Tuesday, December 1, 2015

When Tomorrow Comes

First off, I'd like to wish everyone a wonderful holiday season!  For my US readers, I hope you all had a peaceful and delicious Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends. 

Gordon searches the skies for birds in the cold morning temps
On our last survey for the year, the Mexico team returned back to Rancho Aribabi in the state of Sonora to replace batteries and cards on the wildlife cams.  We continue to monitor this area for the elusive jaguars.  We know they are there, but jaguars are notorious for their invisibility powers:)  

Rural Skipper
Our trek for this visit was very much needed as the highway commission was thinking about placing a road through this important conservation area.  It had many people worried, but thankfully, everyone involved saw how important this riparian habitat was. Protecting an area from development is A LOT of work and it's something the ranch owner has to deal with every day.  

The Highway Commission visits
Our group had members studying plants, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and bugs.  We haven't really had any specialist in the fish area, but hopefully someone will join our team down the road.  Needless to say, this area is a rich biodiverse  corridor. 

During the course of 3 days, we surveyed every nook and cranny around the Cocospera River.  It's one of the few riparian corridors within the Sonoran desert and an important area for migrating birds, endemic amphibians and of course, mammals like the Coati, Jaguar, etc. 

The group is a fantastic bunch of experts brought together by our leader Kathy Cooper.  She feeds the crew with her wonderful cooking.  And while everyone does quite a bit of hiking, we still seem to add several pounds after each trip:)

Greater Roadrunner
The birders, Gordon and myself, surveyed the area for our feathered friends.  Of course, we kept our eyes open for other critters. Our current bird species count is at 151 birds. There have been two bird species that I have not been able to ID.  Both are night birds and continue to puzzle me. One sounds like an owl and the other sounds very much like a grouse. Ebird records began in 2005 for this area.  Today, there are 17 lists submitted for this relatively new hotspot. I'll continue to monitor this "patch" as we will inevitably return. 

I must always keep my eyes open around this ranch as the critters can be very active.  I've almost been attacked by a momma Javelina. On this trek, an oddly patterned Hooded Skunk popped out in front of us.  

An oddly patterned Hooded Skunk
The nights were extremely cold and froze many of us in our tents. Herpers during the winter months have to pick up rocks and logs to look for snakes and lizards. However, I suspect many snakes went further underground to keep out of the freezing temps. 

Herper specialist Jim Rorabaugh searched near a corral for anything with scales.  I smiled to myself.  Any respectable birder knows better:)  One doesn't go lifting up rocks and rotting wood unless you're up for a sudden heart attack:) But on this rare occasion, we found something softer and "cuter".....

Desert Shrew
This Desert Shrew was a sensation!  Everyone began to document this difficult to find mammal. Afterwards the shrew signed autographs.  We then returned this little cutie back to its secure and hidden spot. 

The desert is full of life.  You just need to know where to look.  The only problem is that there are things that bite back:) Cacti, lizards, and snakes are just a few of the obstacles that a Sonoran birder faces.  But it's so worth it.  Snakes are cool.  I just don't like surprises! 

Karina is another herper and she also likes to pick up spiders.  This is a tarantula looking Huntsmen Spider.  However, it's not a tarantula and completely safe to handle. I'll pass:)

Our leader, Kathy, joins us for a nice hot cup of coffee.  

The next set of pictures are not mine but from the crew during this past weekend.  We all share our data and finds.  At night during dinner, photo cards are loaded into laptops.  Everyone crosses their fingers for a jaguar sighting, but we love seeing the coati, ocelote, bobcat, bear, coyote, fox, deer, javelina and oh so much more!

Lowland Leopard Frog, Photo courtesy of Jim Rorabaugh
There is always lots of interesting data to share.  

