Where Are You Going?

It scurried across the soil under the mesquite trees so quickly, all I could do was wonder why it was moving so fast? So I waited and watched.

A round-tailed ground squirrel, often observed here in southwestern USA and northwestern Mexico, was on the run! Other posts I have mentioned how one never knows what you’ll see when outdoors. And here off in a dash, this ground squirrel was returning to its burrow made another time in the loose soil. I have seen plenty of these burrows here in Arizona, but this one had a chewed piece of cardboard there too!?! No doubt part of the ground squirrel’s architectural plan as it chewed and brought pieces of cardboard underground. I wish I could see the inside of this burrow; I can only imagine.

Yup, like I have said other times, one never knows what you’ll see next! Keep your eyes open! Wildlife is in action in your area also!

Urban Wildlife Habitat

Sweetwater Wetlands is a water treatment facility originally constructed in 1996. The wetlands now use reclaimed water and has become a wildlife viewing area in Tucson, AZ. There is about 2.5 miles of pathway for visitors to walk and it does connect with the “Loop”, yet no bicycles are allowed on the property. You can lock you bike at the fence and take a walk on a pathway from there.

On any given day, I never know if water birds will on the settling ponds, other birds in various trees, insects on the marsh grasses or hawks overhead. There have been days I viewed javelina and bobcats! Many people visit this urban wildlife habitat.

Here are some photos from my recent visit:

The red-winged blackbirds were definitely the noisiest of all the bunch, the duck was nonchalantly walking down a path … no doubt due to few people out in the late morning hot hours … and the turtles, well they may be finishing their mating act. Other visitors to the wetland may be more interested and focused on capturing insects as I guessed this man was with the specific net he was using. I could not capture any moth or butterfly in a photo, but he may have been also interested in damselflies.

For early morning time in nature, this urban wildlife habitat is an easy place to get to and visit, relax and observe nature. As the heat of the day rises, most wildlife settle in away from the hot air. This adds to my challenge, but I also like being out with fewer people on the trail and to see what else may be nonchalantly walking down the trail! (Reminds me too of the coyote I saw lying on a person’s driveway while I rode past on my bicycle.)

Always keep your eyes open; one can never predict what you’ll see in nature. That’s what makes being outdoors so exciting! Where and when are you headed outdoors? Enjoy.

People of All Abilities, Welcome to this Park!

In Pima County, Arizona, a park for all … who knew?

The east end of Speedway Boulevard in Tucson, Arizona ends at Douglas Spring Trailhead, but I wondered what about the west end? So I drove to this end of Speedway Boulevard, took a right turn on N Camino De Oeste and discovered Feliz Paseos Park! Needless to say this was my first visit.

Universally accessible trail system here.

I was most impressed with the trail signage. The directions were easy to understand and information provided more details than I ever expected. When home, I learned this private-public park’s goal was to have a universally accessible trail system. That explained the trail signs noting the grade and cross slope of each trail whether it be gravel or paved. Recognizing the special needs and capabilities of people with disabilities is a huge accomplishment and hopefully a model for other communities.

Super signage!

I enjoyed my visit and had a couple of instances to capture a photo, yet the black-tailed jackrabbit ran off before I could get a photo. Thanks to signage along the trail I learned the names of more plants and animals too. Today’s photos: black throated sparrow, cactus wren, saguaro cactus and a coyote was seen as I was driving out from the park. (And a sign of that jackrabbit that got away from me!)

Someday I will return to this park. I love the fact this park is close enough for all to visit and with trails all can handle along with quite a variety of wildlife to be seen.

Just over the hill and also bordering the park, houses can be seen.

Check Local News for the Latest Re: AZ Wildfire

June 5, a lightning strike was the cause of a wildfire started in the Coronado National Forest bordering Tucson, AZ. Firefighters and support crews are still fighting the wildfire today, June 11. This afternoon some people are required to evacuate their homes in a specific area of the Catalina Foothills. Check the local news to know the latest status of the fire and what you should do if you live in the area.

So far the Bighorn fire has burned 4769 acres and is moving east as of this report. A back burn is being conducted with the fire perimeter being held by fire lines being built with the support of aerial resources. One can see the helicopters and small planes dropping water.

Unlawful drone incursions can result in significant fine or mandatory court appearance as that activity interrupts aerial support. Planes with fire retardant have flown over the area also which help suppress the fire; however, there is an evacuation order in place at this time for certain areas. Check your local news for updates.

Another wildfire in the Tucson area, the Tortolita Fire is 100% contained and 3140 acres were burned there. We should be appreciative of all the time and energies put in to fighting these fires and the work continues as I write. Hopefully the Bighorn wildfire will be contained in the very near future. Check your local news for updates if you are in the Tucson, AZ area.

