Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Visit to the Sandhills

It's been quite a while since I've checked in on the Sandhill Cranes at Whitewater Draw so I thought I would use a little of my new found freedom and make the journey on Tuesday. Now it's about a 240 mile round trip so it's more time in the car then actually watching the cranes but it is a spectacular sight to see thousands of Sandhills return from feeding in the grain fields of area farms.


If you have ever been to this area you already know how "out there" you are due to long stretches of almost nothing. Fortunately Nan and I love to watch for the hawks that winter here and spend their time pole sitting along the roads leading to Whitewater. On this trip this guy caught my eye in the area known as "Sunsites" At first I thought it might be an eagle so I stopped turned around and got out the binoculars to identify the very dark bird. Turned out to be a Dark Morph Red Tail as you can see in the picture. It was munching on some poor bird who apparently wasn't fast enough to stay clear of this magnificent buteo. You can learn more about Red Tails here at:

Upon arriving at Whitewater it was immediately clear that water levels in the marshes had only recovered to about half their normal level since our last visit. Just to the left of the above picture there is water being pumped into the marsh at a pretty good rate so I expect that levels will continue to rise but it is a big area and without rain this could become quite dry in the summer months ahead.

Where ever I go here in extreme southern Arizona and there are marshes there are usually American Coot around making their distinctive call over and over to make sure everyone is aware of their presence.  Learn more about American Coot here at:

Cold nights and days in the 60's and 70's make this area a great place to spend time bird watching. When we started out it was with jackets and gloves and ice on the marsh. Beautiful Arizona sun was the order of the day with a slow warming trend that made the outer wear unnecessary.

I have never seen Coots on ice before and it was quite humorous. Their large feet make their strides on the hard surface awkward and I was quite amused when they all fell into line to transition from open water to the ice.

Although water levels were low there was quite a variety of birds at the marsh including many Northern Shovelers and other ducks using the various ponds. Black Phoebes were abundant as were the many sparrows that are always present here at whitewater.

WHO AM I? The above picture shows the one that got away. A beautiful not too often seen because it likes to hide medium sized creature that frequents marshes. Tell me what you think it is by leaving a note in the comment section and I will let you know if you are correct.

The Sandhills started returning to the Draw almost as soon as we arrived. You can pretty much tell time by these guys as they are truly creatures of habit. If you arrive at Whitewater at 10 A.M. and stick around until 2 P.M. you will witness thousands of birds returning from feeding in the grain fields. On this visit the cranes were roosting much farther away than last year. Perhaps due to changes in the water levels or just their natural inclination to land where the first groups land for protection from predators they chose to stay far from the reach of my camera. I would put the numbers of Sandhills at between 10 and 12,000 but I could be wrong because they were for the most part they were hundreds of yards away.

When I first saw Sandhills I thought what awkward flyers they are but I have since come to realize that they are quite masterful in flight especially landing as seen above. Learn about Sandhill Cranes here at:

This is what the skies look like as the cranes return to Whitewater.

There were a few Pied-billed Grebes present which are always fun to watch as they go about their business of feeding which consists of diving over and over for their food source. The grebes also sink out of sight whenever they sense danger as we observed when the Northern Harrier got a little too close for their comfort.

There are a few Northern Harriers at the Draw and they seem to be continually looking for food. Moving in sometimes very large circles and sometimes smaller ones they fly just above the marsh dropping down to grab their meal out of sight in the marsh grasses. A remarkable bird to watch.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

2012 at Sonoran Connection

Thanks to all of you who visited here over the last few years. I hope you have enjoyed your visits to Sonoran Connection and will plan on returning often during the coming year.
 2012 promises to be a great year for Sonoran Connection now that my time is no longer devoted to a 40 hour a week job. I will be spending allot more time in the field exploring the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts and expanding outward to places like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite National Park and many other interesting and picturesque places here in the west.
Wishing everyone a happy holiday season and prosperous new year .

Ray Goodwin
Sonoran Connection

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Lunar Eclipse 12/10 2011

 4:49 A.M. MST

 5:44 A.M. MST

 5:50 A.M. MST

6:12 A.M. MST

6:36 A.M. MST Camera setting change.


 6:41 A.M. MST

6:42 A.M. MST

6:43 A.M. MST

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Long Time Coming.....

I have waited for a very long time to be able to make this announcement. As of December 23, 2011 I will
be leaving my 40 hour a week day job and embarking on a new and hopefully much more fulfilling journey of discovery.
After spending most of the last 33 years working in the healthcare field it is time to turn my attentions to my true passions which are of course photography and the environment. Never before in the history of the world has there been such a pressing need for individuals committed to the revitalization and preservation of the natural world. I intend to be one of those individuals and I intend to encourage others to join with me in a concerted effort to reverse the current trajectory of climate change and the devastation it promises if we are unsuccessful in limiting our impact on the planet.


