Monday, March 9, 2015

The Water Highways

Dean scouts the area for animal tracks
This week's episode takes us into the heart of the "Riparian Debate".  I have adopted three birding "patches" or places where I actually try and do regular counts.  One is my home.  The second is at my work site and the third takes place at a ranch known as Aribabi which is south of the Mexican border.

Northern Cardinal-will this be a new species on the ABA list?  We'll find out this year.
There is an active waterway known as the Cocospera river which is surrounded by a rancher's property. This river is home to many rare and wonderful critters. The goal of my survey this past weekend was to examine this riparian corridor and see if there were any hawks using the Cocospera river for their migration route.  Others came to check the Jaguar cams.   While it wasn't a "hawk route" during this observation window, I did find Red-tailed and Gray Hawks.

Each time I visit, there is something different hanging out around the ranch house.  My bird tally was great with over 70 different species being seen.  There were high sparrow numbers.  Northern Cardinals were active and calling.  Rufous and Violet-crowned Hummingbirds stopped at our feeders. For evening birds, several highlights included the Buff-collared Nightjar, Common Poorwill, Western Screech-Owl, Elf Owl and Great Horned Owls.

Our friend, the Burro, follows us along the trail
The rancher in charge of this riparian area is trying to keep the land and river protected, but there are other parties who are interested in using this ribbon of liquid gold for agricultural purposes.  Others would like to construct a road over a portion of the river for access, etc.  And there are others who would love to hunt the elusive Jaguars that have been seen in this important conservation area.

From on top of the hill.  It shows the vast country of the ranch.  The sparkling green Riparian stands out as the Cocospera rivers bends and turns through the area.
Just recently, a jaguar was shot and killed illegally at a ranch several towns over. The pelt, we were told, sold for around 40 US dollars. This endangered animal faces many obstacles which include habitat loss, poaching and of course, the long border fences that block jaguar routes into the desert southwest. 

Jim explains the importance of this riparian corridor to several of the newcomers.
I can't imagine what would happen to everything around this area if the river was redirected elsewhere.  The affects would be devastating for not only the wildlife that lives within this corridor but for the people who work on the ranch.

Once considered extinct, the Rufous-winged Sparrows have rebounded once more into existence.  They were found in great numbers singing on branches throughout the ranch.
During my studies, I had many male Rufous-winged Sparrows calling from on top of branches.  It's that time of year:)

But the surprising bird for me?  The Wilson's Snipe!  There is a "ciénagas" (pronounced see-en-eh-gos) or marshy area that is perfect habitat for these birds.  However, they are tricky:)  Look at the pic below.  I chose the best one from my camera to make it easier.  There is a snipe within those grasses.  Can you find the bird?

Even trickier?  Trying to get a photo of these camera shy birds! If I got out of the truck, they'd fly.  So we had to do our survey from the vehicle:)

Wilson's Snipe
What would happen if people took away the water from this riparian corridor? In the past, it has devastated wildlife populations. Today we continue to destroy these prime water habitats around the world by damming up rivers for energy, shifting waters for agricultural uses or redirecting it for other human needs. And our needs are plenty as the human population continues to grow globally. Migratory water "highways" are fragmented or disappear making the long distance flights for many birds difficult or nearly impossible. Will the snipe be forced to relocate?  Or is this the end of snipe visiting this region for good?  

 Back in Arizona, it is estimated that less than 10 percent of our original riparian areas remain in their natural form.

Rufous Hummingbird
For now, I continue to document the birds around my various areas.  What changes will we notice in our lifetimes?

Checkered Skipper (Pyrgus communis) 
It was another productive outing in the field and our first adventure into Mexico this year.  Where will we be next weekend?  Stay tuned for more.

Kathy looking for those Coati tracks. 


  1. I's disgusting to think that development could destroy this prime wildlife habitat. The dense growth is marvelous.

  2. Yes so sad to read over and over about the life expectation of these corridors. The same is happening here, lately there was even a dead young man among the demonstrators... the project has been downsized since...

