Comes the Monsoon

Blogpost written by PCMN Kathy McLin and Joshua Skattum, Cohort 3

Comes the Monsoon

“Comes the monsoon
Whose arrival is announced by nature’s percussion, with
Deep drum rolls and cymbal clashes, grey sky and lightening shows.

A welcomed performance, one of pure life. Anointing the land, hastening the flow of rivers and streams. Filling ponds and pools and seeping in to the earth from which seeds and roots issue flowers and trees, all the green things that nourish body and soul.

PURE LIFE…..where creation begins and fulfills its part in the circle of life.  Drink in that which is given to sustain and reawaken, to nurture and grow, to heal and caress this land, our home.

Comes the Monsoon, comes New Life.”

Kathy Carterr McLin
7/22/2019

Receiving only 3 to 15 inches of rain per year, the Sonoran Desert is amongst some of our most dry and arid landscapes on our planet. When visualizing this region, many picture it as a desolate space. And yet every summer Arizonans look to the sky and recognize a transition of seasons and a burst of precipitation. We become mesmerized and inspired and enjoy a new season setting in, monsoon season.

The word Monsoon comes from the Arabic word mausim, meaning “seasonal”. It describes the system of winds that change through out the year, bringing in wet and dry periods. This process is fueled by the Sea of Cortez, creating a biseasonal precipatory system delivering dynamic bursts of summer rainfall and slow long winter rain. As plants and animals have adapted to the dry and hot months of May and June, they relish for the anticipated rain. A burst of life is observed.

The Arizona Upland subdivision of the Sonoran Desert is our wettest desert region. A stark comparison to Yuma, one of the driest places on Earth, averaging only 3 inches of rain each year. The past three years we’ve experienced how rainfall in the desert is unpredictable. Plants and animals here have adapted to wait, reserving energy for when resources are most available to procreate. In 2020 we experienced a drought, receiving only 1.62” of rain for the entire summer monsoon season. This was followed by one of the wettest July’s on record, bringing in over 12 inches of rain for the 2021 July season. According to the National Weather Service, June 2022 has been the 5th warmest and 38th wettest monsoon season. You can also track our current 2022 monsoon reports via the NOA website!

Resources/References

https://www.wrh.noaa.gov/twc/monsoon/monsoon.php

https://www.wrh.noaa.gov/twc/monsoon/rainfall.php

Phillips, Steven J., et al. A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Press, 2015.

Using smart phone applications as a learning tool while hiking

Blogpost written by PCMN Josh Skattum, Cohort 3.

Have you ever came across an unfamiliar plant, fungi, or animal and just became engaged with interest and wonder? You might ask yourself what that biota might be? Maybe you’ve heard a bird song or a frog call and wished an expert could help identify that particular species. As part of a community of Master Naturalists, we seek learning opportunities through volunteer work and advanced training due to our interest and passion for the outdoors. Many of our members seek volunteer leadership roles with non-profits, becoming immersed within settings where we are able to advance our knowledge and skills. What if I wrote that there are more resources that at your fingertips, through your hand-held device, such as a smart phone!

As an avid hiker and a community science volunteer, I find myself continuing to find plants and animals that are just completely unknown to me! It’s exciting and fascinating! During my hikes I have came across applications that have assisted me with not only identifying the unknown, but also provided me with information on the said species at hand.

For this blog I am touching on three applications including Seek, Inaturalist, and Merlin birding app! I’ll also be sharing some fun observations while sharing some of my own thoughts and experiences!

Seek and inaturalist basically go hand in hand, but are two separate applications that you can download. What I love about seek is that you can take photos of the biota in front of you and watch the algorithms narrow in on that said species. When you identify the discovery that you have, you have an option to open up a Wikipedia page listing their natural history! As you identify more plants and animals you also collect fun little badges!

Seek also can sink with your inaturalist account contributing your observations into an online database of information! This can be great for troubleshooting for more difficult observations. Sometimes your photos might not register making it difficult to identify. That’s when inaturalist can become even more helpful! Inaturalist has a community of professionals with expertise and they are here to help you narrow in on your findings! You can also upload photos after taking them with your smart phone. This is a nice feature in case you don’t have time or the ability for an in person seek ID. Many smart phone photos contain meta-data including the date, location, and time in which your photos were taken. This information can help professionals narrow in on the species at hand while also providing important information about your sighting!

