Friends Newsletter SPRING 2024 – NEWS from the Friends of Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge

Christmas Bird Count at the Refuge

For the 25th year, volunteers fanned out across Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge to participate in the annual Christmas Bird Count sponsored by the National Audubon Society. Overall numbers were low this year, probably because of dry conditions and several dry tanks. There were a number of good birds recorded, however, including golden eagle, American pipit, Woodhouse’s scrub jay, and Hutton’s vireo. A total of 76 species were counted for the official tally.

All the Way to the Border

Fourteen dedicated volunteers helped remove litter from six miles of highway that run through BANWR on Saturday, January 27. We were doing our part in a much bigger event. The project is called “All The Way To The Border”and was started nine years ago by Rancho Sierra Vista. It is sponsored by Trico Electric Cooperative and the Altar Valley Conservation Alliance among others. Each year, the goal is to clean AZ 286 from Three Points to the International Border with Mexico for a total of 44 miles.

At the refuge, pairs of volunteers were each assigned a one mile stretch of the highway. Safety vests, rubber gloves, bags, grabbers, water, and instructions were provided. Volunteers parked at the start of their one mile, walked a mile facing traffic and collecting trash and then crossed the road and continued picking up trash as they walked back to their car. Full bags were left tied at the side of the road for the AZ Dept of Transportation to collect. Approximately 33 man-hours resulted in 20 bags of litter. Two additional refuge volunteers staffed an education table at Three Points where the rest of the clean up volunteers where they answered questions about BANWR. By late morning, the winds picked up making managing the collection bags somewhat challenging, but everyone kept on and agreed it was a fun event and very beneficial for wildlife living on the refuge. Thanks to everyone who helped make this a great clean up.

Volunteers Work on Erosion Control at BANWR

In February, five volunteers worked with Devin Williams of BANWR’s maintenance department to do erosion control at Corson Pond. Devin taught them how to stack the rocks to keep the soil from eroding on the downhill slope. This will catch sediment, allowing seeds to grow and further prevent erosion. Two channels of water from the outflow pipe were also lined, and a 11’ x 15’ area at the base of the hill was covered with a layer of rocks. The volunteers were two people from Michigan, one from Alaska, and one from California, who came for a visit and wanted to give back. We thank them for their efforts!

Four Wheel Campers Return to Refuge

In March, for the third year in a row, the volunteer group Four Wheel Campers came to BANWR to work on a habitat restoration initiative. This year, they completed an erosion control project on the Ranch Loop Trail near the Visitor Center. According to the group’s newsletter: “Between winter precipitation and monsoon season, these paths are prone to washouts, so our mission was to create channels on and around the trails to prevent further erosion. After an introduction from Refuge Manager Richard Albers, our group of 25 volunteers grabbed shovels and wheelbarrows and dove in. Friends of Buenos Aires hired contractor, Kyle Thompson, to show us how deep to dig the trenches where the rocks would go and how to lay the rocks to trap sediment, slow down water flow and minimize tripping hazards. Much of the work crossed the Ranch Loop trail so we wanted to keep it as level as possible. The first two hours were spent digging 3”- 4″ deep sections across the trail where we would lay the rocks. It took us the rest of the day to fill the channels with rocks of varying sizes.” The Friends of BANWR thank the Four Wheel Camper volunteers who came to the refuge and put in such hard work to improve our trails.

Kyle shows us how to place rocks.
Kyle shows us how to place rocks.
People worked in teams to get the rocks in place.

Wildlife on the Refuge – Gila Monsters

The only venomous lizard native to the US, the Gila monster can be found in several states in the Southwest as well as in Sonora, Mexico. This beautiful reptile, which has stripes of black interspersed with pink or orange and can weigh as much as five pounds, spends most of its time in burrows or underground shelters. Their diet consists of small mammals, birds, bird’s eggs, smaller lizards, and frogs. Gila monsters are not aggressive and pose little threat to humans as long as they are left alone. It is found on the refuge, although it is not common there. Count yourself lucky if you see one!

FOBANWR Participation on April 6, 2024 Event “Living History: Ranches of the Altar Valley”

Where: Arivaca Dance Hall
Who: FOBANWR Board Directors Allyson Porter and Jeannie Greven

Allyson and Jeannie staffed a table that included photos and artifacts about the historic Aguire Ranch, which preceded the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge encompasses the area of several historic ranches, including the Aguire. Allyson and Jeannie had several enthusiastic discussions with attendees about the mission of the Refuge; the relationship of the Refuge with the 1987 book “A Beautiful, Cruel Country” by Eva Antonia Wilbur-Cruce; the genetically pure herd of Spanish horses that once roamed the Refuge and current protection of the herd by caretakers around the U.S.; and fun, interactive coaching of children visitors regarding various species of wildlife fur on an exhibit board at the table.

The event evoked a positive feeling of “We’re all in this valley together.”

If you have not renewed your membership or joined Friends, here’s how you can do it.

Joining the Friends is a great way to help wildlife and habitat!

Categories of membership are:
     Gila Monster  $25
     Jackrabbit  $50
     Jaguar  $100
     Pronghorn  $500
     Masked Bobwhite, lifetime membership  $1000

To join, you may send a check, payable to Friends of BANWR to:
          Friends of BANWR
          PO Box 81
          Green Valley, AZ  85622


You may go to and pay through PayPal.

Thank you!
Bonnie Swarbrick
President, Friends of BANWR

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *