Saturday, February 20, 2016

Flat Landon and the Endangered Bird


Recently, I went on a trek with a good friend from Wisconsin, Flat Landon. He wanted to know what it was like to live in the state of Arizona.  

Stanley loved the California Poppies!
Landon was very happy to be in Tucson.  He told me that it was very cold in Wisconsin this time of year.  And I told him that it was one of the reasons why I moved to Arizona so many years ago. I asked him if he wanted to do some hiking outdoors with me to find a very special and rare bird.  Landon was excited!  So I gave him a pair of binoculars and together we set off to find a rare Rusty Blackbird. 

Curve-billed Thrasher
Before we took off, I had to talk with Landon about hiking in the Arizona deserts and mountains. 


So he put on his seat belt and off we went. 


Rule 1.  Always bring water with you.  The desert is hot and dry.  Water is very important during a hike.  So Landon brought along a reusable plastic bottle to fill with water.  He wanted to reduce the amount of plastic bottles thrown away.  What a smart guy!


Brewer's Blackbird
Landon found several blackbirds but they weren't the Rusty.  At one point, he forgot about our Saguaro Cactus(pronounced saw-gwa-row)!  He accidentally got stuck on one of our massive native Sonoran plants! Rule 2. Watch where you step. 


Landon pretended to smile.  But deep down, I knew he was hurting.  I've also fallen into several cactus myself during my hikes.  It really hurts!


As we moved into the mountains and along the great Salt River, Stanley asked me, "Why is the Rusty Blackbird so important?  It's just a bird."  


The Rusty Blackbird!!!
I told Landon that all life is important to our planet.  And we must protect these amazing creatures from extinction or we could face our own extinction. The Rusty Blackbird is in danger of disappearing forever and within our lifetimes:(


Landon was shocked!  He thought all endangered creatures were only found outside the US.  When he discovered that we had endangered mammals, birds, frogs, etc in the United States, he was sad.  I told him to keep hope.  When I was his age, there were only 22 California Condors left in the wild.  But today, after conservation efforts, there are over 425 Condors alive.



Just then, wild horses caught Landon's attention!  "What are those doing here?"  I told him that they were the last of the wild horses in the West. He responded, "Like from the time of cowboys?"  Yes. Now while I knew that these horses weren't good for the natural habitat of the Salt River, I kept it to myself.  It's good to let kids dream.  For now, it was a magical moment. 


Then Landon asked me what we could do to help out the Rusty Blackbird.  As I was about to respond, I noticed Landon walking along the rocks not paying attention.  As he was about to put his foot down, I yelled, "WATCH OUT!! YOU'RE ABOUT TO STEP ON A RATTLESNAKE!"



  Landon screamed.  And I screamed with him. Rule 3. Don't step on snakes. He was about to throw rocks at the snake.  When I stopped him from doing so, he asked me why we shouldn't kill the snake.  I told him that while I'm not a big fan of snakes, they serve a very important role in nature.  "But you screamed too?" And I may have messed my pants a little. My response was quick.  "In the desert, we have to watch where we step at all times." He smiled, "Wow!  You've got to keep your eyes open all the time.  Cactus, snakes, heat....what else?"  I thought about telling him about giant spiders and cats, but a snake was enough for one day. 



"Landon, you are the future caretaker of this planet.  The Rusty Blackbird migrates through Wisconsin in spring.  You asked me what you can do to help.  I'll tell you.  Today, we are going to record this bird and report her online to help scientists figure out a way to save her species and protect her home."


"So even I can save the Rusty Blackbird?", he asked.  "YES. We ALL can." For 25 minutes, we observed this special bird feed with the other birds along the shores of the river. 


After a wonderful day out, Landon was exhausted from the sun and the desert adventures. Once we returned back to Tucson, we submitted all the necessary data into ebird and AZFO.  Landon told me that he had a fun day out and wanted to go birding some more. YES!  A future birder!


I told him that we would go birding in the morning, but for now it was time to sleep.  Then he saw bats hanging from his ceiling.  However that is another story.  The Sonoran Desert is one of the most spectacular places on this planet. 


  Landon will have lots of stories to share when he heads back to Wisconsin:)  Until next time....


23 comments:

  1. I see a children's book in the making!

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    1. Thanks Suz:) It was a fun project. I bet the kids get excited seeing their Flat Stanley travel. The presentations would be fun for a teacher to hear!

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  2. Great Landon used to translate how to behave in Arizona. Regards.

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  3. Landon is learning a lot during his time with you.

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    1. Most definitely:) Now he must go home. Postage is waaaay cheaper than an airline ticket:)

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  4. Rusty Blackbirds are certainly much more difficult to find here in recent years. Last year seemed to be quite a good year, but I suspect that's because I just happened to see more. I'll have to review the latest statistics.

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  5. Hello Chris, what a fun post. Landon will be a great new birder. I am glad no one stepped on the snake. Cool sighting of the Rusty Blackbird.

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  6. Great post and idea :) Look forward to more Landon posts :)

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  7. Great place to see so many birds.

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  8. Very well written and thought out posting. I enjoyed the whole thing! Loved the story and the pictures. I found it playful and fun also. I like it when bloggers do something different. Glad you found the Rusty Blackbird. We had one here as well.

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  9. Hi Chris!:) A most entertaining post,with lots of goodies to see besides the Rusty Blackbird, which I'm pleased you eventually saw with Landon. Loved all your photos Chris, and your ideas are great fun. If small children were taught this way, they would surely learn a lot about nature and how we all must strive to preserve our wildlife, or lose it for ever.

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  10. I wonder who would win if Landon played rock, paper, scissors with you? Great post!

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  11. Thank you Chris, I loved this post. Your photos are amazing and this was a fun but very educational read.

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  12. Landon (both flat and his 3-D doppleganger back in Wisconsn) had a wonderful teacher! Actually so did I. Really enjoyed the journey with both of you and learned or relearned a lot about the desert. And good ways to respond to kids and adults who question the value of every species.

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  13. Very entertaining! Glad you found the Rusty Blackbird and avoided the snake! I had to smile at the cactus picture as it brought back a childhood memory of a time when I was so intent on a lizard I was chasing that I chased it right under a cactus. Worked great for the lizard, but sadly, the much taller human (me) ended up with a thigh full of needles which my grandmother then spent the next half-hour having to pull out. Happened in New Mexico rather than AZ, but the lesson is the same.

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    1. Even if you're not trying to touch cactus, you still get a needle!!! It hurts. For me it's Cholla!

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  14. Oh Chris this is so much fun! Landon, I'm sure, appreciated the hike in the Catalinas [or the Tucson Mtns.] And the beautiful, tho deadly plants and wildlife of the Sonoran Desert. When we lived in Tucson, we pronounced it Sah WAR oh cactus. Hmmmm, maybe I need to learn a whole new and correct pronunciation.

    Loved the California Poppies in bloom. Haven't seen those in ages.

    Very fun post, as I said in the beginning. [Looks like the Puma at the Outdoor Desert Museum]

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    1. YES! The Puma was the only artificial photo. If I saw that cat looking back at me that close, I'd have messed myself:) But we were at the desert museum and I didn't want to waste that pic:) The rest, however, are VERY real;)

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  15. Love the thrasher and even the rattlesnake!

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  16. Great fun and a superb story Chris. Landon had the best guide and instructor anyone could hope for and got home in one piece thanks to you.

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  17. wow, this is fun. So cool. Bet kids, as well as adults love this :)

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  18. Landon is the perfect traveling companion Chris, and the best thing, he is always happy.. there's no complaining and being a pain in the derriere with him :)

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Thanks for stopping by!