I will be honest that I am not much of a birder at all and using the Merlin Birding ID app has been a fun experience as I ease into this hobby! I love being able to identify and learn about a new species while observing it. My favorite feature of this app so far is using the sound ID. All I have to do is hit a button and watch birds while letting my phone share with me the acoustics that it is picking up on! I believe that this app also sinks with ebird and will create a “life list”.

One tip that was given to me was to also get a visual confirmation while doing the acoustic ID. My last outing I even took a camera out to back up my observations. So far my favorite experience was using Merlin ID to identify a cooper hawk calling. The following day I visited to take photos of the birds that I had ID’d acoustically and I learned that there were actually 3 cooper hawks nesting along a stream by Lower Sabina Dam!

While using these programs on my phone, I have been able to identify and learn about the plants and wildlife in my surroundings wherever I go! I also get to help contribute to science! The Merlin birding app contributes to the ebird data-base. You can learn more about the research and conservation applications via this link here! Inaturalist also share’s their findings with scientific data repositories allowing scientists find and use your discoveries for research! You can learn more via a link here!

Sonoran Musings

Blogpost written by PCMN Kathe Mclin, Cohort 3

Like a baby bird
My nest, made of Rincon, Catalina and Tucson
The mountains that surround me.
Big eyed, mouth agape
Hungry for more of the
Sights and sounds that
Cause my curiosity to blossom.

My new home, awakening my inner spirit, causing it to soar.
Prickly, sandy, hot and dry, alive with color so intense, can a cloudless sky be this blue? 

Cactus in grays and greens, browns and reds, with flowers and fruits beckoning  desert flocks to come, partake, nourish and spread new life.

Whirs and coos and buzzing, whistles, trills, clacking and clicking. Stepping outside my nest a quail raises his voice sounding like a crowd doing the wave at a sports event.
All that attention just for me?
I am where I should be.
This is home.

Kathy’s Nature Collective

Blogpost written by PCMN Kathy Mclin, Cohort 3.

“Kathy’s Nature Collective: a new series of photos from Kathy McLin (Cohort 3) showcasing her weekly or monthly nature travels throughout Southern Arizona.”

Armed with a sense of wonder a camera and no preconceived notion as to what Tucson might offer other than desert, mountains and heat, my husband, brother-in-law and miscellaneous fur children retired here 5 years ago in May. Within 3 months I found the volunteer opportunity of my dreams, caring for, rescuing and releasing wild animals for Tucson Wildlife Rescue. The enormous pleasure I get working closely with animals of all kinds enriches my soul, and recharges my spirit like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. It has brought me into close contact with many wonderful naturalists, scientists, veterinarians, teachers and organizations who so generously give of their knowledge and skills as I add to mine. It ultimately lead me to a table at the Southwest Audubon Birding Expo where I learned about volunteer opportunities at PIMA County Parks and Recreation and the Arizona Master Naturalist program.

Members of Cohort 3 know me for always having my camera with me. Everything I see is a potential photo opportunity or possible blog post so as of today, at the request of the Communication Committee,

Kathy’s Nature Collective is born.

There is so much diversity of bird life here, native and migratory that it boggles my mind. So, I offer you a quiz. Name the bird and is it a Resident or Migratory?

June collective – Quiz, can you name/identify the bird and if it is a resident or migratory in the Sonoran Desert?

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.

1. Red Shafted Northern Flicker – Resident

2. Ferruginous Hawk – Migratory

3. Sandhills Crane – Migratory

4. Cactus wren- Resident

5. Black Hawk – Migratory

6. Red-tailed Hawk – Resident

7. Rivoli’s / magnificent hummingbird – Migratory

8. Green-tailed towhee- Migratory

9. White winged Dove – Migratory

10. Greater Roadrunner – Resident

11. Screech Owl – Resident

Master Naturalists Learn about Desert Tortoise Adoption

15 master naturalists from multiple chapters attended a special MN/ AZ Game and Fish webinar on how to create a desert tortoise habitat and adopt one. 12 people attended a follow-up meeting at Penny Miller’s house to meet her adopted tortoise Shelly and learn about habitat construction and the care of tortoises. Each year, AZGF has more than 300 non-releasable tortoises that must be placed in private hands. Adult tortoises need 130 sq ft, juveniles need an 8’ x 8’ space, and hatchlings need 4’ x 4’ enclosures. All sizes of tortoises are currently available. To apply, go to AZGF ‘s website at or apply through the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum to learn the requirements; these are easy animals to care for! They are brumating (hibernating) for over 100 days each year. They are gentle, engaging education animals for Master Naturalists, and they are a “keystone” species whose burrows create homes or fire shelter for many other species. Those who missed it can contact Penny at pmiller451@aol.com for the recorded webinar link and class handouts. Let’s get these tortoises some forever homes! For more adoption application: Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum Adoption site https://www.desertmuseum.org/programs/tap.php or Arizona Game and Fish desert tortoise site: https://www.azgfd.com/wildlife/nongamemanagement/tortoise/captivecare/

