take a major hit from the Gulf oil spill which has yet to be controlled. As someone with a personal connection to the Keys it is heart breaking to hear this news.
My daughter, Sarah who works at the Key West Wildlife Rescue as a wildlife rehabilitator tells me that they are preparing for what is sure to be an unprecedented number of wildlife tragedies. While they are equipped to handle a reasonable number of casualties an event of this magnitude will quickly overcome their resources. I encourage all of you who spend time on Sonoran Connection to donate $15, $20 $50 or more to this caring organization that is about to be tested as it never has been before.
Make checks payable to :

Key West Wildlife Center
P.O. Box 2297
Key West Fl. 33045

For those of you who are in the area you can drop off supplies at the following location.

Key West Wildlife Center
1801 white Street
Key West, FL. 33040

Some simple items we use regularly that can be donated:

Paper Towels
Dawn Dish Detergent
Dog and Cat Bowls, preferable heavier bowls so the birds don’t knock them over in their cages
High Protein Dry Dog Food (used as part of the diet for a lot of our baby and adult songbirds, we also have a turtle pond in the park with several water turtles that enjoy the dog food as well!)
Wild Bird Seed (the birds especially enjoy black oil sunflower seeds!)
Dog and Cat Carriers
Dish Washing Sponges (the two sides sponges, one side rough, one side soft, are best)
Frozen Berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries) another important component of song bird baby and adult diets
Gift Cards to Home Depot (can be used by the center for a variety of items, to purchase building supplies for outdoor cages, cleaning supplies, the list goes on and on!)
Monetary Donations (these help defray the operational costs such as food for the birds, frozen mice and chicks for our raptors and frozen fish for our fish eating birds)
Donating your time! A very worthwhile experience indeed. Whether you are interested in helping out inside the bird hospital, helping with the outdoor bird habitats, going on bird rescures,or assisting with yard maintenence inside our beautiful park, the possibilities are endless! We also need those with specific skills such as plumbing, electric, and building experience to volunteer their expertise as the center continues to grow!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Flame Colored Tanager of Madera Canyon

I spent the last day of my vacation at Madera Canyon hoping to get a decent picture of the Flame Colored Tanager to post here. As luck would have it we were treated to a male Summer Tanager and a Hooded Oriole as well as several hummingbirds until it arrived on scene.