Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Photos by Arizona wildlife photographer and bunny wrangler, Denny Green.

Monday, June 25, 2012

An Oasis in the Desert - Singh Farm

Want to escape the valley's ever-expanding heat island without even leaving the valley?  Head over to Singh Farm, right at Thomas and the 101 freeway!  Its a magical oasis in the desert created by Ken and Lee Singh.  With enchanting paths that let you meander through their shady organic farm, you will feel like you just stepped into a fairy kingdom.  The first thing you'll hear is the chatter of Peach-faced Lovebirds, followed by the joyful chirping of Lesser Goldfinches as they happily munch away on the huge stands of sunflowers.  Everywhere you look there are enchanting views, unexpected wonders, and magical surprises.

Singh Farm is only open to the public two days a week when they set up their farmer's market, from 9 to 1 on Fridays, and 8 to 1 on Saturdays.  The farm closes the entire month of August and re-opens in September, and the hours change with the seasons, so be sure to check their Facebook page for up-to-date information.

The farm's outdoor adobe oven gets fired up each Saturday, when one of several chefs in the valley come out and create delectable dishes using fresh produce from the farm.  Last Saturday's fare featured cold watermelon soup, hand-made tortillas layered with caramelized green and new onions and squash, topped with fresh baby greens, and a side of baba ganoush.  Simple, yet decadently delicious!  They also had fresh-grilled ears of sweet corn, and fresh-squeezed lemonade.

The Singh's farmer's market sells organic produce grown from heirloom seeds, honey, tea, oven-fresh breads, mesquite flour, farm-made jellies (I bought lemon-verbena) candied ginger, home-made granola, apple butter, and fresh-picked herbs.  You can even buy their magical mulch to use in your own garden.  If you're lucky, the big tall Irish tree guy will be there selling Shamus O'Leary's Tropical Exotic plants such as Sapote, Starfruit, Jasmines, Neem, and Cherimoya!   (I bought a fig tree, and plumeria!).

Click on image below to view slide-show:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Monday, June 18, 2012

Going Batty!

Photo by Peggy Coleman, June, 2012.
Did you know that 2012 is the Year of the Bat?  Just look and see how many batty things are going on in Arizona this summer:

Arizona Audubon Center - Birds n' Beer (this month its Bats n Beer) this Thursday, June 21st from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.:  Drop into the Audubon Center after work for a brew and learn a thing or two about bats. This month it Bats of Arizona with Bill Burger from the Arizona Game and Fish Department.  Did you know there are 28 species of bats in Arizona and over 1000 worldwide?  Location: Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center at 3131 S Central Ave., Phoenix. RSVP at Audubon's Facebook page  or via email:
Arizona Game and Fish Department's
award-winning Bat Poster.

Meet the Bats at Tohono Chul Park, Tucson, June 23rd 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. and The Exciting Night Life of Bats! at 7:00 p.m.:  Wildlife biologist Debbie Buecher and bat biologist Dr. Ronnie Sidner are joined by some of their “batty” friends in a free ranging presentation that introduces visitors to several of Arizona’s resident bat species. They will share amazing facts about bat habits and habitat and shatter some long held myths and misconceptions. Then at 7:00 p.m. conservation biologist Karen Krebbs gives a presentation detailing her recent research, in particular that being conducted on the grounds of TohonoChul, and shares stories about these beneficial mammals of the night skies. As a special treat, Krebbs will bring along one of her research subjects and take the audience outside to listen for some of the local bat chatter!  Location: Tohono Chul Park, Tucson

Bat Night at Sonoran Desert Museum, Tucson, August 4th at 7:00 p.m.:  Bat Biologist Karen Krebbs will talk about these unique and fascinating mammals of the evening skies and present a live bat at the end of the lecture. Lecture times are 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. and the program is free with Summer Saturday Evening's admission. Bat acoustic equipment will be set up outside of the Coati Exhibit from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. to listen to calls of free-flying bats as they navigate through the night.  Location:  Sonoran Desert Museum, Tucson.