Arizona State Flower & Tree

When you are not higher than 4,000 feet in Arizona, in the Sonoran Desert, you have a good opportunity to see a saguaro cactus. The stately stick-like cactus with possible multiple or no arms growing from its central column cannot be missed. Most arms will grow upward unless a hard frost caused them to grow downward. These cacti can be 16 feet tall when 100 years old and as tall as 45 feet when 200 years old, and again some with or without arms! The saguaro is a symbol of the west.

Often you’ll observe the saguaro cactus growing under a palo verde, referred to as its “nurse plant”. The palo verde provides the cactus protection from the sun and frost, yet as years go by the cactus may take water and nutrients sometimes to the nurse plant’s detriment.

Saguaro cactus and palo verde surviving together for many years!

When the saguaro cactus buds, which can number 100, pop their white flowers in the spring, birds, moths, bats and butterflies are attracted to the flower’s sweet nectar. The flowers gets pollinated and mature into a fruit. In the summer, the red fruit provides nutrients for wildlife and can be harvested by people, but be sure to get written permission to collect the fruit because saguaros are protected under the Arizona Native Plant Law. The fruit can be eaten raw or boiled and strained to make jellies.

The saguaro blossom is the Arizona state wildflower and the palo verde is the Arizona state tree. Arizona takes their cacti seriously as I recently learned it is illegal to shoot a cactus, ram into it with your vehicle or dig one up without a permit. Why anyone would do any of those things is beyond me. I believe the cacti should be left alone to be enjoyed by us all.

Enjoy saguaro cacti while in the Sonoran Desert!

Tucson’s “March For Our Lives” – End Gun Violence!

Biceps as “guns” from this young person!

Today, many of us took time to rally and send a message across our country that gun violence needs to end. The Tucson, Arizona students did an excellent job organizing this march, having speakers at the end of the march, and being motivated as other youth around our country marching on this same day. As a past teacher and school administrator, I cannot imagine the worry students, parents of any student, teachers and staff at a school may have as they attend school for an education or are at their workplace. The majority of the country’s population is not asking for there to be no guns, but instead to keep the military-style guns out of the general population. Some hecklers along the march did stand on the side yelling they want their guns. Does it need to be a high-powered rifle, no. Does it need to be one with large magazines, no. Are you mentally-fit to possess a gun? Are you old enough to have a gun? We have regulations for so many things, yet not so for gun safety. Others will state there are plenty of regulations; however, the loopholes and availability of military-use weapons is not what the ordinary person truly needs. And besides, as long as there are shootings, then the gun issue needs to be looked at so we have less shootings. People can then go to the theater, school, concert, or church and not have a fear of “Am I next?”. Let your Congress and Senate representatives know how you feel about gun violence…and tell them, “Enough is enough!”

Teachers need to teach!

Choose life!

Tucson March for Lives

Tucson Rodeo Days…Have You Stopped By?

Tucson Arizona is a destination for many people in February and a perfect time for the weeklong Tucson Rodeo Days. On the first Sunday, I planned to attend the rodeo. With dark clouds all around, I checked to see if the rodeo ever cancels … nope! So off I went with friends and we watched the various junior and professional riders, while we also saw rain falling in the distance. Amazingly, it did not rain on the rodeo. I was glad because I could watch the bronco-riding pros hold on to their horse for eight-seconds!  It may seem a short amount of time, yet it is not when you are watching these riders bouncing around in the air! Many times I found myself holding my breath till they were off the horse.

I also attended the parade which is a time when the community comes out to enjoy the sunshine, food, bands, and floats representing area restaurants, organizations, etc. People line the road with their chairs, snacks, water, blankets for those in the shade, cowboy hats for those in the sun, and energetic applause as different parade participants walk by. All is non-motorized so you see plenty of horses.

Lasso work!
Lasso work!

Beautiful horses.

All branches of the military.
All branches of the military.

Floats with characters.
Floats with characters.

Cowboy hats and boots sold here!
Cowboy hats and boots sold here!

Women’s March in Tucson, AZ

It’s been a long time since I have marched for a cause, but the latest political climate prompted me to march in Tucson, Arizona. Short of 15,000 people marched the streets here with varying messages on signs and people leading loud chants. It was wonderful to see so many marches also around the nation and world! But today was only a first step in sending a message to all our state and national representatives and senators, cabinet members, Vice President and President. 
It is time also to read petitions and sign those you can support. Check into this site: http://petitions.whitehouse.gov/ and stay involved! 

Today was a start of a possible new normal with more marches needed, along with phone calls to appropriate leaders not doing their job for us, citizens of America! We cannot standby and do nothing; choose one issue you care about and be sure it really is being handled as you want. And if it is not, then get involved too! We all need to do our part, even if a small part! All of us together makes us stronger.

March on all! Do your part!