June 2022 PCMN Membership Gathering

By Franklin Lane

The Pima County Chapter bylaws only require bi-monthly meetings of the Board of Directors (BOD). Since the BOD has, by practice, been meeting every month it was decided earlier this year to dedicate occasional ‘second Monday of the month’ to less formal membership events.

The first of these gatherings was held at the home of Kathe Sudano (C3) on Monday, June 13th.  Thank you, Kathe, for opening your home for this simple potluck/BYOB event.  It was an opportunity for members to socialize and get to know their Board of Directors.  It also gave the Chapter President, Jan Schwartz (C4), the chance to introduce and celebrate the recent graduates of Cohort 6.

Including a quorum of the BOD, about twenty-five Chapter members attended. Certificates of course completion 2022 were handed out and then teams from C6 presented their ideas for new Chapter initiatives. Among the ideas were recommendations for a natural science book lending program and ways to increase both Chapter outreach and diversity. The energy of Cohort 6 was exciting to sense.

A vote was taken, and the project presented by Chris Robey and Dana Hook (pictured above) was selected for the Chapter to pursue. Chris and Dana, representing their entire C6 team of ‘Wild Sonoran Women’ (+ Francesca Ziemba & Kristen Sawyer) suggested a collaboration with Tucson Clean and Beautiful (TCB). This partnership would work for more equitable climate justice by identifying urban areas in Tucson (neighborhoods) in need of ‘greening.’ Abundant research has shown that the simple planting of trees and shrubs can significantly offset the effects of the urban heat island effect. Dana Hook has agreed to chair an ad hoc committee to get the project moving. Members interested in helping can reach Dana through any member of the BOD. More info to follow.

Additional random photos of the evening are below.

Kim Girard receives her course completion certificate from the Chapter President as
Penny Miller (C2) and Kim Stone (C3) look on. Rare photographic proof of a surviving member of Cohort 1 was captured of Carol Anderson in the background.
Carly Pierson proudly displays her certificate. Seen with Carly are (L to R) Kathe Sudano, Izetta Feeny (C6) and Olivia Carey (C3).
Threes additional chapter members; Trinity Walsh (L) and Angela Seidler present their team’s project on a lending library. Linda Doughty (seated).

In addition to completing the 2022 course work, the following members of C6 have already received their initial MN certification based on service hours and advanced training.

Linda Doughty

Kim Girard

Dana Hook

Trinity Walsh

Richard Linsenberg

Jean looney is also re-certified for 2022.

Finally, it’s not too early to start considering participation in in a Chapter leadership position. During the December 2022 annual membership meeting we’ll want to select for a President-elect for 2024, a new Treasurer and Secretary. Also numerous Board members will reach their term limits.

“If not you, then who? If not now, then when”

Andrzej Kolikowski

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Critter Camp for Kids

Critter Camp for Kids

By Kathe Sudano,

April 5, 2022

It’s not often we in Tucson have a forecast of 100% chance of severe thunderstorms but that happened on Tuesday March 29th, 2022. Add over 50 fourth graders into that mix along with a significant drop in temperature, let them wander around the ten acres that Camp Cooper sits on at the end of Trails End Rd and it might lead some folks to change their plans for the day.

Not the fearless combination of individuals that were part of the Camp Cooper program staff and Charlotte Ackerman, Catalina Foothills Stem Integration Specialist and several other educators from Sunrise Elementary school. We learned the lengths they had gone to save the first field trip the students/parents had on their calendars in a very long time. Then, they came back and offered the same program to over 50 more students on Thursday March 31st, 2022.

Camp Cooper staff Isaac, Mariah, Brittne, Jen and Alexianne warmly greeted the students, each morning, to share the outdoor space that must be, hands down, one of the best classrooms ever! The students were all in to better understand how to protect our Sonoran Desert.

They hiked, learned about animal tracks and skulls, viewed ridgelines and imagined potential den sites for bobcats which are often found in the area around the camp. Binocular lessons and critter viewing were also part of several field stations along with creating the colors of the desert to better understand how animals rely on camouflage.

