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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A History Of The Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge Land

In 1864 Pedro Aquirre, Jr. created the Buenos Ayres Ranch. After passing through several owners it in the following century it became the centerpiece of the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge when it was established in 1985. The Spring 2006 edition of the Journal of Arizona History published an article about the origin of Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge titled IN THE LAND OF GOOD WINDS: An Informal History of Buenos Aires Ranch. It includes black & white photographs and an informative narrative by Betty Leavengood. She is an outdoor person and freelance writer. Her work includes the Tucson Hiking […]

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Among Friends. 10 February 2021. Mimids.

By Walt Anderson There is a striking contrast between a MIME, one who performs silently by using gestures and motions, and a MIMIC, one who parrots or apes (funny how we use animal terms!) words or phrases or behaviors of another. The bird family Mimidae is anything but silent, and its members go far beyond mere imitation. In fact, the mimids are some of the most vocally versatile of all bird songsters. Arizona is blessed with great mimid diversity, with five breeding species of thrashers (plus Brown Thrasher as a vagrant), widespread Northern Mockingbirds (and casual visits by the tropical […]

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Jim, A Volunteer At The Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge

by Ricardo Small Jim started spending winters in Southern Arizona about 15 years ago. He’s been a full time resident for two years. He happened upon the Refuge during a November Festival years ago and hiked on the Refuge ever since. He’s volunteered for a couple years.  Jim said, “BANWR is a wonderful place filled with quiet, beauty, solitude and nothingness. A delight to hike and volunteer in, BANWR rewards the person with joy and tranquility. It is sublime.” Jim volunteers other places, too, because he likes to contribute to our cultures, our surroundings and our communities, building a happiness for all […]

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Among Friends, 3 February 2021. Melt. by Walt Anderson

Arizona has been enduring drought for quite some time. January storms this year provided some relief, though so many plants and animals were hurting from the lack of water that recovery may only be partial. Of course, waterbirds forsake the dry grasslands when the few ponds with standing water have dried up. Yet when the rains come, the plants and animals respond rather remarkably. Winter is not over yet, so we wait to see if more moisture is in the offing.   Too often the clouds have rolled through, creating memorable sunsets but sending moisture elsewhere. The wind, in fact, […]

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