Ray Goodwin
Sonoran Connection

Thursday, November 24, 2011

We Give Thanks

From The Buffalo Field Campaign working tirelessly to protect Yellowstone's wild buffalo.

We give thanks that there are still wild buffalo walking the Earth. Buffalo that still follow their migratory instincts and still carry the integral wisdom of the ancients that does not bend or bow to human fences, boundaries, or prejudice. We give thanks for the wild buffalo's instincts to simply place one foot in front of the other and walk the land, regardless of government plans; a drive so deeply rooted in their time before time that man's shallow greed has not yet taken this from them. We give thanks that buffalo still roam, confounding certain humans' selfishly inflicted consequences. We give thanks for the last remaining buffalo that found shelter in Yellowstone's remote Pelican Valley barely 150 years ago; the twenty-three that were all that was left of tens of millions, who ensured the survival and wild integrity of their prehistoric kind. We give thanks that buffalo have biologically withstood diseases brought by invasive cattle, their blood building resistance to the dark gifts from these bovine invaders. We give thanks that it is still possible to look into the eyes of a wild buffalo and remember a time we forgot we once knew, and dream of its return. We give thanks that the land cries out for the return of wild buffalo, welcoming their homecoming when the hearts of humans open to the drumming of the buffalos' foot steps, and the land is again shared, healed and whole with the presence of wild buffalo.

We give thanks for the abundance of snow that has been falling, snow that brings the life giving waters when the sun waxes and the rivers run fast and deep through the veins of the mountains and out to the sea. Bittersweet this gift, as the buffalo will also flow with the deepening snow, and this is as it should be, and though we know harm awaits them, we celebrate their life force and give thanks that they continue in their wild ways despite the obstacles. We give thanks for the persistence, resistance, and endurance of wild buffalo.

We give thanks for those who hear the call of the wild buffalo. We are grateful for the volunteers who come from around the globe to defend the buffalo, joining us for the first time, or coming back again year after year, or returning after an absence. We give thanks for everyone everywhere who cares about wild buffalo and celebrates their wildness and takes action for their right to roam. We give thanks to all of you who make it possible for us to be here standing with the last wild buffalo, bearing witness, sharing their story. We give thanks for the realization that long-term perseverance and passion-turned-action will bring the necessary change we all seek. We give thanks that the status quo that harms the buffalo and the land is an unsustainable and temporary thing in the grand theater of life on earth. We give thanks that there is still time to act, though the time is short, and act we must. We give thanks for the elders who guide us with experience and wisdom and for the flame of passion that burns within the hearts and minds of the youth; for the combined energy and power we hold in our hands to save us from ourselves, and learn to be more like the buffalo. We give thanks for the lessons the buffalo teach us about family, solidarity, fearlessness, abundance, resolve, gentle strength, coexistence, following our instincts without compromise, non-violence and the simplicity of the solutions right before our eyes. We give thanks for the hope and vision of a life for buffalo in which they thrive within their inherent wildness, for a world in which buffalo and all other native wildlife are given precedence on public land, and that buffalo herds will flourish as self-regulating sustainable populations, a rich and viable source for their future evolutionary potential and ambassador for the sovereignty of the land.

We give thanks ~ everyday ~ for the wild buffalo that remain and for each and everyone of you who cares about buffalo and makes the work of Buffalo Field Campaign possible.

Thank you from Buffalo Field Campaign!

Roam Free!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Grasslands Fair at BANWR

We set out early and headed to Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge which has it's headquarters just north of the Mexican border near Sasabe, Arizona which is a port of entry into the U.S..  Buenos Aires is approximately 118,000 acres of land with a history of cattle ranching that is now the only place in the United States that the endangered Masked Bobwhite Quail can be found in the wild. BANWR also is home to several other endangered species including the Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, the Chiracahua Leopard Frog, the Pima Pineapple Cactus, the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, and the Kearney's Bluestar. Any one of these endangered plants or animals would make this a very special place but to have them all in one small protected place is amazing.

From above the old mesquite cattle pen the effects of all those years of cattle grazing can be seen here as what was once open grassland has been over taken by Mesquite trees. It's all about habitat and changes in a specie's population can almost always be traced back to habitat destruction and habitat destruction can almost always be traced to human intervention.

This time of year the grasses have turned golden brown and when there is water available an abundance of wildlife is present. BANWR is really three separate habitats combined into one great refuge. There is the grasslands, the cienega and the canyon habitats and I have been fortunate enough to have visited and photographed each one of these enormously important and beautiful places.

The fair draws an incredible number of people considering it's remote location. Representatives from Tohono Chul, The Sonoran Desert Museum and many others brought snakes, lizards, tarantula's, hawks, owls, and a variety of exhibits to share knowledge of the natural world and their particular organization. There were presentations throughout the day about the natural history of the area and there was lots of networking with old friends and new.

