Sunday, May 29, 2011

Gray Hawks at Buenos Aries

I can always count on some exciting encounters at Buenos Aries National Wildlife Refuge near Sasabe, Arizona which sits on the Mexican border in southern most Pima County. This visit produced Red Tailed Hawks, several Swainson's Hawks, a Black Hawk and many Turkey Vultures.

Baboquivari dominates the mountains to the west of Buenos Aries which also contain Kitt Peak, the world renowned observatory.

A couple of ducks inside an area that has been fenced off to keep bullfrogs out because they are larger than the native frogs and once introduced to an area they soon eradicate the rare leopard frogs that are native inhabitants.
The highlight of the day was a pair of nesting Gray Hawks that were forced to protect their nest from a marauding Raven while we looked on. The Raven is the larger of the two birds and it kept flying close to the nest which had young calling out in it.
The nest was placed perfectly in the tree so that it was impossible to get any more than a glimpse of it from the ground and we never saw the young birds at all.
Information on Gray Hawks can be found here:

Both the female and male Gray Hawks guarded the young when we were there and put on quite an aerial display. The Raven eventually gave up and went on it's way.

This time of year there are hundreds of vultures in the border areas sometimes they are the most common bird we see.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Help Protect Yellowstone Buffalo

Every day I read about some senseless attack on animals in the wild and I must admit that I am at a loss to explain the inhumane act itself or the kind of person that it takes to willingly participate. Acts of brutality against the Yellowstone bison herd have been going on non-stop for years, supposedly to protect the state of Montana from brucellosis which has never been transmitted from a buffalo to a cow. Not ever!
I am including the following press release from the Buffalo Field Campaign that speaks to the extreme cruelty that the Yellowstone National Park bison herd has to endure for no apparent reason. Check out how your tax dollars are being used to harass and haze innocent animals that are the symbol of our own U.S. Department of the Interior. Please donate to the Buffalo Field Campaign and help them report on the plight of these magnificent creatures that should and must be protected from those who would do them great harm.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Mighty Cottonwood Tree

I spend quite a bit of time in riparian zones in the border area of Southern Arizona and the most impressive living things that I have encountered there are the Cottonwoods. I cannot resist photographing them sometimes over and over again because each time I visit they have a different face or a new inhabitant.

Their amazing size and longevity draws me to them each time I visit San Pedro National Conservation Area or the Arivaca Cienega where the water stays close to the surface and supplies the Cottonwoods with the hundreds of gallons needed on a hot, dry desert day.

Information on the cottonwood can be found here at

Usually growing to 50 feet tall cottonwoods can grow under the right conditions to 100 feet or more. These trees have a life expectancy of 100 year with some lasting more than 150 years.

Cottonwoods are a great indicator of the presence of water as they cannot survive for too many years without proper moisture.

Cottonwoods thrive at the Arivaca Cienega and along Arivaca Creek. They are home to many species of birds and are the best place to find Gray Hawks.

At the end of life this tree might be a victim of the water table dropping out of it's reach or just plain old age.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

San Pedro River Riparian National Conservation Area

Happy International Migratory Bird Day!
On March 18th we made our second visit to the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area near Sierra Vista. San Pedro is the first officially designated global important bird area in the United States. The San Pedro River winds it's way northward from Mexico and is the life blood of the beautiful cottonwoods that line it's banks as well as the millions of birds that pass through here each year.

The San Pedro House is the primary entry point to the preserves 56,000 acres and is located on route 90 south of Sierra Vista.
Located within the preserve are 100 species of breeding birds as well as 250 species of migrant and wintering birds. 40% 0f all nesting Gray Hawks in the United States are found at San Pedro. Each year approximately 4 million migrating birds pass through San Pedro.
On this trip we decided to head north from San Pedro House which is operated by the Friends of The San Pedro River. Information about the Friends of The San Pedro River can be found here:
On our walk we encountered many of the birds that call San Pedro home but our primary focus was on photographing the trees and the river itself so that we may document the transformation over the year of both the river and the cottonwoods some of which are over 100 years old.
We hope to return once or twice a month through the year to photograph and hike this amazing place. Our next visit will focus on the life at the ponds within San Pedro and frankly I can't wait.
The next time we head to San Pedro these trees will be fully leafed out and will provide a beautiful soft green canopy.
A ribbon of cottonwoods flows northward just like the San Pedro. Here we see that the trees are beginning to shed there winter blahs and will soon provide much needed shade for both the river and it's inhabitants.

Each visit we have made to San Pedro we have been watched closely by this hawk that perches at San Pedro House.