How Is Your Toilet Waste Related to SHARP?

You flush your toilet a few times a day, but do you really know what happens then to the liquid and solid waste? If you are on a city sewer system, all eventually moves through a system of pipes in your area to a wastewater treatment plant. (Or you may have your own septic tank on your own property.) The waste in the sewer system undergoes several stages of treatment with the liquid portion prepared for discharge into the environment. This is referred to as reclaimed water. Around the world, we all need water; it is essential for our survival! Instead of losing waste water, it is important to have reclaimed water for a next step in the process.

After the waste water treatment what happens? The reclaimed water is filled into recharge basins at locations, such as at SHARP: Southeast Houghton Area Recharge Project in Tucson Arizona. Here there are 3 recharge basins covering a huge portion of 40 acres of land. The reclaimed water seeps to an aquifer about 350 deep so we keep our aquifer available to us for our future water needs. This waste water treatment plant with its recharge basins is crucial in processing at maximum capacity 1.3 billion gallons of water per year. Water is essential and this process is crucial for all of us living here.

SHARP, a Tucson Water and City of Tucson waste water treatment project, has landscaped around the recharge basins with walking and mountain biking trails, three ramadas, some benches and a restroom. With water eventually in the recharge basins and the newly planted 1500 plants more fully grown, including 500 trees, it will be attractive to birds. Birds will love the water in the recharge basins, the seeds from trees and plants, and a safe environment to stay and/or migrate through. Of course, bird watchers/lovers look forward to this area developing just as another recharge project on the other side of the city, Sweetwater Wetlands, is enjoyed as a birding hotspot.

I decided to visit the SHARP location now to document the newly created landscape of recharge basins, plantings, and trails so I could look back on it all someday as more birds and people visit. It was quiet this cloudy afternoon, however, one family was there with their child riding a bicycle as I walked around to take photographs. I saw a Say’s phoebe and male house finch also. Knowing my household waste is being treated and recycled is important to me and I look forward to SHARP being a future birding hotspot too!

Here are photos I will use to compare plant growth, etc in future years. I kept mountain ranges in the background so I would know how to line up a photo in the future. It’s not that picturesque yet, but it is a start!

SHARP is on the north side of Fantasy Island, an established mountain biking trail system which has been encroached upon for home construction and SHARP. I noticed dirt paths for mountain biking within SHARP and there seems to be an effort to connect SHARP with Fantasy Island. In time I think it may be more easily realized.

This sign is not clear to me. Maybe it means, if you walk your bicycle then walk in the same direction as the walkers? I look forward to spending more time here as it is closer to my home than Sweetwater Wetlands, which I love, but on the other side of the city. Anyway, the project is truly important! Know good things are happening when you flush your toilet!

Sam Lena Recreation Area, Tucson

The Kino Sports Complex is huge when you consider the north and south side, but today I am only focusing on Sam Lena Park which is part of the north complex. Sam Lena was a longtime politician, member of the Pima County Board of Supervisors, served twice in AZ House and four terms in the State Senate. As a supporter of parks and recreation, the park was named in Sam Lena’s honor (1921-1996) along with a Sam Lena – South Tucson Library which he advocated for many years.

I was visiting the park to see what birds might be around since the last time I was here was about a year ago when I first began birding and had a birding workshop here. While walking a small part of the park, I noticed ramadas, fitness/1 mile walking trail, softball fields and had to keep an eye open as some played disc golf around me and where I was also watching a few birds.

I saw a number of birds:

Gray flycatcher
Greater yellowlegs
Ring-necked duck
Northern shoveler
Great blue heron

If it wasn’t for the pandemic we are currently experiencing, this park would be very busy with people. Almost everyone I saw today was wearing a facial mask and many were visiting with me to ask what birds I was seeing and asking about my camera equipment. I like those teachable moments and it seemed all were wanting some conversation! The disc golfers even showed me their discs! I am not sure I will ever play that game as I can only envision losing the disc just like I lose golf balls! Who knows, someday maybe I will give it a try. I can always use another new activity in my life!

Sorry to tell them they have a spelling error on the “disc” golf.

Bike Church in Tucson, AZ

Dependent on where you live in the US, there are signs: “Share the road”, Bicycles may use full lane”, “Motorists must allow at least 4 feet” between car and bicyclist, and “3 feet minimum to pass bicycles”. The bottomline is we all need to watch out for bicyclists as we also should for motorcyclists! When we drive a motor vehicle it is important to not be distracted, but instead, be aware of all that is happening on the road so everyone is safe.

In 2009 a metal sculpture, the Bike Church, was constructed from recycled bike parts; in 2014 a park was created around it. It is a permanent memorial to fallen cyclists. The sculpture has stained glass such as in a church, a top similar to Islamic temples, 2 Stars of David and a mold of a Pascua Yaqui dancer. You can walk within the sculpture for a closer look at its chimes, stained glass, various bicycle parts, and “in memory of” brick pavers. I have not seen the sculpture at night when it is lit up, but I can imagine with the stained glass it is amazing.

Bike Church in Tucson

Reid Park …

So many people and so many birds are hanging out at Reid Park in Tucson, Arizona. No one is on the baseball fields near by, everyone is at one of two ponds … feeding the ducks, despite signs saying not to feed them! Scurrying around on the ground eating some berries were yellow-dumped warblers.

A quick look into the trees and way on top I see a Cassin’s kingbird … new bird for me!

Many, many mallard ducks, American wigeons, geese and ring-necked ducks in the pond while some comfortably go about their business at the pond’s edge, such as the great egret. Others, neotropic cormorant and black-crowned night heron, sit and watch all that is happening around them and are not bothered by the ruckus. Yet the egret does fly up into a tree and the heron moves itself to sit on a BBQ grill!

While the mallards and other ducks fly to another side of the pond, as this American wigeon is doing, when another handout of bread is about to happen! It seems there is no enforcement of the rule on the sign.

Here the great egret lands at the tree and the black-crowned night heron is at the BBQ grill. When you spend time with birds you see how smart they are!

Sabino Canyon Recreation Area

In the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains and within the Coronado National Forest, you’ll discover Sabino Canyon’s numerous trails which reopened 3 months ago. The Bighorn wildfire burned thousands of acres north of the canyon causing the area’s closure. Many of us are now walking or running the trails or riding the emission-free tram which operates on a paved road. While hiking along, you’ll see some ramadas with tables for picnic time, saguaro cacti and riparian areas, canyons and mountainsides.

Check the park rules to know when bicycling is allowed, be aware dogs are not allowed, and understand wildlife live within or walk through the area. Always carry plenty of water and know where you are in the park since trails are numerous.

Since the Bighorn fire, there are a couple of new fences and gates erected quite possibly to restrict trail access, if needed in the future. Whether it be another fire or monsoon activity, not a bad idea to keep everyone safe since few check local weather or know of hazards as often as we should when thinking to explore an area.

During the pandemic, the majority of hikers are wearing facial masks and/or keeping physically distant while hiking the trails. I have not been near the visitor center so I can only hope safety protocols are followed there too. It is a beautiful place to hike with your family or partner, so I hope to see you on the trail!

Rio Vista Natural Resources Park, Tucson, Arizona

What to do with a former horse ranch near a bike path in Tucson, Arizona? Forty acres of land has provided an equestrian trail, bicycle and walking trails within and to the bicycle “loop”, along with sitting places and picnic areas at ramadas. There is also a playground with a children’s climbing wall, dog area and a Compassion Garden. The Compassion Garden is a place for people to seek solace in nature as they grieve a loss.

A gneiss (pronounced “nice”) bench is nearby to sit on, with a plaque explaining its origins … love humor in the least likely places! It was formed during uplift of the Santa Catalina Mountains from 1.4 billion years old black Oracle granite and 50 million years old white Wilderness Suite granite through high temperatures and pressures to a recrystallized gneiss, an artist sculpted it, and now here as a bench; nice!

I recently discovered this park while looking for birding places. Various trails cut through the land with the City of Tucson Parks Department making a concerted effort to close off trails to slow down erosion of the land. Other signs encourage visitors to not feed animals, stay on main trails and to watch out for coyotes and bobcats. No doubt in my mind, the coyotes I see walking across the nearby wash do use this park as a pathway since neighborhoods are all around the park.

Lots and lots of sparrows! I identified most as white-crowned sparrows, along with phainopepla and house finches. The male house finch seemed to pose for me so I did spend time with him.

I was walking to leave the park when I saw a hawk-like bird on a cement wall. I quickly took a photo, but it then flew off into a bush after something and over my head to another area. This sharp-shinned hawk was to fast for me to capture him in anything but his sitting on the wall!

People can drive and park their car, ride their horse through, or walk in from the neighborhood or bike path, so it is an easily accessible park. I nice place for all to take a break from whatever we wish!

Cyclists & Pedestrians Counted!

It’s an interesting piece of equipment on the bicycle loop in Tucson. It records the number of cyclists and pedestrians, which would include roller-bladers, joggers, runners, along with walkers all passing the counter each day and provides totals for the year. This is definitely one of the busier spots where people are on the loop. Kudos to all using this multi-use path! (You may even see some wildlife while out there. I bet the roadrunner wished to be counted!)

Chuck Ford Lakeside Park, Tucson, AZ

I stopped by to visit another city park in Tucson, AZ. Here in the desert one does not often see water, but this lake supports bass and catfish so anyone who fishes is happy. I was here to do some bird watching. Between all the trees and shoreline there were birds to be seen. Excessive noise is prohibited so it really is a quiet park.

Plenty of wildlife seen: Black crowned night heron, roadrunner, tricolored heron, cooper’s hawks – actually 3 of them, many mallards and hummingbirds and plenty of other birds, and turtles.

The following is not a good photo, but it is the first time I have ever seen a hawk pull its tail feathers up! There were three Cooper’s hawks in the tree. It was a very hot day, 100+ degrees Fahrenheit. They were hiding and I guess I got to close!?! They had wonderful shade and thus the photo is grainy.

Cooper’s hawk with tail feathers up!

The park has plenty of places for people to sit and relax, plus a playground, ball park, and activity court with various games.

Funniest looking bird was hanging out with the mallards. I really cannot explain its look.

Another park for me to check out during the various seasons!

Bungalow Relocation in Tucson?

Few times do I drive Broadway Boulevard to downtown Tucson; however, recently I did, noticed construction equipment and a “Historic Bungalow Relocation” sign. I stopped to take some photos, talked with a couple of people in the area, and returned home to research the project.

According to the sign, “moving seven Rincon Heights historic district contributing structures ahead of the Broadway widening project”. The homes were moved off their current foundation and onto concrete slabs to be part of a future retail center.

These buildings date back to the 1930’s and other demolished buildings are from WWII till 1975. Much money has gone into buying and demolishing buildings for this project. City planners first discussed Broadway in the 1980’s with a possible 8 lanes, but the project was not approved till the 2006 voters decided four lanes would become 6 lanes. The project’s goal is to take buildings viewed as assets and convert them to community value. Future merchants and planners are in those discussion stages.

I wondered about “The Sunshine Mile”. In 1953 there was a contest to name the strip between Campbell Road and Country Club Road. Of the 5,000 entries, the winner to name the strip was “The Sunshine Mile”. In 2012, added on was Euclid Road to Country Club Road and all on the list of endangered historic places.

May 26, 2020, the Sunshine Mile District is officially on the National Register of Historic Places. I look forward to seeing what happens in this area in the upcoming years.

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!