A couple weeks back the US National Weather Service Tucson Arizona caught my attention with this information:
“We noticed something really neat this morning (and the past several mornings as well) using our doppler radar. Right at sunrise, there were distinct returns near the west slopes of the Chiricahua mountains. The returns are clearly biological in nature based on our dual polarization data and dispersed in all directions. It was likely a huge flock of birds.”
It can only be one thing, Sandhill Cranes have returned to the Willcox Playa and Whitewater Draw area for the winter.
They have a short video showing the movement of the flock on their Facebook page.
I think it is time to schedule a birding trip, don’t you?
Sandhill Cranes at Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area, February 2008.
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum has a pair of young Barn Owls that are about to meet visitors for the first time. Before they go out in public they need names, so the Museum is asking for our help. Visit their site to cast your vote and see their baby pictures.
Barn Owl at the Wetlands, November 2009.
New report about the water flow in the Santa Cruz River that starts just north of Sweetwater Wetlands. If you enjoy watching birds, now is a great time to check out the riparian thickets north of the Wetlands as well as near Ina Dam (under Ina Road). The running water is a magnet for wildlife!
Note: This is a photo of the Santa Cruz River during a recent monsoon flood, it does not flow at this level very often.
A smaller snake compared to last month’s (only about a foot long) but still just as protective of trash! Hopefully, we’ll be able to get that litter next time.
While out picking up trash at the Wetlands yesterday came across this:
Not going to mess with that! We’ll grab that plastic bag from the bush next time…
Are you a birder? Do you wish you had a better birding ear? Then check out The Cornell Lab’s new Bird Song Hero Tutorial. Instead of just hearing the bird call you get to see it too.
Pretty cool new approach!
Give it a try: http://biology.allaboutbirds.org/bird-song-hero/
Spectrogram of a Northern Cardinal song:
The Arizona Daily Star ran an interesting article about the return of fish to the Santa Cruz River here in the Tucson area. Unfortunately, the swimmers aren’t native (they appear to have been released by folks who no longer wanted them). There is talk about releasing native fish into the river in the future.
I have one correction, the article opens with, “The Santa Cruz River is flowing vigorously near West Ina Road and for miles to the northwest…” However, as all Sweetwater Wetlands fans know, the water in the Santa Cruz River actually starts just north of the Wetlands, fed by treated effluent from the new Agua Nueva Water Reclamation Facility (WRF). From there the river flows north and just south of Ina Road it receives more treated effluent from the upgraded Tres Ríos Water Reclamation Facility (WRF).
It is lovely to watch the flowing river – and the birds and animals that are attracted to it.
Full article: http://azstarnet.com/news/local/santa-cruz-river-flows-and-now-has-fish/article_9ec123aa-29b4-592d-9ca1-c999dce16c31.html
The temperatures are heating up, which makes our watery locales even more popular with the natives (and by natives I mean birds and wildlife). Mornings and evenings are a great time to wander around the Wetlands.
Want to learn more about the birds hanging out at the Wetlands? Tucson Audubon Society offers a free, informative bird walk every Wednesday. From their website:
“Join Mike S. for an easy walk through the wetlands to see waterfowl, regular and visiting warblers, and several exciting species hiding in the reeds. Birders of all experience levels welcome! Contact leader for start time and to sign up, email@example.com”
It is a wonderful way to spend the morning!
Sweetwater Wetlands will be closed on Tuesday for a prescribed burn. The burn is done to clear thick cattails and other growth from around the ponds which not only improves visibility for birders but also eliminates habitat for mosquito larva. They only burn one half of the Wetlands each year, leaving plenty of shrubbery for birds and other animals.
The Wetlands will reopen Wednesday morning.
Tucson Audubon is offering a free bird walk on Wednesday:
“Join Mike S. every Wednesday for an easy walk through the Sweetwater Wetlands to see waterfowl in the hundreds, regular and visiting warblers, and several exciting species hiding in the reeds. Birders of all experience levels welcome! Contact leader to sign up and get meeting time, firstname.lastname@example.org”
Tucson Audubon Society’s blog has a very informative post explaining all the changes affecting the Wetlands.
The water levels are down, the ponds at the Roger Road Treatment plant are closed, and a new visitor parking lot is under construction. But don’t fret, the Wetlands are still open for exploring and good things are ahead.