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?

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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!

Master Naturalists in the Field: Wild Burro Trail Hike

Pima County Chapter Master Naturalists
Skills-Based Advanced Training
Wild Burro Trail Hike
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!


Along a low and shaded area of the trail, we stopped short to see a large Gila Monster moving along through the brush. Wow! This was my first view of a Gila in the wild, and it was just one of so many highlights on this hike.

The day warmed as we headed back toward the trailhead. Paul promised one more surprise – and we were not disappointed! Most of us are familiar with crested (or cristate) Saguaros, and perhaps a Barrel Cactus with an unusual top. But none of us had ever seen a Crested Cholla! There is still debate on what causes these unusual features (virus? genetics), but regardless of the cause, they are always a wonderful sight.

When we reached the last junction in the wash, a few hikers headed toward their cars, and the rest of us accompanied Paul for more petroglyph views. He led us on a short path behind the hotel, to a paved area below a hillside covered in boulders. A number of petroglyphs were easily viewed from there.

The group learned 3 facts on the hike (and lots of other cool stuff too!).
* Curve billed thrashers and cactus wrens like to nest in cholla cactus, but the trashers break off the spines to create a “sticker-free” environment for their young.
* Staghorn cholla has fruit without spines (remember the “s” in staghorn also starts the word “smooth).
* Buckhorn cholla has spines, thus causing a horse to “buck” if you put it under the saddle (from Paul Stillman).

The following is a list of wildflowers the group was able to ID. Thanks Paul for this list.
Brittlebush
Chuparosa
Creosote bush
Fairy duster
Desert chicory
Arizona jewel flower (twist flower)
Chia
Bigelow ragged rock flower
Mexican gold poppy
Blue dicks – wild hyacinth
Desert honeysuckle
Slender evening primrose (California suncup)
Desert anemone
Bajada lupine
Gooding’s verbena
Desert wishbone bush
Trixis (American threefold)
Parry false prairie clover
Rattlesnake weed
Desert marigold
Desert rock pea
London rocket
Globe mallow – including a gorgeous lavender variety

Tracks and Scat April 16, 2022

Who doesn’t wonder what animal made the tracks we sometimes see on hikes, or even in our own yards? And who hasn’t wondered what kind of scat we “tripped” over. 

On April 16, 2022 Cohort 6 had a special lab at Cienega Creekled by Master Naturalists Hank Harlowe, PhD, Michelle Kostuk, and supported by Master Naturalist Deb Petrich and AlexWolfe, Environmental Program Specialist with PCNRPR. We had 8 students: Diane, Francesca, Chris, Trinity, Carly, John, Izetta, and Kim; and tracks and scat were the order of the morning. Hank and Michelle set up ahead of time and greeted the group at the side of the (dry) creek. Big shout out to Deb Petrich for pulling it all together, and to Alex Wolfe for their contribution.

We started by naming the possible critters who lived in this area and what families they were in; deer, javelina, skunks, bobcat, ringtail, mountain lion, coyote, fox, bear, turkey, and vulture were some of the animals discussed. Hank and Michelle showed the tracks of most of these critters, some prepared tracks and some they came upon naturally. It’s actually a complicated process to analyze tracks! A full analysis will tell a story. Was the animal sauntering along, running from danger, on a missionto get someplace, or maybe stalking prey?

Students were then shown how to cast molds of tracks using paper mâché, salt, and water.  Once the solution was added to the tracks, we started off down the trail to search out the real tracks and the real scat, as the molds dried.

Some mentioned how excited kids were to talk about poop. From my observation kids aren’t the only ones! Hank brought along bags full of different scat so we could compare and contrast each animal’s poop, including cow and horse because they too occasionally roam the area. An animal’s diet is a big factor in identifying scat, as are shape and form. We think we saw fox, bobcat and coyote scat on the trail. Figuring out scat seemed a little easier than tracks and it was certainly easier to see! 

It was a perfect southern Arizona day with a breeze, a hazy sky, and the beautiful shade of the cottonwoods. And we learned a lot thanks to the generosity of our knowledgeable Master Naturalist instructors!

It must be Spring…. Vultures are back!

Blogpost written by PCMN: Kathleen McLin

Black and Turkey Vultures may strike fear into some individuals but to me they are unique, fascinating birds.

Their scientific name Cathartes aura is Latin for “ cleansing breeze”. Their bald head prevents carrion from sticking and rotting as they dig into carcasses. Strong internal enzymes destroy bacteria from the rotting meat they eat to keep them healthy. These birds do not have talons like Raptors. Their feet are more like that of a chicken. They use their strong well developed beaks to tear at hide and meat.

Turkey Vultures have a highly developed sense of smell and can locate a dead animal in as little as 12 hours after death and up to a mile away. Black Vultures lack this keen ability and fly higher than their lower flying Turkey Vulture cousins to locate a meal. Both have 2 nostrils that are large and open so it is possible to see right thru them. If a piece of meat gets lodged in the cavity it can be removed by a talon.

A large number of these birds is called a kettle. Both species may share a meal but it is the larger Turkey Vulture who eats first.

Vultures can hiss or grunt but have no other vocalizations as they have no voice box. We receive injured, both Turkey and Black Vultures at the Tucson Wildlife Center from time to time. Upon arrival I very much look forward to helping with their recovery. Holding one, seeing it so close up is a memorable experience.

They weigh only 2 to 4 lbs. with a wing spread of up to 6 feet. Freaky amazing!