Sunday, February 26, 2012

Picture of the Week- Reflections

I spent most of the week painting my house and other mundane chores but I did manage to take a 3.5 hour walk at Sabino Canyon. I have been trying with some successes and some failures to better understand my camera's capabilities therefore there have been some unusual results to say the least. I have to say that good pictures are not always guaranteed even when bracketing. Bad light is bad light and shooting at high noon is always a challenge especially around water.

This weeks picture is one of those unusual shots that I didn't really notice when I first loaded the days photos on to my computer. I'll let you be the judge as to whether I should have passed it over or not.  I was captivated by the textures and reflections so I thought it would be a good choice for the week. Even with some of the detail blown out it was one of my favorites of the day.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Photos of the Week-Madera Canyon

Visiting Madera Canyon is almost always filled with wildlife encounters and Saturday's hike was no exception. Both Mule Deer and White-tailed Deer are found at Madera Canyon. They blend really well in this environment so getting a good picture is not always a sure thing but it is fun to try.

These White Tail were very accommodating and we spotted at least six in the herd and had several encounters with  them during our visit. They only became alarmed when people with dogs came down the path and then it was tails up and bounding away as quickly as possible.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Protecting the Yellowstone Buffalo

I recently sent the following letter to the National Park Service at Yellowstone regarding the treatment of the only wild buffalo herd left in the United States. I would like to clarify one thing and that is in general I support the work that the National Park Service does but on this particular issue I believe that for a variety of reasons the park service has failed to live up to it's mission. I would also like to acknowledge that funding for our National Parks is woefully inadequate making the job of protecting our national treasures that much more difficult.
Many years ago millions of buffalo roamed freely in America, unfortunately that is no longer the case. Relentless slaughter for profit nearly wiped out the buffalo then and now it's up to us to make sure that the few thousand wild buffalo that remain on the land are free to roam and prosper.


Thank you for your response to my letter about the Yellowstone Bison and their treatment under the Interagency Bison Management Plan. I have followed the debate concerning the Yellowstone Bison for many years and have yet to understand how a management plan can be predicated on a non-existent threat to a few cattle. Using brucellosis as an excuse to haze, trap and slaughter buffalo because they seek food in their ancestral lands is nothing more than obfuscation and cruelty dressed in scientific mumbo jumbo.
Anyone paying attention to this issue knows that there is zero threat to Montana’s cattle from brucellosis. If even one case of documented transmission could be presented as a reason for the brutal treatment of the bison it would still be a spurious argument in that so few domestic cattle are on the disputed lands. While buffalo are are treated as an invader into Montana elk that carry brucellosis throughout these areas are ignored and move freely about the state.
In my opinion it’s time to scrap the IBMP altogether and create a working group who’s mission is to save the Yellowstone Bison from the misguided and some would say down right hostile stance taken by Montana via the Montana Department of Livestock which is in my opinion the buffalos real enemy.
 A group that has the Montana Department of Livestock and APHIS in it’s membership cannot do the right thing for the bison that travel into Montana looking for food because of their complete lack of concern for the buffalo and their disregard for the facts about the transmission of brucellosis from bison to cattle.
 Cattle can be and are raised in hundreds of other areas including public lands across America. The last wild buffalo herd has only one option and it must continue to seek food where it exists in southern most Montana when no other option is available for their survival. The cattle industry enjoys unbelievable access to public lands and surely it can accommodate this single small herd of buffalo that is the symbol of the United States Interior Department and is loved by Americans everywhere.
As the group charged with the protection of America’s premier national park hopefully you can understand how this treatment of the Yellowstone Bison is viewed as a stain on the record of the National Park Service who otherwise have made remarkable contributions in protecting Americas parks.
It’s time to change from “managing the bison” to “allowing them to roam free”. Capturing and slaughtering wild buffalo is not even remotely humane and it does not matter if the numbers are 700 or 330 or 1 it is still wrong. Allowing bison to migrate into Montana so they can be prey for hunters in an equally bad idea and is also inhumanity at it worst.
Imagine the outcry if domestic cattle that roam public lands were suddenly available to hunters or imagine that they could be rounded up and sent to slaughter if they happened to wander where they were not welcome by environmental groups. Allowing the Montana Department of Livestock to control the future viability of the last remaining wild buffalo in America will ultimately lead to it’s destruction and that will be a sad day for all of America.

