Wildlife Wonders of Tanzania

My first experience of East Africa was in 1979, and it changed my life profoundly.  The wildlife and people of Kenya and Tanzania have become “family” to me–not replacing kinship but adding to it.  After the tremendous success of the June 2015 safari, I have set up two exciting and very different safaris in order to renew my connections there and give others the chance to experience the very best that an African safari can offer.

The next safari takes us off the beaten path using small planes to get us to wilderness parks few people are even aware of: Selous, Ruaha, Katavi, Mahale.  Here are details: Tanzania WILD: Explore the Exceptional (July 25-August 8, 2016).

The next will be in January-February 2017 when we can expect the Great Migration to be in the shortgrass plains of the southern Serengeti.  It also coincides with green landscapes, wildflowers, and tremendous bird populations as winged visitors for Europe and Asia join the African residents.  I hope you can join us! Tanzania Herds & Birds, Nature & Culture (January 25-Feb. 6, 2017).

A few months ago, I gave a presentation at Prescott College, and they video-taped it so that if you were not there, you can now, through the wonders of technology, experience that presentation and vicariously go on safari.

Landscape Lunacy: Chaparral on Fire

29 June 2013.  Prescott, Arizona.  At Granite Mountain, eleven days after the eruption of the big Doce Fire, the smoke has cleared—mostly.  There are still hot pockets (inedible ones) with potential for flames to rise from the ashes and run amok again.  Mother Nature teases us with clouds trailing virga—and even a few drops of liquid that reach the ground—but the hot winds accompanying the clouds continue their mischief, and dry lightning ignites new blazes around the county.  A microburst (sorry, not an artisan brew) takes down trees in town and starts a fire.  The firefighters are still out there at the mountain, and aircraft drone overhead on their missions of attempted control.  But for most of us, the adrenalin has subsided; our fears have receded.

30 June 2013.  One of those fires started two days ago happened to be in Yarnell, and today it erupted into the disastrous fire that took the lives of 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, the same folks who fought the Doce Fire and, in the process, saved the sacred ancient juniper that may have watched the comings and goings of wildfire for millennia.  I was photographing the aftermath of the Doce Fire when I saw the terrible black cloud rising to the south, so I raced down there and watched from a safe distance as the flames engaged in the chaotic dance of pyrotechnics triggered by an advancing monsoonal cell.  I heard and saw the screaming influx of ambulances and feared for the worst—but it was even worse than my greatest fears.

Two major local disasters by fire in Yavapai County within two weeks.  Sorrow and grieving for beloved Granite Mountain (clearly personified in the emotions of many) and the brave firefighters dominate discussion.

28 July 2013.  Now a month later, our wounds healing with time, we can look at the context of these fires with a bit more rationality—or at least we should.  “Don’t mess with Mother Nature” is a common phrase, and it exemplifies our tacit willingness to shift responsibility to a perceived natural deity rather than accepting an obligation to live our lives as informed citizens of Planet Earth. Continue reading

Burning Desires and Incendiary Thoughts

Horseshoe Two Fire, Chiricahuas

Hot winds batter the landscape, sucking whatever moisture they can coax from desiccated plants.  Record-breaking temperatures challenge the survival skills of wildlife, as they and we wait for the merciful monsoonal rains, should they come in a month.  We wait and watch, knowing that the first plume of smoke to rise skyward could create a blazing inferno defying our feeble but expensive efforts to limit the damage.

Arizona has endured droughts and heat waves before, but there are strong signs that human activities are exacerbating the challenges faced by the more-than-human world.   The summer of 2011 saw huge tracts of forest burn up in the Southwest.  I witnessed the dramatic Horseshoe Two Fire in the Chiricahuas, but in a summer of exceptional fires in both Arizona and New Mexico, that one was just the tip of the melting iceberg.  That was the summer of the Wallow Fire in Arizona (largest in history), the Conchos Fire in New Mexico (also the largest recorded there), the Monument Fire in the Huachucas (which consumed the home and irreplaceable insect collections of one of my friends), and many fires in northern Mexico, where suppression was not even attempted.  More than 2.1 million acres burned, over twice the previous record set in 2006 for these two states.  Megafires.  Unprecedented.  Shocking. Continue reading

Granite Dells Partnership

An aerial perspective of Granite Dells in Prescott, Arizona, reveals a wonderland of rocks, an upthrust flowering of granite domes, ridges, and canyons, that amazes and inspires.  For years I have worked with others to help protect and educate about this special place–first through the Open Space Acquisition Committee for the city, then as one of the founders of the Granite Dells Preservation Foundation, and now as one of the principals representing members of the Granite Dells Partnership.

