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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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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Gila Monsters

by Ricardo Small Not really a “monster” this species of reptile is one of the most memorable to see while visiting the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. Highly colorful, Gila monsters are easy to see when they’re above ground. That’s not very often. In their book titled Gila Monster Facts and Folklore about America’s Aztec Lizard, Dave Brown and Neil Carmony describe the color as “… Halloween-hued skin the texture of Indian corn …” Most of the time, Gila monsters are in underground burrows. They find food in the underground nests of prey species like cottontail rabbits. Since this lizard […]

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