As everyone that knows me already knows I have a passion for photographing the world of nature and I love to promote places like Buenos Aires. Protecting Americas wildlife and wildlands is one of the most important issues facing the country and the world. It's a shame that pushing wildlife to the brink of extinction is such a common occurrence but by supporting the people on the front lines with our donations and time and especially our voice we can make a huge difference in the lives of many of the species that would simply disappear.

Sally Gall who is the Wildlife Refuge Manager quizzed the crowd on the number of refuges nation wide (555) and when BANWR was first established (1985) and kept everyone informed about the days events. I had a chance to talk to Sally briefly about the Masked Bobwhite Breeding Program and I hope to with, Sally's blessing, do a very special post on the bird and it's progress in the near future.

Plata of Nogales played music during the day and the people really enjoyed their Peruvian origins. 

The driving force behind the grasslands fair is Richard Conway, geologist, committed conservationist and all around nice guy. Working through the FOBANWR Richard has made significant contributions to the refuge  in both time and spirit.

The highlight of the day came near the end of the fair when Mexicayotl Academy Azteca Dancers performed. With seemingly unlimited energy and a sense of humor the dancers sweep the crowd up in it's rhythms.

I really appreciated the connection between the dance and the care of nature as well as the involvement of everyone present. Truly fun with a touch of spirit and oneness.

The day ended with the auctioning off of the photographs and artwork that was donated in support of BANWR. All in all a great day in a great place with great people. What more could anyone want?

Nature  all around us is disappearing and only we can prevent that from happening. Doing nothing is no longer an option. Enjoying the birds is no longer enough. We must speak and be heard. We must consider our own impact upon the planet and we must above all else get involved with places like Buenos Aires or one of the other 555 refuges across the land. Give when and where you can, volunteer and speak out loudly and clearly. Make yourself known everyday and we just might save the planet!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Friday, November 4, 2011

Massachusetts You're My Home

The Turners Falls Bridge over the Connecticut River

I grew up in Massachusetts, still have family and friends there and love the atmosphere there especially in the western part of the state. This trip made me realize that I need to spend allot more time there in the future. Anyone who has been there during foliage season knows the sheer magnificence of the October maple trees . When I was a teenager I had a close friend whose family owned and operated a "sugar house". Nothing in the whole world smells as good as sap being boiled down into maple syrup and nothing tastes as wonderful as the hot syrup scooped directly from the wood fired evaporator.
Each spring while the snow was still on the ground and nights were cold and days were warm my job was to collect the sap that dripped into buckets from the tapped trees as well as from the "pipe lines" that carried the sap to holding tanks at the bottom of the run. Good memories of a truly great time racing through back roads in our green chevy pick-up loaded with sap headed for the sugar house.

Many of the old manufacturing plants that used to produce paper and tools have been abandoned or turned into things like this education center in Turners Falls.

 This is below the Turners Falls dam which was flowing quite nicely.

This is Main Street downtown Greenfield where I graduated from high school in 1967. It really has changed very little in all those years. The real difference is that the cars are much newer but not nicer and I didn't recognize a single soul. When I was a young boy my parents would drive to Main Street on friday night and park the desoto and we would watch the town roll by just like everyone else did. We thought it was quite the fun thing to do.

It's hard to believe but the "Bridge of Flowers" was under water just a few short weeks before the picture. It's literally 30 feet to the water in this shot. During the recent flooding in the Shelburne Falls area houses and businesses were destroyed and entire roads washed away.

 This is one of my favorite shots from the Bridge of Flowers which is a must see if you are ever in the area.

                                                        On the Bridge

The falls across the street from the Bridge of Flowers.

 The serene Deerfield River runs along sections of the Mohawk Trail which is one of the prettiest autumn drives anywhere. Unfortunately this years foliage was just beginning as we were getting ready to head back to Tucson.

This house reminded me of my home in Sheepscot Maine which also sat on the banks of a river.

 I spent a fair amount of time in the early AM at the Connecticut River photographing the wildlife and the foliage. I have to say I could not get enough of being near the water. Water is everywhere in New England unlike here in Tucson which has very little water.

There were dozens of Canada Geese at the river and it was really nice to see them again flying overhead in a v formation. These particular geese have been banded but I was not able to see any information on the bands.

The above picture was taken at the Cove in Gill Massachusetts across the river from Turners Falls. There were about 14 swans in the area and I was able to get one of my favorite shots of the trip.

This is the pond across the street from my brother Tom's house in Greenfield and as you can see the foliage was just starting to pop as we came to  the end of our trip but we didn't let it stop the sheer fun of the reunion with family and friends.

Farm stands are everywhere and fall is a great time for mums and pumpkins. This one caught my eye in Montague Mass. which is a great little town close to the university of Massachusetts.

These are shots of a waterfall near the Connecticut River in Montague.

I wish I could have been there for the entire season but it was not to be this year but there is always next year!