Archives for posts with tag: Bird Watching

The last time I wrote I told you that I’ve decided to be a rich and famous travel writer.  I remember listening to a motivational speaker (that didn’t live in a van, down by the river) and he said that speak in the present tense when you speak about dreams.  For example, don’t say “some day I’m going to be a millionaire”; instead say “I’m a millionaire, the money just hasn’t made it into my bank account yet.”

So, I’m a rich and famous travel writer, it’s just that the money isn’t here yet and nobody knows who I am (except for my friends but they’re certainly not going to pay me to write shit; maybe to shut up, but that’s a different blog). I just need to travel and write.  My plan for the summer is to take my travel trailer around the state, to higher elevation cities, and write about what there is to do and places to eat.  Done deal, right?

Well, the “travel” part is proving to be a challenge.  You see, I discovered that a skylight in my travel trailer was cracked, and as a result it leaked…into my shower (yay) and vanity (boo).  So, I bought a replacement skylight and removed the old one.  Only to discover that there was some pretty significant water damage to the substrate.  I learned that word, “substrate”, after watching about 20 YouTube videos about how to repair RV roofs.  I discovered that this is an easy project as long as you’re handy and have tools.

I have a backpack and a bong.  I have a few tools but I’m better at watching professionals use them than I am at using them myself.

But I’m going to learn.

It’s part of the new “me”, and shit.  Yep, I’m trying to grow up and learn how to actually do things other than run a business.  I’m almost 50 so there’s time.

Anyway, my plan for the next few works is to learn how to replace rotten wood and resurfacing my travel trailer roof.

So I got that going for me, which is nice.

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You’ve planned a hike with the express purpose of watching wildlife.  You pack your binoculars, water, snacks, maps and hit the trail.  By the end of the day you’ve covered miles but haven’t seen anything save for a few birds and a lizard or two.  Too often this scenario plays out rather than what we’d hoped for – animals, birds, butterflies and reptiles galore.  So, what can we do to make this better?

Immediate ideas pop to mind – don’t bring dogs or travel in large groups.  Leave the music in the parking lot and make sure the kids aren’t ripping around the area making noise.  Oh, and no singing – at least not on this hike.  The first thing you need to do is put your patience in over-drive.  Find a comfortable place to sit and settle in.  You’ll have to wait for about 15-20, or more, minutes before nature “forgets” you’re there.  But there’s even more you can do.

Here are some time-tested tips to help you bag that great photo.

Dress in neutral colors, ones that you find in the surrounding area.  Think like a sniper – you want to blend in.  I’m not suggesting that you get a ghillie suit, although that would be helpful.  Don’t wear perfume or cologne and still sit downwind of your viewing area.  Make sure to consider sun protection and wear long-sleeve shirts, long pants and hats that blend in as well.  Sorry – no red “Make America Great Hats” on this hike.

Pick locations where animals frequent.  Places where two separate environments come together is helpful.  For example, where a riparian area meets a grassland, or a watering hole in a desert environment.  Head out at dawn or dusk when most mammals are active.  If you’re hoping to spot reptiles, then you’ll want to pick the times they’re out – i.e. not winter.  In fact, temperatures below 65°F is generally too cold for reptiles.

Move slowly – no sudden movements.  Move your binoculars slowly and learn to “see things”.  The eye sees things in this order: movement, color then shape.  Get a good feeling for the shapes in the area and look for things that are “different”.  Don’t look for specifics, look “in general”.  By this I mean look for movements or odd shapes.  Most animals tend to blend into the environment; some birds don’t so look for brilliant colors if you’re birdwatching.  If you’re looking for butterflies then keep in mind that most Arthropods only become active after it gets warm and tend to stay close to moist areas and blooming flowers.

Most importantly, please be an observer rather than trying to “get involved”.  Don’t use food to bait animals or approach nests or burrows too closely; often the adults will flee leaving young open to predation.  Don’t trample sensitive areas.  Don’t get too close to watering holes – use the power of your binoculars to “get closer”.

The most important tip that I can suggest is really to just sit and observe.  Become a part of the environment rather than being something IN nature.  Learn to sit and be quiet.  You’ll be surprised at how the ecosystem comes alive around you.

See you outside.

When I go hiking or backpacking I’m generally trying to get away from the crush of the city.  Not that Phoenix is really a bad city to live in, but I do like to get out into areas that have less human influence.  I love to sit and just soak in the earth’s energy and dream of years gone by.  How many people have stood on this peak; did some indigenous person stand up here while surveying the surrounding area looking for game or watching for enemies?

Other times, I love to find a little nook and just wait patiently for wildlife to emerge.  It generally takes about 30 minutes for animals to “forget” you’re there.  In these cases I DON’T bring a dog on the hikes.  Bringing a dog pretty much guarantees that I’m not going to see anything other than a skunk – those bastards are predisposed to seek out my dogs for some reason.

So, if you were to ask me where the best places, in Arizona, to see wildlife then here would be my top 5.  They’re in no particular order.

  1.  Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge – Managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, this 116,000 acre area is about fifty miles southwest of Tucson.  It’s home to about 317 species of birds and is a stop off for 12 species of hummingbird.  The heart of the refuge is a vast grassland valley flanked by Arivaca Creek and Cienega on the east and to the west, sycamore-lined Brown Canyon.
  2. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument – This 516 square mile National Park preserve is 140 miles southwest of Tucson along the Mexican-American border.  The namesake Organ Pipe cactus bloom in May and June.  Fall through early spring is the best time to visit due to the cool temperatures of this classic Sonoran Desert landscape.
  3. San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area – This is probably one of the most important preserves in North America, protecting 36 miles of this rare, undammed river.  It’s a vital corridor for millions of neotropical migratory birds. Mountain lions and bobcats frequent the area as well as mule-deer, javelina and multiple other mammals.
  4. Sycamore Canyon, Pajarita Wilderness Area – Pajarita is a Spanish word meaning “little bird.” It is an appropriate name for this 7,420-acre area, for a couple of reasons. For one, the international border with Mexico forms the area’s southern boundary. For another, the area’s rugged canyons, which point south toward the subtropical environments of Mexico and Central America, provide a natural migration route for a surprising diversity of birds.
  5. Hassayampa River Preserve, Arizona Nature Conservancy – For most of its 100-mile course through the desert, the Hassayampa River flows only underground. But within thepreserve its crystal clear waters emerge, flowing above ground throughout the year. This lush streamside habitat is home to some of the desert’s most spectacular wildlife. Yet many of them have become dangerously imperiled as riparian areas have disappeared from the Arizona landscape.

If you go please plan to stay a while; these areas are worth taking the time to explore.  Also, please adhere to Leave No Trace principles.  If these areas aren’t high-octane enough then maybe you should consider some rock climbing or an ATV adventure.  In that case reach out to 360 Adventures.

See you outside.