By Kathy Mclin: I spent an incredible day in nature at the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, Empire Ranch, along with friends and fellow Master Naturalists, Peggy Ollerhead (C3) and Debbie Petrich (C1). We took off at 6am and before 7 we arrived on the property. The meadows were lush with the songs of botteri sparrows and kingbirds. The biggest Red-tailed Hawk I’ve ever seen greeted us at the Ranch entrance. Unfortunately a car in a hurry, roared by my stopped car before we could take a photo.Can you believe it! I forgot my camera at home. Had all the lenses and my camera bag but no camera. We dined in a riparian glen where water from a recent monsoon rain left streams full of succulent water cress and a large patch of mint. I packed salads for our lunch which I garnished with fresh water cress.In the parking area were canid tracks and all around our dining area were ‘cat’ and deer tracks. Not more than 12 hours old by the looks of them. The temperature was between 75 and 85 degrees all morning, absolutely perfect! And in the puddles of the parking area there were tiny tadpoles swimming around. Perhaps little leopard frogs to be if the grow really fast!And, we visited a blacktail prairie dog colony! I love these vocal and endearing little dogs! Update: some of the tadpoles looked like little horseshoe crabs and, after research, we discovered they were tadpole shrimp. Check this blog post for an update on the tadpoles. – Submitted by Kathy Mclin (C3)
@Addendum from Deb Petrich (C1): Thanks to Luke Safford from the Tucson Audubon Society for putting this spot on our map for birding in his July webinar. For you birders out there, here’s a list of some of our observations: Botteri Sparrows, various Vlycatchers (Vermillion, Black and Say’s Phoebe, Brown Crested), Kestrels, Prairie Falcons, Red Tails, Swainson’s and Gray Hawks, Killdeer, Summer Tanagers, Black Throated Sparrows, Cassin and Western Kingbirds, Lark Sparrows, Black Headed and Blue Grosbeaks, Northern Flickers, Orioles, Loggerhead Shrikes, Gila Woodpeckers and a Wild Turkey to name a few.. White tailed deer and a family of Pronghorn were also spotted.