Saturday, February 4, 2012

Buenos Aires Wildlife Refuge

On a 3 day vacation, I spent a day at the Buenos Aires Wildlife Refuge.  It was a cloudy day and I hadn't much hope to spot many birds.  It was on the colder side that day, but I ended up getting some shots that I think represent this large area very well.   If you want to escape Tucson and people, you shouldn't skip out on this treat for the eyes.  The hiking is great!  One of the hikes is easy and the trails at the refuge can be moderate to difficult depending on where you are.  Where should you go if you head down to Arivaca or Sasabe?  Well there are 4 main parts to this massive refuge, but for one, you'll need a truck for the dirt roads as they can be quite dangerous.
Barn Owl
I got into my car with my camera equipment, some good tunes, a packed lunch, and a full tank of gas.  For about a hour and half, I drove south towards the international border area without much traffic around me.   I arrived at the main office/tourist center and had a nice talk with two people from Ontario, Canada that were working down in the station for several months.  They were informative and extremely helpful.  One of the things I like to do before going on a photoshoot is ask people where they've seen wildlife recently and then I can tailor my hike to be around areas at those certain times.  That day was hit and miss and I didn't get to see the Pronghorn, but I certainly spotted lots of other fun things like the above barn owl.
In southeastern Arizona, the mix of deserts, mountains, grasslands, elevation changes, and the northern limits of many subtropical species make this geographic area one of the most biologically rich regions of the world. Some species are here because the core of their distribution is in the nearby Sonoran Desert, the Sierra Madre Madre range to the south, or the Rocky Mountains to the north.  A number of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians are here at the northern edge of their range and are found nowhere else in the US.  Some exist only in isolated sites within the region. The pics you are looking at now come from the primary grassland site.  It's also where you'll find the pronghorn and many species of birds.
Established in 1985 for the reintroduction of masked bobwhite quail and for the restoration of natural landscape for the native wildlife, the Buenos Aires Wildlife Refuge is a success story. They've eliminated a lot of invasive plant species and have allowed the grasslands to become full grasslands again. At one point, there was hundreds of miles of barbed fencing around these former rancher lands.  Today, with international and local help, that fencing is no longer there which now opens the land for animals to roam between Mexico and the US.
Vesper Sparrow
Area 2(Brown Canyon) is what I consider to be another excellent wildlife spot and a major highlight.  But it's difficult to get to as it is on a very poorly maintained road.  Here studies are being done on the elusive return of the jaguar. I was up here in the mid 90's and I can tell you all that it's pretty incredible stuff.  There is a center for people to stay if you can make the journey. But call ahead.  You will have some amazing finds in this location.  I found several bark scorpions on the wall before going to bed:)We had animals like skunks and coatis come right up to us not to mention deer, hummingbirds, and so much more.
Area 3 and 4 are really wonderful hiking spots and popular places for birders.  You'll need to drive to Arivaca to find this clearly marked parking areas to hike.  Each trail resides on one end of the town.  And the town is small.  On this day, I was a little scared as I was the only person on the trail.  The entrance to this trail reminded me of some horror film and I was in it!!! But alas I ran into a friendly hiker and we spoke of birds and the ecology.  It is safe, but I travel a lot around the world and recommend just keeping your head up sometimes. There's blind faith(travel anywhere, anytime, no problems) and then there's caution. And so while it's safe, use caution:)
There are some incredible finds here in this part of the world, but make sure you plan accordingly for your hikes.  Here are just some things to consider....or keep in the back of your mind.  While border patrol has a heavy presence in this region, it is still possible for random acts of violence to happen.  At one point, a section of land was closed off near the border town of Sasabe, but here in this area, things seem to be a lot calmer.  The town of Arivaca has also been known to be quite "anti" everything.  In fact, when I passed through this tiny town, there was a sign that said, "Go Home Mineral Show!" But they've been known to fight against our government and have the reputation for being a little rebellious against the establishment.  Therefore, I double checked my car doors to make sure they were locked:) It's probably not all that bad now, but it was not so long ago.
Best time for sightings are of course during the early mornings or mid to late afternoon right before sunset.
Bring good walking shoes, a hat, binoculars, a camera, and your birding guide.  There's lots to see here.

I saw a lot of birds, but only a few of my bird shots turned out.  Especially keep an eye out for the 19 raptors in the area.  There are a lot!!!`A Golden Eagle is reported to be flying around the entrance of the main office at the beginning of the road.  You can stop if you need to get out of the car and snap pictures, etc.  Drive slowly as there is a lot of wildlife crossing.
Say's Phoebe
I make it sound like it's easy to spot wildlife, but it's not.  You have to be patient and quiet and all that jazz, but if you stand quiet, listen and'll find something.  During the colder months, I always head towards water areas because that's where the wildlife seem to congregate.
Buenos Aires Wildlife Refuge
PO Box 109
Sasabe, AZ 85633

Common Yellowthroat Warbler, Female

                                                 For Refuge Information call 1-800-344-WILD
Red Tailed Hawk
And here's one last shot of my barn owl.  I'm really proud of this one:)  Until next time.....


  1. Thank you for visiting my blog!
    As you wrote some of the finds are amazing! I like so many shots, but the old bench might be my favourite. It blends perfectly with its surrounding and is just simply beautiful!

  2. Twoje wycieczki i pokazywane przyrody jest cudowne. Nie jest się tam, ale się widzi wszystko. Zdjęcia ptaków wspaniałe i reszta też oczywiście. Pozdrawiam cieplutko, bo u nas mróz 21 stopni. *** Your trips and shows of nature is wonderful. It is not there, but he sees everything. Great photos of birds and the rest, of course. Yours nice and warm, because in our cold 21 degrees.

  3. WOW, I love your Barn owl shots. What a cool sighting, I really would love to see a barn owl in the wild. This sounds like a great place for hiking and birding. Your photos are awesome. Thanks for sharing. Have a great weekend.

  4. And you should be proud of your beautiful photos of the barn owl! They are wonderful!

    It does look like a beautiful place to hike but I think I would not be as brave as you. Thanks for taking us along.

  5. the owl is definitely impressive, but so are all of your landscapes and scenes! truly gorgeous! (hate the part about the random acts of violence, though! sad part of our world...)

  6. Nice Barn Owl Rohrerbot! I have only ever seen one on my little patch once! Enjoy your next trip!

  7. Your owl shot is gorgeous...what a hike you that bench...and your comments about the horror show...ha ha
    but it is wise to be safe
    I can only marvel at the life you've led so far
    be proud

  8. What a great trip! You took some really great photos! you be careful out there!

  9. Great capture of the barn owl. It's always so exciting to see owls in the wild. There is also lots of interesting history on the refuge, like the home of Eva Antonia Wilbur-Cruce who wrote "A Beautiful, Cruel Country"
    The home and ranch are now in ruins along the Arivaca Creek trail.

  10. I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure through your beautiful pictures! Thank you! You do have a great eye and a lovely way of grasping and holding the attention of your reader. Keep up the high standard!

  11. Love your adventure and the solitude. And the photos - what a quiet paradise!

  12. I have only heard of Barn owls from English novels. Got introduced to one today:-)
    Lovely picture.



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