I just learned that Sweetwater Wetlands will be closed tomorrow, Wednesday, March 6th for a prescribed burn. Starting at 8:30am Tucson Water and the Tucson Fire Department will use fire to remove overgrown vegetation.
The management plan for the Wetlands calls for half of the vegetation to be burned off every year, so one year they burn the west side the next year they burn the east. The burn keeps vegetation from clogging up the ponds which in turn diversifies the habitat and it also removes mosquito breeding grounds. A real win-win.
I have in the past heard concerns about the burn putting animals’ lives at risk. Since they only burn half the area the critters have plenty of places to escape to and live safely. They also plan the burn for early Spring so that it is over before nesting begins in earnest. While the burn area is a black scar for a while it is amazing how fast green shoots take over.
The Wetlands will reopen on Thursday, March 7th.
On Sunday, February 24th we held our third Buffelgrass Pull in an attempt to remove the noxious weed Buffelgrass (Pennisetum ciliare) from the area around the Wetlands.
While our group was smaller than expected I couldn’t have asked for better, harder-working volunteers! In 2.5 hours we covered a lot of ground and filled 42 large bags full of that invasive nasty.
I know the infestation of Buffelgrass in the Sonoran Desert seems overwhelming but I take heart knowing that small groups of determined people can make a big difference. In two of the three areas where we’ve previously removed Buffelgrass we had zero regrowth and in the third, regrowth was minimal. Every clump of buffelgrass we yank and bag prevents thousands of potential seeds from spreading…
We’re hoping that our next Buffelgrass Pull will leave the Wetlands completely free of Buffelgrass!
A huge thank you to all our volunteers – we couldn’t do it without you! I want to also thank Tucson Clean and Beautiful for loaning us tools and gloves and supplying the bags, and Sprouts for donating the bottled water.
Buffelgrass Infested Slope – Photo by Charles Miles
Buffelgrass Uprooted – Photo by Charles Miles
Buffelgrass Removed – Photo by Charles Miles
At 9am on Sunday, February 24th we will tackle the last section of buffelgrass at the Wetlands. Come on out and join us for a few hours of fun while removing this noxious and invasive weed. Need more info about that dastardly buffelgrass? Try here or here.
Need to bribed? We will provide gloves, tools, snacks, and beverages.
Sounds like fun, eh? Hope to see you there!
The small, glossy publication North Tucson Living (an advertising venture published by the folks at the Tucson Shopper) arrived in my mailbox today. I usually page through it quickly before tossing it in my recycle bin.
This time an article caught my attention – near the back was a nice two page spread replete with photos featuring our favorite place, Sweetwater Wetlands. The article explains that though the Wetlands serve an important function in the reclaimed water process they were also designed to serve as wildlife habitat and as an outdoor classroom. (I’d love to link you to an online version but the current issue is not yet up on the magazine’s website.)
Of course, it is the latter two functions that excite us the most about the Wetlands. Tucson Water offers an educational curriculum for local elementary school children that includes a field trip to the Wetlands, they also occasionally offer group tours (contact Tucson Water for more information). Tucson Audubon leads free bird walks there monthly, as does Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation. And of course, we also bird the main path before our monthly cleanups (we meet an hour before each cleanup).
Tucson Audubon Free Bird Walk at Sweetwater Wetlands 6am on October 23 Reservation required. Contact: Matt Brooks & Sara Pike 520-668-7631 email@example.com
Pima County NRPR Free Bird Walk at Sweetwater Wetlands 8am on November 21 Reservation required. Contact: 615-7855 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For younger folks I recommend the Sweetwater Wetlands Guide, it can be downloaded here or ask Tucson Water to send you one. Contact: 791-4331 or email@example.com
Watching wildlife while wandering through a rare oasis in the desert? If only all classrooms were that amazing!
The season is upon us. Though it may be too hot to imagine Fall down here migrant birds are already swooping through Tucson on their way south for the winter. Lucky for us the Wetlands are a pleasant stopover point for many of these travelers.
Last weekend we looked in vain for the Black-and-white Warblers that have been spotted at the Wetlands recently. I also heard that a Summer Tanager has been hanging around. In other words, its a great time to bird the Wetlands. And the birds aren’t the only interesting things – someone noted in the sign-in book that they watched a bobcat catch and eat a rodent. Nature in action – how cool is that?
Since it was such a hit last month we’ll start October’s cleanup with an hour of birding of fun. We’ll meet in the parking lot at 8am. Hope to see you out there!