Gray Flycatcher, Photo courtesy of Jim Rorabaugh
I'd like to thank Dean Goehring for giving me permission to use his photo below.  There are many Mountain Lions in this area.  Here is a mother with her cub/juvenile.  There is another cub not in the picture.  The work that we do on this ranch is very important and if it wasn't for the dedication of others, I'm not sure where this ranch would be today. Cut down for a highway?  Clear cut for development?  Carlos, the current ranch owner, is a strong believer in conservation.  Without his dedication and love for this land, Aribabi might look a lot different today. 

Mountain Lion photo courtesy of Dean Goehring
For now, I leave you with a video that continues to make me laugh.  It's a skit from Saturday Night Live.  If your dinner conversation turns into chaos, just remember this moment:) Until next time....


  1. woW Mountain Lions. How wondeful to see. very interestingpost. Love the Shrew and Roadrunner


  2. An inspiring post. It's great when people share in a major effort like this, and achieve results, although sometimes just the doing is reward enough!

  3. Super post Chris, omg I can't believe Karina was happy bo pick up that huge spider eeeeew! Loved the little shrew, that would be a rare autograph :) Bit of a shame about the video, won't play here. You have a wonderful Christmas also Chris, take care.

  4. always love to see the roadies. the shrew is adorable! and so glad you could share the cougars, too! awesome!

  5. Thanks for the work you and others do on the ranch. And for making me laugh at the video. May need to remember that one at Christmas dinner with Bill's family. ;)

  6. This is interesting trek and you have captured lot of critters.

  7. Full marks to your intrepid team Chris. You are doing highly valuable work. Kudos to Carlos too. It's good to hear for once of a landowner who cares so much for the environment rather than looking to only make money.

    I had to Google "javelina" to see why one gave you a fright - yes a hefty animal.

    Take care.

  8. I'd pass on the spider too! Although the roadrunner remains high on my 'I'd like to see one' list.

    Nice post.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  9. I'd always thought of Sonora in terms of desert, Chris. Your delightful post has taught me that I was wrong and it's a place of almost infinite beauty! Thank you, and best wishes - - - Richard

  10. It is wonderful that the rancher is putting conservation ahead of profits. It looks like a wonderful place, but those desert nights sure can get cold!

  11. Funny how us Midwestern folks think the desert is nothing but sand lizards snakes and cactus.
    I had a friend who had a ranch in Tampico, his family is still there. Anyway he used to tell a story about a bird called a "Chee chee lacka. I always guessed it was local slang for some other bird. From his description its behavior was somewhat fierce and aggressive. Could that be your Javelina?

    1. Good memory! The bird is a Chachalaca and that is one cool bird. As for fierce.....I don't know. I had one sitting on my shoulder once....pretty cute chickens:) Now I'm curious....I wonder what the slang meant. Tampico is a place I'd love to visit!

  12. Oh my gosh Chris, this is all so incredible. Altho, I would NOT be lifting up rocks or wood in search of anything...I'd leave that all up to the experts...hehehehehe No snakes for me; I don't consider them 'cool' in ANY way.

    Of course my favorites today are the birds, but the desert scenery brings back fond memories of the Sonoran's year 'round beauty

    Fantastic, exceptional photos and narration.

  13. loved to see the images of your roadrunner. They are gorgeous :)

  14. I am not a birder, but have friends who are avid one and yearly go out to take bird counts. Your blog today was a real treat for me and I really enjoyed the story you told a I went down the page. The great roadrunner and hooded skunk really caught my eyes. Keep out that road. My husband and I are 100% for conservation and not modernization.

  15. I do like all of your finds. So much fun for me to read while I am spending most of the time in town.

  16. Wow Chris - wonderful post - so interesting and super photos. Sounds like a brilliant adventure whilst doing such worthy survey work. So many great species but the shrew and the Rural Skipper are the icing on the cake for me :)
    Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  17. Oh how wonderful! I love the work you are doing! And your photos (and the shared photos) are all so wonderful! I've been gone several days so have some catching up to do!

  18. I'd happily pick up a famous shrew. I woke up with one in my hair once. It was fondling around my ear. Then it ran under the covers. Then I fell out of bed...


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