Ray Goodwin
Sonoran Connection
Tucson Arizona

I sent a copy of this letter to the Buffalo Field Campaign which is the group that works to document the treatment of the last wild bison herd in Yellowstone and according to Stephany it was read out loud to the group at their nightly meeting.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Picture of the Week- Empire Ranch

One of the things that I like about this area is the remnants of the grasslands just to the south of here. Most have been heavily transformed by grazing and the unrelenting march of Mesquite trees but in some areas there have been significant efforts to return to the grasslands of yesteryear. Just by chance the other day Nan and I were in the Sonoita area doing a little hiking and bird watching when I spotted a Northern Harrier from the road and wanted to get a better look and maybe take a picture or two. While we were stopped Nan spotted a kiosk out on the horizon which piqued our curiosity. We found a dirt road marked "Empire Ranch" and headed out to check it out.

 It was already mid afternoon so we didn't have a whole lot of time to explore, especially since the ranch is massive. We scouted a small section near the ranch headquarters and decided that we had to make a return trip much earlier in the day so we could explore this amazing place.
There is an ongoing effort to return 20,000 acres to grassland by removing the mesquite and a reintroduction effort for the Black-tailed Prairie Dog which became extinct in Arizona many year ago. I can't wait to make a return visit to this exciting project. You can read about the Empire Ranch here:                            

Monday, February 13, 2012

Evening In Tucson Mountain Park

This shot is of the road through Gates Pass taken from Kinney Road. If you enlarge it by clicking on it you can see the road up the mountain in the background. This is my back yard which contains thousands of acres of protected lands here on Tucson's west side. Learn more about Tucson Mountain Park and Saguaro National Park West here: and here:

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Picture of the Week

This weeks pic is of the Big Horn Sheep that can be seen at the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum here in Tucson. We are fortunate to live a short distance from the museum and I frequently take my early morning walk around the grounds. More information on the Desert Big Horn can be found at the Cabeza Prieta NWR site here:

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Picture of the Week

It is my intention to post a new photograph each week just because I happen to like it and with the hopes that you will enjoy it too. Here's is this weeks offering. This female Anna's Hummingbird kept a close eye on me!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Agua Caliente Park

We set out early this morning to visit Roy P. Drachman Agua Caliente Park which is nestled in the northeastern corner of Tucson. With the Santa Catalina's and the Rincon Mountains as back drops. Agua Caliente is an unusual desert oasis loaded with birdwatching opportunities. 

 As we stepped out of the car we were greeted by this "empidonax". There is no grouping of birds that is harder to identify but they make for a great picture. You can learn more about the trials and tribulations of identification of emphidonax here:

We are originally from New England and immediately were aware of the familiar call of Robin Red Breast. There were perhaps 15 or so that I counted during our visit. Learn more about American Robins here:

Agua Caliente which translates to "Hot Water" is a year round source of warm water that comes from the Santa Catalina's. There is a spot in the park where the water bubbles up out of the ground and turns into  a small stream that feeds the ponds at Agua Caliente. The park was planted many years ago with non native palm trees that have grown to magnificent size and are the most notable plant around the main pond.

I loved this walk through the wooded area of the park. It has a variety of trees but is mostly Mesquite. This path leads to the smaller ponds that are fed water after the main pond is full and while we were there the water was coming in at a very slow rate. These ponds were by no means at capacity and we saw very little activity here.

Most of the palms were not pruned and had the fronds hanging all the way to the ground which provides a home for many birds and other desert creatures.

Another surprise was the presence of Cedar Waxwings which were near the water and feeding in the palms as shown here. I estimate that there were around two dozen Waxwings in the park and everyone was trying to get a good picture. I have to admit that when I'm in the field the excitement of the moment sometimes overcomes my technical sensibilities and when I load the images onto my computer there is always the possibility that I will be disappointed with the results. The waxwings is one such incident and I am considering an early morning return to try once again.

There are many picnic tables at the first pond which has a contingent of resident mallards and other ducks that are very comfortable around humans and some dogs. Most were scattered along the waters edge sleeping and barely noticed our presence if at all.

The three photos above show the size of the palms which must have been planted many years ago. While not native to the Sonoran Desert there are many palms throughout the Tucson area.

This Great Blue Heron spent the entire time we were there observing the water around this platform. Moving from side to side but we never saw it enter the water or catch any food. You can read more about Great Blue Herons here at:

These two photos show the Santa Catalina's in the background and the "oasis" quality of the first pond juxtaposed against the traditional dry desert mountains. It's a contrast that's worth seeing as there are so few permanent water sources here in the desert.

The rule for bird watching here in southern Arizona in expect the unexpected and I didn't expect to see a pair of male Ring-necked Ducks today but here is the proof. Check out Ring-necked Ducks here:

It was a nice visit and I will return to Agua Caliente in the future as it has allot to offer those of us who seek to spend our days in and around nature.