Among Friends 7 April 2021, Great Horned Owls

by Walt Anderson The Great Horned Owl, justifiably called the “Tiger of the Night,” is found throughout North America and more than half of South America. In Arizona, it occurs from as low as 27’ near Yuma to 9800’ in the White Mountains, avoiding only the densest of forests and the most open of habitats. Buenos Aires NWR has a heathy population of these dramatic birds. Most members of the genus Bubo occur in the Old World, especially Africa, where they are called eagle-owls. Its closest North American relative is the Snowy Owl; both are apparently derived from a common […]

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Wild Wednesday 31 March 2021, Bunnies

by Walt Anderson As Easter approaches, the abundant purveyors of consumption have been targeting buyers with all sorts of items, many of them associated with the Easter Bunny. How this mythical creature got associated with the Biblical Easter holiday seems like a stretch to me. And I hate to burst any balloons, but the Easter Bunny does not lay eggs! He also doesn’t lay down, as those fluffy feathers would be uncomfortably ticklish, but sometimes he does lie down. All right, I just had to put out my lie-lay pet peeve. The domestic rabbit, often caricatured as the Easter Bunny, […]

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Wild Wednesday 24 March 2021, Rallids

by Walt Anderson My recent post on Wood Ducks featured one of the most beautiful of the waterfowl, though the entire family has many devoted fans, except perhaps the golfers who hate geese on the fairways. In contrast to the popular Anatidae, the Rallidae (rails, coots, gallinules) may be the Rodney Dangerfields of the water birds, not getting much respect. We shouldn’t deride the rails! I hope to improve their reputations a bit with this Wild Wednesday. There are 143 species of rallids worldwide, but only 9 native species in North America and a half dozen in Arizona, not counting […]

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Among Friends 17 March 2021 Wood Ducks

by Walt Anderson OK, I admit it. I’m a Duck Fan (Go Oregon!). But when it comes down to choosing favorites, the colorful, extravagant Wood Duck ranks right up there. These beautiful birds are not common in Arizona; in fact, the Breeding Bird Atlas published in 2005 only had nesting records from Yavapai County, specifically in Prescott and the Verde Valley. In the last couple years, they have nested at the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge at Honnas Pond, which is good news, but climate change is predicted to impact them severely as Arizona’s few wetlands may not have enough […]

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ENDANGERED SPECIES: Pima pineapple cactus

by Ricardo Small Several transplanted Pima pineapple cacti are in the cactus garden at the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge Visitors’ Center. This species was classified “endangered” almost 30 years ago (September 23, 1993). The yellow flowers are beautiful. Distribution in Arizona is limited to portions of Pima & Santa Cruz Counties. Its habitat is shrinking due to land development, climate change, invasive species (Lehman’s lovegrass) and reduced pollinator populations.  A couple of months ago in January of 2021, I photographed the fifth of a five-day field survey looking for this endangered cactus that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service […]

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Among Friends 10 March 2021, Redwings

by Walt Anderson A visitor to most Arizona marshes such as at Arivaca Cienega in early March is often greeted with a rich, vibrant chorus of sounds like a warming-up orchestra consisting of violins and flutes but no deep brass. The instrumentalists are indeed warming up, psyching themselves for their upcoming journeys, short or long, to breeding marshes. At this point, the birds are gregarious, and the songs are not threatening, but that will change in a matter of weeks, when communal songfests are replaced by intense vocal and visual displays in defense of territories. Red-winged Blackbirds are possibly the […]

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Among Friends. 3 March 2021, Anna’s Hummingbird

by Walt Anderson Like so many Arizona residents, the Anna’s Hummingbird came here first from southern California and decided to stay. The first newcomer to put down rootlets here nested in the Yuma area in 1962. Since then, it has spread widely in the state, especially common in residential areas with good flower beds and/or feeders. Most migrate south out of the highest, coldest locations in winter to southern Arizona and Sonora, but more are staying year-round where there are unfrozen feeders (such as in Prescott). At the same time, the species has spread northward into British Columbia. Climate change […]

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Among Friends 24 February 2021, Cactus Wren

by Walt Anderson There is nothing understated about the Cactus Wren; perhaps that’s why it’s Arizona’s State Bird! It’s often stated that it is brash, bold, and brazen; it truly makes a statement whenever it’s around with its rrar rrar rrar call like the delayed starter of an old car, as we oldtimers can remember. The Cactus Wren is also our largest wren, though it has some even bigger cousins in South America. While it occurs in many desert situations, this xenophile (freed from dependence on free water) also occurs in desert grassland and up into chaparral-covered slopes, as long […]

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Wild Wednesday 24 February 2021. Light

by Walt Anderson The Granite Dells is a sensational landscape at any scale, but the job of a serious photographer is to see such a place in a new light. In mid-day without a cloud in the sky, it becomes a bit challenging to find a subject that isn’t too contrasty, too flat, too “ordinary.” There is a magic hour, however, before the sun sets that often brings the landscape to life. There are the same rocks, the same trees, the same birds, as any other time, but if you can truly see the light, the ordinary becomes extraordinary. In […]

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Among Friends. 17 February 2021. Chipmunks

by Walt Anderson The pawed cast for this week includes some of the most charming of the rodents—chipmunks. Of the 25 species in the US, Arizona has 6, though the most widespread is the Cliff Chipmunk, star of this show. Its range runs from Utah and Colorado down through Arizona in a broad band from the northwest to the southeast and well into Mexico, including a disjunct population near Hermosillo on the coast of Sonora, where they live in the proximity of boa constrictors! The Baboquivaris are the westernmost of the Sky Islands, and as a biogeographic island, they have […]

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