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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Southeast Arizona’s Patagonia Sonoita Nature Preserve

April 25th, 2012 · No Comments

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My favorite conservation organization, The Nature Conservancy, probably does more to preserve and protect nature than any other organization. I support it with my membership. The Nature Conservancy works in all 50 states and in more than 30 countries to preserve the animals, the plants, and the natural communities that comprise the diversity of life. It works with local governments, communities, and other organizations.

Often TNC raises funds to buy endangered land and protects it until a government agency is willing and able to manage it. But sometimes it establishes nature preserves that it continues to manage. Its Patagonia Sonoita Nature Preserve, which it purchased jointly with the Tucson Audubon Society, was The Nature Conservancy’s first of its six preserves in Arizona. This preserve protects some of the richest streamside habitat in the Southwest, including a magnificent example of the now rare Fremont cottonwood-Goodding willow riparian forest. Some of these cottonwoods are more than 100 feet tall and more than 130 years old.

Sharon and I were so determined to visit the Patagonia Sonoita Nature Preserve that we went there twice. The first time we arrived just as someone closed the gate. The next day we made sure to get there in the morning.

We hiked the idyllic Loop Trail, expecting to see birds. We didn’t expect to see mammals. Worldwide, birds are much more plentiful, about 10,000 species of birds and anywhere from 200 billion to 400 billion individual birds exist today. About 5,500 species of mammals exist today. Nobody seems to be willing to guess how many individual mammals now inhabit our planet, but we do know that 7 billion of them are humans.

One mammal that I hoped to see even though I had no expectations was a javelina, technically known as a collared peccary. When I returned to the West in 1977 after years of living in the DC area and in Africa, I got a glimpse of one as I passed through southern Arizona. This time I not only got clear views of javelinas but also had much better camera equipment.

This Javelina May Look Cute, but I Made Sure Not to Get Too Close

This Javelina May Look Cute, but I Made Sure Not to Get Too Close

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A Different Javelina Eats

A Different Javelina Eats

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Actually, javelinas will eat just about anything, including flowers, fruits, nuts, berries, bulbs, and most succulent plants. But this strange mammal has equally strange tastes in food, with a decided preference for prickly pear cactus.

Of course, we saw a lot more birds than mammals at the Patagonia Sonoita Creek Preserve. But one bird in particular attracted my attention, partly because I had probably never seen one of its species before and certainly had never photographed one, even though some of them live all the way from Southern Canada to Northern Mexico.

A Cooper's Hawk

A Cooper's Hawk

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The Cooper’s Hawk that we saw at the preserve flew off within a minute after we saw it, but not before it posed for this portrait.

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Posted in: Arizona

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