Sky Islands Tracking & Bird Language Trip Itinerary
Day 1 – Sonora Desert Museum and Bisbee
Your group will meet early in the morning in Tucson, Arizona and then head over to the nearby Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum to observe and learn about the animals that are native to the sky island region. Your expert wildlife guides will escort you through the museum and discuss the behavior and ecology of many of the mammals we will be tracking including bobcats, javelinas, coyotes, grey foxes, mule deer, and many others.
After leaving the desert museum we will head to Bisbee, a ghost town from the nineteenth century mining era that has now been revived. Here you will visit a local wildlife corridor to look for tracks and examine photos from camera traps for possible images of mountain lions and other stealthy animals that frequently pass through the area.
Afterwards, you will get to discuss the art of nature writing and journaling with Ken Lamberton, the John Burrough's award winning nature writer. Late in the day you will have time to wander through the streets and terraced mountain sides of Bisbee to take in the once bustling saloons now filled with art galleries, and then grab dinner at a local restaurant before settling down for the evening in your cozy room.
Accommodations: Bisbee Lodge
Meals Included: Lunch
Days 2-4 – Cuenca Los Ojos
Departing Bisbee early in the morning, the group will head toward the Mexican border, crossing over at Douglas, Arizona and then continuing onto the Cuenca Los Ojos, a preserve adjacent to the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona. You will be welcomed by the friendly support staff who will help get you settled in, and then your guides will go over the itinerary and what to expect during the next three days as well as give you an overview of the grassland, mountain, and riparian ecosystems that comprise the preserve lands.
Each day at Cuenca Los Ojos the group will venture out on a different part of the landscape to look for animal sign. You will spend time in the grasslands, in rugged canyons, and along creek corridors looking for fresh tracks as well as along roadways and forested areas looking for other evidence of animal activity. Your expert guides will point out a variety of tracks and show you how to accurately identify them using morphology clues, as well as how to ascertain animal gaits and associated behaviors. During early morning hours and around dusk, you will also go out to look for sightings of the animals you are tracking.
In addition to looking for tracks and sign, you will get to partake in bird language activities each day. Usually this will entail having the group spread out over a given area to perform an exercise called a bird “sit,” with each individual recording their observations during a specified time interval. After the “sit” period is completed, the group will reconvene and under the leadership of your avian guide, you will perform a mapping debrief. This is a fascinating undertaking that pieces together each person's observations, and produces a comprehensive 4-dimensional story of what transpired during the observation period.
Your guides will also instruct you on perfecting observational techniques, including how to locate animals in the wild and strategies for finding areas of foraging, bedding, and socializing. They will also demonstrate where and how to setup camera traps, how to set out track plates and make plaster casts of tracks, and other methods for collecting data. You will also get to see the amazing techniques that have been utilized to restore this landscape to its former glory, regenerating habitat that has once again made it a haven for wildlife.
Accommodations: Preserve Lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 5 - San Pedro River, Tombstone, & Return to Tucson
Early morning you will depart Cuenca Los Ojos and drive back across the border, crossing again at Douglas, Arizona and then heading to a preserve along the San Pedro River, one of the last free-flowing rivers in the American Southwest and a vital source of water for desert wildlife. The group will have a final opportunity to search for tracks and sign along the river banks, before heading back to Tucson, making one last stop at the historic old west town of Tombstone during the lunch hour.
Here you can choose to visit the OK Corral, scene of the famous gunfight between the town’s lawmen and local cattlemen, or if you prefer take a tour of the fascinating Bird Cage Theater, which was open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for eight years without ever closing. On the drive back to Tucson, you can relive your experiences of the past week and ponder the fascinating things you have learned which will enhance your enjoyment of the outdoors for years to come!
Meals Included: Breakfast
End of Trip
Sky Islands Tracking & Bird Lanuge Trip