I will admit the warm summer weather has prevented us from spending as much time as we would like at the Wetlands recently. Thankfully it was tolerable enough after last month’s cleanup for us to do a short loop around the ponds. We were duly rewarded with plenty to admire: tons of dragonflies, a turtle, a well-woven nest, a flock of circling Snowy Egrets, and a tolerant juvenile Red-tailed Hawk.
We had such a marvelous time that we’ll be doing it again soon. Join us at 8am for a bit of birding before we tackle the cleanup at 9am on Sunday, September 30th. See you there!
Yes, the I-10/Prince Road overpass construction continues so we still have to approach the Wetlands from the north. However, the Frontage Road, south of El Camino del Cerro has re-opened which makes it a bit easier.
Make your way to El Camino del Cerro/Ruthrauff. Either take Exit 252 off I-10 or follow Wetmore Road west (it turns into Ruthrauff which turns into El Camino del Cerro – confusing little habit we have here in Tucson). At the El Camino del Cerro intersection, just west of I-10, head south on the Frontage Road and take the first right onto Sweetwater Drive.
Its a great time to wander around the Wetlands – yesterday, in addition to a small rattlesnake and hundreds of lizards we saw a turtle laying eggs, a flock of ibis, and a fuzzy, curious Great Horned Owlet still in the nest with a protective parent nearby.
See you there!
Boy, oh boy. The Wetlands are going to be hard to enjoy during the first full week of March! Not only will they be closed for a prescribed burn on Wednesday, March 7th (scheduled to reopen at the usual time on the 8th if all goes well) but the Arizona Department of Transportation will be closing Ruthrauff/El Camino del Cerro under I-10 that weekend. It will close for repaving at 9 pm on Friday the 9th and should be open by 11pm on Sunday, March 11th.
So, for those of you who live east of I-10 it sounds like the easiest way to get to the Wetlands that weekend will be to get on eastbound I-10 at Orange Grove, then take the Prince Road exit. As you descend the ramp slow down and get in the far right lane. Take the first right on to Sweetwater Dr. (If by chance you miss that turn, you can take the next right onto Commerce Drive. Then another quick right onto Benan Drive will take you back up to Sweetwater Drive. Left to the Wetlands.) Remember that Prince Road west of the frontage road is closed.
Now for those of us that live west of I-10, we have two choices but either way we’re in for a bit of driving. We can either head down to Grant Road, then hop on I-10 westbound, exit at Sunset Road, go under I-10, and get back on. Then take the Prince Road exit. As you descend the ramp slow down and get in the far right lane. Take the first right on to Sweetwater Dr. (If by chance you miss that turn, you can take the next right onto Commerce Drive. Then another quick right onto Benan Drive will take you back up to Sweetwater Drive. Left to the Wetlands.) Remember that Prince Road west of the frontage road is closed.
Or drive north on Silverbell Road to Ina Road and get on eastbound I-10, then take the Prince Road exit. As you descend the ramp slow down and get in the far right lane. Take the first right on to Sweetwater Dr. (If by chance you miss that turn, you can take the next right onto Commerce Drive. Then another quick right onto Benan Drive will take you back up to Sweetwater Drive. Left to the Wetlands.) Remember that Prince Road west of the frontage road is closed.
More info about the project from ADOT.
We braved the wind yesterday and met our friends Nancy and Denny at the Wetlands for some catching up and birding. Though the dancing leaves made it challenging, we ended up with almost 40 species. Our highlights: Peregrine Falcon, Summer Tanager, and Black-crowned Night-Heron (which we haven’t seen there in quite some time).
We had a lovely chat with a group from Missoula, Montana that had high praise for our recreated oasis. Always nice to be reminded just how special our Wetlands are!
So, what are you waiting for? Get out and enjoy this wonderful weather—come see all the wildlife at the Wetlands. Don’t let the nearby road construction scare you!
Please remember that the Wetlands will be closed on March 7th.
Sweetwater Wetlands will be closed on March 7th for a controlled burn. Rotating sections of the park are burned every year in an attempt to remove brush and reeds (which not only improves our views of the ponds but helps reduce mosquito habitat). While fire may sound scary at such birdy spot, keep in mind that only a portion of the Wetlands will be burned – there will still be plenty of trees, reeds, water and other places of refuge.
Here’s the official blurb from the city: The annual burn at the Sweetwater Wetlands is scheduled for Wednesday, March 7. The wetlands will be closed to the public that day and should reopen on March 8, barring an interruption, such as weather. The Tucson Fire Department is in command of the operation.
Check here for any updates or changes to the scheduled burn: http://cms3.tucsonaz.gov/water/sweetwater