All About Bats at Usery Mountain Regional Park, August 10th at 12:00 p.m.:  What makes bats such fascinating creatures? What do they do in the dark? What are the different kinds of bats that live in this area? If you would like to know the answers to these questions, or any questions you may have about bats, then this one-hour presentation is for you! Bring your sandwich to the “Brown-Bag It” series inside the Nature Center as Ranger B shares some amazing facts about these mysterious mammals. Location: Usery Mountain Park Nature Center, Mesa. $6.00 per car.

Phoenix Bat Caves: It can be hit or miss, but during the hot summer months you can often see one of Phoenix’s largest urban bat roosts in action right here in the middle of town.  This is an amazing sight to see!  At sunset thousands of Mexican free-tail bats emerge from the "Phoenix Bat Cave" near the Biltmore to forage on mosquitoes.  There are so many bats that it is nearly a steady stream lasting for a good twenty minutes. The Phoenix Bat Cave is really a 7 mile long underground tunnel which is part of a Maricopa County Flood Control ditch.  A good viewing spot is at the southwest corner of 24th Street and Biltmore Circle, just south of Lincoln.  If you go, park at at the commercial building located at 2400 W. Arizona Biltmore Circle. The building is on the northeast corner of 24th Street and Arizona Biltmore Circle, just south of Lincoln Dr. The viewing area is on the southwest corner of that intersection, south of the Squaw Peak Police Precinct. 

More Bat Resources :

Lead photo courtesy of nature photographer Peggy Coleman. 
You can now order prints of her gorgeous work online at
Peggy Coleman Photography!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Photos by Arizona wildlife photographer and toad rescuer, Denny Green

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Learn About Arizona's Wild Horses

Horses along the Salt River, May, 2012.  Photo by LuAnne Hedblom

If you're interested in learning more about our wild horses in Arizona, then pack up your lunch on Thursday, June 14th or on Saturday June 30th, and head on over at noon to the Visitor Center at Usery Mountain Park.  There "Ranger B" will be sharing what he knows of the history of wild horses in the west, including the Tonto National Forest, and in particular the horses we see along the Salt River. Though he won't be touching on the controversy over the management of the Salt River Wild Horses, it will still be interesting to learn about the origins of these gorgeous animals and how they survive in the wild. Directions: Take McKellips east past Sossaman to Ellsworth, turn left (N) on Ellsworth which becomes Usery Mountain Pass.  Look for signs, park entry will be on your right (E).  $6.00 entry fee.  Lecture starts at 12:00 p.m. in the Visitor Center.

For a more in-depth history of wild horses in Arizona and the southwest, see University of Arizona professor Ed de Steiguer's book , "Wild Horses of the West: History and Politics of America's Mustangs."

(Usery Mountain Park is one of 10 regional parks in Maricopa County.  It is not part of the Tonto National Forest, and Ranger B is not an employee of the Forest Service or the BLM.)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Conservationist's View of Salt River Wild Horses

In response to my June 4th, 2012 post "Salt River Wild Horses in Peril":

“Wild” Horses in Arizona are all animals abandoned by previous ranch operations or simply dropped in the desert by people who did not want them anymore. A few populations actually have documented lineage back to Spanish settlement. The only bona fide herd that I know of that could connect to the era of Father Kino is the herd that was acquired by the US Fish and Wildlife Service when they purchased Arivaca Cienega. Those horses were dispersed to owners and locations (including Jane Fonda) that were protecting the “Spanish Horse” bloodlines. (Some of them were at Pioneer Village north of Phoenix for a number of years). These horses had the lineage papers dating from Spanish settlement in Mexico and Arizona kept by the owner of the Arivaca Cienega and Ranch that had been handed down through the generations of her family. So even those animals were not “wild” in that she knew they were hers.

Most “wild” horses trace back to ranches or the U.S. Cavalry. In more recent time various native American tribes have embraced horses as symbols of their heritage, including the Salt River Maricopa-Pima Indian Community and they do manage “wild” horse herds on their lands.

Unfortunately-there seems to be a much better campaign for protecting horses and elevating their status to “Wild” and “Free Roaming”, similar to the efforts to legitimize feral cat colonies, than there is for native wildlife habitat protection.

There are specific locations in Arizona and elsewhere in the West that are designated as “wild” horse or burro populations protected and managed under the U.S. Wild Horse and Burro Protection Act. The Salt and Verde Rivers are not one of those locations. I support the USFS removing these animals.