  3. Nice post.

    Allowing these areas to flood is also very important - and it stops floods downstream, although this seem to an overlooked idea.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  4. I do hope this area can be kept the same and development doesn't take place - it would be so awful for the wildlife. Such sad news about the Jaguar too :(

    You saw some great wildlife - love that colourful Northern Cardinal and the Skipper butterfly :)

  5. Oh, Chris, this was such a great post...such an important area to keep as it is! I am upset that someone killed a jaguar (and for $40!!!) I think that person should be skinned! That's just how upset I get about it. Your photos were wonderful as usual.

  6. Another great adventure and I love the butterfly. This area should be protected.

  7. I do hope this beautiful and important conservation area can be saved from development.

  8. Stunning photos and beautiful scenery. I really love the shot of the red cardinal.

  9. When I see cardinals in the extreme cold of Montreal and then in your photos...I think the ones that choose to be here are CRAZY! But, they're busy chirping away, making plans for Spring, so I guess they're happy.

  10. Hi Kreesh, although i am not into birding and i only a few birds i enjoy your shots of the landscapes+. What you mentioned today is really a very important consideration in all countries, however when population is very high like ours it somehow doesn't matter anymore. It is a shame and it is disgusting.

  11. I hope that the river will flow where the flow and will not be natural disasters. Regards.

  12. Muy bonito lugar.. Un saludito desde España..

  13. Hello Chris, I really hope this place will not be developed..It is very sad to hear about the Jaguar being hunted. So sad! I do love the Snipe, they are cool birds to see. Great post!, happy birding!

  14. People always seem all to ready to tear down natural beauty and replace it with roads or something else.

  15. Thanks for visiting my blog. Reading this sounds like you are doing amazing work. Hope this area can be saved and connected to others so the animals can move out to find breeding partners and keep genetic diversity within their species. They will also need to be able to go somewhere else as the temperatures and precipitation changes at that site.

  16. Chris, this all looks so lovely and wild and wonderful. I am so glad you had a grand adventure. perhaps one day I will finally get my passport and be brave enough to go with you!

  17. Marvelous post. Lucky I stumbled by your clearing today. I'm joining up :)

    ALOHA from Honolulu

  18. Brilliant trip around the place. Bloody people who killed the Jaguar, prison is for them, at least 30 years.

  19. I hope that beautiful area can be protected. I love the picture from the hill top. :)

  20. This is a lovely area Chris with so much wild life, and you took some gorgeous photos of the critters. The Skipper and Cardinal are beautiful captures and the tree growing out of the rock is amazing.The view from the top of the hill is stunning, and I join with the other in saying I do hope this wonderful natural water way is left undisturbed.
    Warm Regards.

  21. Chris I've just read your previous post and it made me think of a quote I read earlier today that actually had a big impact on how things are with me right now... "What worries you masters you". I wish there were more young people who think and care about the environment as much as you do, we are doing so much damage to our beautiful planet, some irreversible. Sounds like you are going through some very important thought changes right now, looking forward to seeing where the year ahead takes you.

  22. Conducting surveys will show the effects of habitat changes and/or destruction on the local and migratory bird populations. We're facing the same problems in Australia too - and although we like to think we live in an enlightened society, it's depressing to find out how much of our natural environment is being destroyed unnecessarily.

    LOVED the Cardinal - RED, of course - but also loved your 3rd pic!

  23. nice shots chris! i like the tree growing out of the rock! and the skipper, the hummer & the cardinal with his little head spike!!

    it's sad when ever i hear about the conservation land heading toward new development! we need to save the land!! take care of the earth!

  24. Just catching up after some time away, Chris.

    What a fabulous area to visit, and beautifully documented by yourself. I hope that common sense prevails over greed as far as the future of the river is concerned.

    Best wishes - - - - Richard


Thanks for stopping by!