San Pedro Ecofest offers bevy of natural site tours

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Bird watchers will enjoy the sights during the San Pedro Ecofest next week.

By John Hernandez

The Lower San Pedro Valley has an interesting history and abundant wildlife including many migratory birds. The San Pedro EcoFest will have vendors, nature and history exhibits, live animals, family fun, activities and games for the kids and exclusive guided tours of areas along the San Pedro River.

On Saturday, Apr. 13 at the Central Arizona College Aravaipa Campus there will be a day of fun and spring celebration with free admission. Exhibits at the campus are from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The EcoFest is sponsored by the Nature Conservancy, Audubon Arizona, Arizona Game & Fish, Salt River Project, and Resolution Copper Mining.

The guided tours provide a unique opportunity for the public to visit limited access areas along the river. Registration is required for all tours and a $5 donation fee. The tour groups will meet and depart from the CAC Aravaipa Campus.

All tours will depart from CAC at the scheduled time in 12 passenger vans. The guided tours schedule follows:

Adobe Preserve/Cook’s Lake – Both of these sites are normally closed to the public. Tour will depart at 7 a.m. and return at 10:30 a.m. Limited to 12 participants.

The Cook’s Lake property is 150 acres of spring fed woodland and marsh. Along with the 154 acre Adobe Preserve, the site along the San Pedro River is a riparian habitat of wooded wetland and Sonoran desert scrub vegetation that supports a broad variety of birds and other wildlife species.

As part of the tour, you will get to visit a Migratory Avian Population Study (MAPS) bird-banding station that is set up at the site. This will provide an opportunity to learn about scientific information that is being gathered about migrating birds and observe how a bird-banding station is operated. There may be a chance you will see some of the colorful and unusual migrating bird species in the area. These properties are owned and managed by the Bureau of Reclamation and Salt River Project.

TNC Preserve/Double Check Ranch Tour – Depart 8 a.m. return 11:30 a.m. The TNC Preserve is normally closed to the public. Limited to 12 participants.

This 860-acre preserve is owned and managed by the Nature Conservancy. Funding for the preserve has been provided by the Bureau of Reclamation which also holds a Conservation Easement on the property. The site, which was once a warm water fish hatchery, has two ponds that attract migrating waterfowl and waterbirds. There is a historic orchard and a beautiful cottonwood and willow riparian forest on the property. Numerous migrating bird species are found here such as the brown-crested flycatchers, tropical king birds, Wilson’s warbler, Towsend’s warbler, yellow warbler, summer tanager, and Bullock’s oriole. It is a nesting habitat for gray hawks.

The Double Check Ranch is owned by the Paul Schwennesen family. The ranch raises sustainable grass fed beef cattle and has a conservation easement for the riparian habitat on their land. You will have the opportunity to meet the family and learn about their ranch and farm.

Future Lower San Pedro Wildlife Area (Arizona Game and Fish Department) – Tour departs at 9 a.m., returns 12:30 pm. Limited to 20 participants.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department recently obtained this land which entails seven miles of the San Pedro River, including five miles of perennial water, 2,000 acres of land, and the grazing lease for 36,000 acres of State Trust Lands. The Department has agreements with the rancher to continue to operate the livestock operation and a farming operation. A riparian restoration project was begun and the plans for a wildlife area are in the initial phases.

Arizona Game and Fish Department biologists will guide the tour. You will be able to learn about the conservation project and get on the Department’s mailing list to get updates on planning the future management of the area. Once on the mailing list you will have the opportunity to provide input. To register for all guided tours, email Tice Supplee at tsupplee@audubon.org with subject link AGFD San Pedro Property Tour.

NO FEE: Self-guided one hour bird walks at the 7B Nature Trail – Arizona Important Bird Area volunteers will offer one hour bird walks on this new 7B Ranch walking trail. Walks will be at 8, 9 and 10 a.m. The trail is located at the Copper Creek crossing of the San Pedro River east of the Town of Mammoth. The trail head has a parking area. The trail is about 1.5 miles long and is an easy flat walk in shade provided by the mesquite bosque. Visitors should bring binoculars and water.

The 7B Ranch was acquired by the Resolution Copper Company and includes 3,000 acres of mesquite bosque and Sonoran Desert Uplands. It is a unique wildlife and migratory bird corridor. It has been named an Audubon Important Bird Area on the Lower San Pedro River. This area attracts a large variety of migratory birds including nesting Lucy’s warblers and Bell’s vireos as well as ash-throated flycatchers, and vermillion flycatchers.

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