Gale Sherman, photographer from the Bobcats in Tucson Research Project explained how bobcats have generally adapted to living amongst us, especially the area around Camp Cooper. Utilizing the research data from radio collars, the team may be better able to understand how to support and manage watchable wildlife.

The Field Study Journal each student was given helped them follow along with the various sections. Several of the AZ master naturalists from Tucson who volunteered enjoyed working with the fourth graders. Trinity Walsh and Richard Linsenberg from our latest cohort (6) were on hand to assist students as they moved from each thirty-minute lesson to the next. Peggy Ollerhead (C3) and Kathe Sudano (C3) were excited to see the staff at Camp Cooper. The pandemic interrupted our initial attempts to collaborate but hopefully there will be plenty of future opportunities. Thanks ‘Ms. Ackerman’ (each eager group of students clamored to consult with her!) for the opportunity to learn alongside the students.

Ms. Ackerman had mentioned to the volunteers that the opportunity for the students to interact with master naturalists would make the day special for students, but I believe it worked both ways.

Thank you!

Master of Mimicry and More, the Marvelous Northern Mockingbird

Blogpost written by PCMN Kathleen McLin, Cohort 3

Morning, noon, and night Northern Mockingbird males serenade us and potential mates with a cache of tunes numbering more than 200. They are often the first bird you hear in the morning and the last one singing at night. They are clever mimics incorporating the songs of other birds, frogs, insects and even machinery in their repertoire. They know so many songs that you’ll hardly ever hear them repeat the same song on the same day.

Happily for us urban dwellers, the Northern Mockingbird has adapted well to city life, perching on top of telephone poles, up high in trees and sitting on fences tail cocked upward, wings dipping in a downward tilt.
Mockingbirds prefer grassy turf over bare desert sand and feed on insects in the Spring and Summer and fruits and berries in the fall and winter months.

The photos above were taken at Mary Meredith K12 where I volunteer in the Kids in Gardens Program along side Jessica Paul Master Naturalist Education and Outreach Manager with Community Gardens of Tucson. As it appeared in the corner of my eye as a flash, this Northern Mockingbird flew inside the grape arbor snd snagged a moth. It allowed me closeup access as I sought to get my camera lens around and past the mass of grape leaves it had disappeared into. This brings up another amazing fact about these birds. They are able to identify individuals and can determine friend from foe. No doubt this Mockingbird has viewed me on a number of occasions, camera slung over my shoulder, taking it’s and other pictures in the garden. Apparently it has given me a no threat okay! Of that I am very glad.

PCMN Wild Burro AT Trail Hike

Blogpost written by PCMN Kim Gerard, Cohort 6.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

On a mild and sunny morning, a small group of Pima County Chapter Master Naturalists met for an Advanced Training hike.  We explored the Wild Burro Trail in the Tortolita Mountains, which began near the Ritz Carlton at Dove Mountain in Marana.  Paul Stillman (C3) was our terrific guide, with Franklin Lane (C1) serving as an excellent tailgater.  The rest of the group included Deb Petrich (C1), Jean Boris (C2), Joan Calcagno (C2) and me, Kim Girard (C6).  After an informative intro from Paul and some shared hiking tips, we headed out.  The Wild Burro Trail began flat and sandy, and included several crossings of a dry wash.  We soon encountered the first of several petroglyphs on a large bolder lining the wash.   These petroglyphs are Hohokam, and dated to approximately 1100-1450.  We were privileged to view these historical records of early inhabitants of the area.  

Throughout the hike, Paul shared his considerable knowledge of the area – human history as well as plant/animal life, and his own adventures. We all shared hiking stories, wildlife encounters and identification of the many wildflowers we encountered along the way. We stopped for lunch and snacks in the large wash, where there was ample shade and flat boulders on which to rest.

One view of a number of petroglyph sites.

We were treated to wonderful views throughout the hike, surrounded by Saguaros and many other cactus species. The wash was lined with blooming Chuparosa in every direction, and we all remarked at how many there were and the amazing color they added to the landscape.

A boulder-strewn hillside with pops of color, mostly brittlebush.

There was a steep and rocky section of the trail, but Paul kept a moderate pace and we made frequent stops to enjoy the surroundings catch our breath.

When we reached the Alamo Springs area, we saw the remains of an old rancher cabin and a hand-dug well. There was an excellent interpretive sign that showed photos and information about some of the early, non-indigenous inhabitants of the area.

Remains of an early rancher cabin
Exterior of the hand-dug well.
Interior of the well – sure glad I didn’t drop my phone!