Horses and burros are incredibly damaging to the riparian habitats. Horses strip the bark from trees, killing them. Sonoran desert plants did not evolve defenses or adaptations to equines, as the last equine native to the Americas was eohippus in the Pleistocene- a very small animal.  I have seen the washes where these animals roam degrade over the past 20 years.

Vashti "Tice" Supplee
Director of Bird Conservation
Arizona Audubon
3131 South Central AvenuePhoenix, Arizona 85040

Wordless Wednesday

Monday, June 4, 2012

Salt River Wild Horses in Peril

Photo by Peggy Thomas, July 2011, near Coon Bluff, along the Salt River.
If you've ever birded, kayaked, fished, or tubed along the Salt River over the years you've likely encountered the "Salt River Wild Horses".  They seem to appear out of nowhere, around the bend on the river, peering out from the thick mesquite forest, or coming over a saguaro studded hillside.  Its always unexpected, enchanting, and even magical to see these majestic symbols of the west out roaming free.
Photo by LuAnne Hedblom, May 2012, near Coon Bluff, along the Salt River.
But now suddenly, without a public notice or hearing, without any attempt to humanely manage the herd, and without the required environmental impact study, the U.S.Forest Service seems to have decided to go ahead and round up and remove the Salt River Wild Horses.  The USFS claims the horses are "feral" even though documentation exists indicating that they are very likely descendants of horses brought here in the 17th century by Father Kino to the Pima.  Which means they should be protected under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act.

Photo by Peggy Thomas, July 2011, Coon'Bluff,  Salt River.

After all of the positive media attention these horses have received lately - Becky Standridge's study and gorgeous photography of them - and the awesome footage of Champ saving one of his fillies from drowning in the river, it is astonishing that the forest service would choose NOW as the time to remove the herd.  Such blatant disregard for public sentiment is galling, let alone the disregard it shows for the horses themselves and the history they represent.

So whether you are a horse-lover or not, such reckless behavior by a government agency calls for each of us to take some form of action.  The best thing you can do to voice your concerns is to contact:

The Tonto National Forest Supervisor Reta Laford
Telephone: 602-225-5200
Fax: 602-225-5200
2324 E. McDowell Road
Phoenix, AZ 85006
Calls should be made immediately followed by a letter faxed to the 
2324 East McDowell office or emailed to that office.


Your Congressmen and both of your Senators
To find contact information for US Congressmen and US Senators by State, by name, or by zip code, go to the link below:

Please call now, time is of the essence.  Otherwise on your next trip to the Salt River the only thing you'll ever see around the bend or have peering at you through the mesquite will be just another beer-toting tuber or another binocular-bearing birder.  The magic will be gone.

If you feel a bit shy or tongue-tied about calling, or just want more facts under your belt, go to the Salt River Horses Facebook page.  There you will see a post where Becky Standridge has outlined the facts for all interested parties to see.  Hmmmm.... why didn't the USFS do that?

Photo by LuAnne Hedblom, May 2012, Coon Bluff, along the Salt River.

USFS document recently obtained through the Freedom of Information Act:

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Thorny Toad Rescue

 The animal drama continues at the Desert Botanical Garden, be it on a smaller scale, with the recent rescue of a toad impaled by cactus spines.  Found by wildlife photographer Denny Green on Saturday, the poor toad was carting around a relatively huge piece of jumping cholla on its back.

Dehydrated and very likely near death (the toad, not the photographer), the toad was in need of immediate intervention.  Denny carefully extracted the cholla spines from the toad's backside and thankfully no mouth-to-snout resuscitation was necessary.  The now thorn-less toad was deemed to be healthy and was released into the pond along the Plants and People Trail.

Photos by Denny Green

Two of the three to four roadrunner nestlings at Desert Botanical Garden, June 2, 2012.
Photo by Denny Green

Roadrunner Update: 
 Denny also reports that as of Saturday, June 2nd,
the rescued roadrunner's nestlings appear happily well fed in their nest,
so momma roadrunner is doing well enough to care for her young!

Do you have an event, bird walk, meeting, or nature walk that belongs on this calendar? Please send info to

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