Last weekend, citizens and scientists came together to assemble in 24 hours an inventory of all the species of plants and animals that inhabit the two parts of Saguaro National Park, one (West) where I live in the Tucson Mountains and the other (East), older and larger one that covers parts of the Rincon Mts. Of course, there was much more to it than that 24 h rush. There was of course the long and thorough preparation by the team of the National Park and National Geographics. Everything very efficiently planned and executed, as far as I could see from the remote outpost that I had signed up for: the oasis of Madrona in the foothills of the Rincons, an old ranger station without public access but with a fragile, beautiful riparian habitat at its heart. Several perennial pools are fed by bedrock springs and drain into Chimenea Creek.
|Canyon Tree Frogs and Lowland Leopard Frog|
I was driven up to Madrona by our group's coordinator Mike Ward. Mike turned out to be the perfect person to keep going a camp full of up to 50 school kids, chaperoned by their teachers, and a bunch of scientists who were at times probably all a little bit overwhelmed by the demands of teaching the kids, finding the species to inventory, and the rocky terrain that we were moving around in. Mike stayed cheerful and kind, matching us up with our groups, getting everybody fed with interesting freeze dried meals, keeping an experienced first responder team around, and he still found breaks to quietly play his guitar at times.
|Mating Buprestid Beetles and Skipperling|
|Ninth Graders of Sabino High|
|The caterpillar of Agrius cingulata (Pink-spotted Hawk Moth)|
|Mexican Yellow, Sleepy Orange and Southern Dogface Butterflies in a seep at noon, where we found hundreds of Queen Butterflies in the morning|
|Rustic Sphinx, black lighting sheet and Toe-biter|
Finally the night was too far gone to put up my tent, and I was still hoping to see the resident ringtail, so I lay down under the unbelievably bright stars, watched a huge shooting star, listened to great horned owls who kept hooting their duet right above me....
When a group of National Park officials from Washington arrived in the morning they were treated to amazingly detailed reports of our activities given spontaneously by some of the students (who must have gotten more sleep than I) and a visit to a mist net set up at one of the pools to catch birds.
I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at Madrona Ranger Station, in parts because it is a very rare and beautiful place, but mostly because of the great people whom I met there who all joined forces there to help protect this natural gem.
|Dicromantispa sayi, a Mantis Fly|