Pima County Master Naturalists Support the 2022 Southeast Arizona Birding Festival

By: Franklin Lane

The annual SE Arizona Birding Festival, sponsored by the Tucson Audubon Society (a PCMN Partner Organization), was held from August 10-14 this year. The Pima County Chapter has traditionally staffed an education and recruitment table in the main ballroom of the Doubletree Hotel along with vendors and other natural science, outreach organizations. This year’s event organizer Kathe Sudano (C3) increased Chapter participation by arranging two field excursions led by Master Naturalists. On Thursday, Chapter President- Elect Melissa Fratello (C5) and Franklin Lane (C1) led a group of Festival attendees on a Desert Discovery Hike in Sabino Canyon. On Friday, Karen Vandergrift (C3) and Franklin led a Sky Island Discovery Drive/Hike up Mt Lemmon. Details and pictures are below. According to Kathe, the Chapter’s increased footprint this year really helped to “put us on the map.”

Photo: Kathe Sudano, Kathy Altman (C5), Vicki Ettleman (C3) and Sharon Overstreet (C2)

Volunteers over the long weekend also included Chapter President Jan Schwartz (C4), Dana Hook (C6), Peggy Ollerhead (C3), Kathy Mclin (C3), Carol Anderson (C1), Marcia Lambert (C5), Penny Miller (C2) and Jane Davenport (C1). These Chapter Members spoke directly with (169) Festival attendees and responded to (14) serious requests for information about the Chapter’s next class in 2023 (C7). This year’s tabling effort was particularly challenging because the Chapter was simultaneously supporting ‘Critter Night’ at The Mission Gardens. This overlap required additional exhibitry and volunteers. These outreach opportunities are fun and an easy way to acquire service hours. They also allow members from different cohorts to get to know one another. Everyone should consider responding to the next ‘call for volunteers’ from the Outreach Committee. The Committee itself can also use additional help. Note, you do not have to be a Board Member to participate on any Chapter committee. Contact Kathe Sudano or Peggy Ollerhead if interested. The Communications Committee (Josh Skattum C3) and Advanced Training (Penny Miller) are also looking for volunteers. Contact directly or through the Board of Directors: board-pimamn@azmasternaturalist.org

Melissa and Franklin met (5) Festival participants at the Bear Canyon Trailhead at 0600 on Thursday 8/11. A total of eight, the maximum, had signed up but the monsoon weather may have scared a few off. The morning was indeed threatening but paid off with great cloud cover throughout the excursion. Hikers were from as far away as Cincinnati, Ohio. In addition to being introduced to the overall ecology of the Sonoran Desert, Melissa was able to identify (24) different taxa for the birders.

Sabino Species list

9 White-winged Doves, 3 Purple Martins, 4 Mourning Doves, 1 Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, 3 Greater Roadrunners, 1 Rock Wren, 4 Anna’s Hummingbirds, 5 Cactus Wrens, 1 Broad-billed Hummingbird 2 Curve-billed Thrashers, 1 Turkey Vulture, 1 House Finch, 1 Red-tailed Hawk, 1 Lesser Goldfinch, 2 Gila Woodpeckers, 3 Rufous-winged Sparrows, 4 Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, 7 Black-throated Sparrows
1 Pacific-slope Flycatcher, 1 Abert’s Towhee, 1 Bell’s Vireo, 2 Yellow Warblers, 13 Verdins, 2 Pyrrhuloxias

The 2.7-mile hike included an introduction on the Bajada Loop Nature Trail then out the Esperero Trail. Dropping down the Bluff Trail to Sabino Creek, the hikers were truly amazed by the transition from Desert Scrub to the Riparian Biome. With the erosive effect of the recent strong rains, Sabino Creek flowed like chocolate milk.

Sabino Dam was impressive!

On Friday 8/12 participants were met at the Doubletree at 5:30 am for the Sky Island trip. The Festival organizers provided a van and snacks. There were (7) birders on this trip from Seattle, San Francisco, Florida, and a couple of locals. They first received an overview of area geology and Sky Island biomes at Babad Doag. Next stop was Windy Point and then a great visual appreciation of the ‘Basin and Range Geological Province’ at San Pedro Overlook. Catalinas, Galiuros, Pinalenos… Interestingly, the most rewarding birding opportunity was near the parking lot next to the Lemmon Trailhead. Unfortunately, just short of halfway through the planned hike (Lemmon Loop) some scary weather closed in, and the group was moved at ‘faster than birder speed’ back to the van. Heavy rain and hail blasted the drive down from Summer Haven to about Rose Canyon Lake. To compensate for the lost opportunity Karen suggested a stop at Molino Basin. The following is a list of what she was able to help identify for the participants.

Stop 1, Babad Do’ag. Species List

3 Mourning Doves, 1 humming bird species, 2 Gila Monsters, 1 Verdin, 2 Cactus Wrens, 3 Black Footed Sparrows, 1 Rufous-Crowned Sparrow, 2 Spotted Towhees.

Stop 2, Windy Point. Species List

1 Cassin’s/Western Kingbird, 1 Mexican Jay, 1 Spotted Towhee.

Stop 3, Mount Lemmon Trail Species List

1 white-throated swift, 2 broad-tailed humming-birds, 1 red-tailed hawk, 1 hairy woodpecker, 1 northern flicker (red shafted), 2 cordilean fly catchers, 1 warbling verio, 1 stellar jay, 2 common ravens, 6 mountain chickadees, 2 red-breasted nuthatches, 3 white breasted nuthatches, 10 pygmy nuthatches, 2 american robins, 2 lesser goldfinches, 11 yellow-eyed junco, 2 spotted towhees, 1 grace’s warbler, 1 black-throated gray warbler, 2 townsend’s warblers, 4 hermit warbler, 3 red-faced warblers

Stop 4, Molina Basin Species List

1 Anna’s hummingbird, 1 Woodhouse’s scrub jay
2 House finches, 2 Canyon towheees, 2 Abert’s towhees, 1 Hooded Oriole

Both Melissa and Karen have been able to share these lists with the Birders.

Coralbells (Heuchera sanguinea) on the Lemmon Trail before the storm!

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