Granite Dells & Watson Lake

We care about this landscape Continue reading

When Verde Means Gold

Autumn on Upper Verde River

Just as a migratory bird feels an irresistible inner urge teach fall, so do I experience a powerful restlessness satisfied only by ignoring my in-box, pushing aside the endless piles of papers begging to be shuffled, and taking off to some quiet corner of nature when I can embrace the changing of the seasons with full attention.

Autumn hasn’t been waiting for me—the aspens have scattered their yellow coins already up at Mt. Francis, and the maples have displayed their crimson badges at Mingus Mountain without my approval.  I am not teaching my Interpreting Nature class this fall, which usually provides me a legitimate excuse to get out there.   Thus, if I am not to miss the whole gaudy show of carotenoids, anthocyanins, and other pigments, I have to seize the moment, and yesterday afternoon I did just that. Continue reading

In Defense of Tumbleweeds

Dried tumbleweed

Tumbling Tumbleweed

Drifting along, like a tumbling tumbleweed.  That catchy tune warbled by the Sons of the Pioneers somehow epitomizes nostalgia for the Old West.  Never mind that the tumbleweed is a carpetbagger, an interloper, an émigré otherwise known as Russian thistle.  I’ve heard tell that the Russkies sent it here as a kind of biological weapon, a plague on our plains, a prickly infestation designed to lay waste to our grasslands, to overwhelm us with its ability to take any of our attacks against it and come back stronger than ever.  Where is the real truth here?  Continue reading

Granite Dells & the Lakes

Granite Dells and the Lakes—Central to Arizona

In Arizona, a state noted for natural wonders, Yavapai County stands out.  Prescott’s physical environment—pine forests, chaparral, pinyon-juniper woodlands, grasslands, dramatic rock formations, and wetlands—is one of the reasons it is called “Everybody’s Hometown.”  Watson and Willow Lakes in the Granite Dells dominate this landscape.

For the entire month of June, the Prescott Public Library Viewerie will display more than thirty large (some up to six feet in length) photographs in professional gallery mounts of Granite Dells and the Lakes (Watson & Willow) that stand as the centerpiece of the Tri-city area of Prescott, Prescott Valley, and Chino Valley in Yavapai County, Arizona.  They represent the work of Walt Anderson, acclaimed nature photographer, and Joe Phillips, master printer.  A reception open to the public is set for Wednesday, June 6, from 5:30-7:30 pm at the library.

This site presents an expanded tour of the content and images, with bonus photos and text added, but it cannot replace the impact of seeing the images in live time.  Please try to visit the exhibition.  Images are for sale from the photographer (geolobo@cableone.net or 928-445-7470), and other images and sizes, individually and lovingly printed by Joe, can be created for your needs.  Here is the price list with images.

This exhibit celebrates our natural heritage and urges all citizens, including decision-makers, to prioritize protection and wise stewardship of our great natural assets.  Right here, right now, in the heart of this watershed, we must act to keep what we love. Continue reading

I’m a Beaver Believer

Verde River Beaver Dam

Beaver dam on Upper Verde River

So often we hear horror stories of environmental degradation.  Once in awhile we need to hear the good news, the reversal of misfortune, and I’m here to tell you one such story.  The Upper Verde River in Arizona has risen from its deathbed, and the main reason is the return of the beaver after the removal of the cows.  Join me along the banks of Granite Creek as I tell my friend Joe about my impressions of the value of beavers in restoring an ecosystem.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTlSKffiSPw&feature=youtu.be. 

Taking Stock and Investing in Shares

Am I allowed to postdate a New Year’s Resolution?

Taking stock.  No, I am not talking about financial matters—something much more important actually.  The arrival of 2012 reminds me to reflect upon my life, not on transient accomplishments or on political or social disappointments.  Few of those things are lasting, scarcely more significant in my life than the taste of yesterday’s breakfast.  What was it that I ate, anyway?

What should be important is what I chose to share with others.  My vow this year—one that is much more realistic than how many pounds I will lose, how often I intend to work out, or what yard work I may or may not get to—is to open myself to greater sharing.  Sharing can take many forms, and my intentions are not limited to one form.  However, in this essay, I am indeed focusing on one thing—the written word.  For “in the Beginning was the Word.”  Continue reading

The Call of the Wild: Are We Listening?

Deep within us we carry the genetic legacy of our distant ancestors.  When we hear the mournful howl of a wolf, there is a shiver down our spine, a surge of adrenalin that we cannot control.  We respond automatically and positively when we view a cute and cuddly creature or one of the “charismatic megafauna.”  For some people, the call of the wild has become more of a whisper, but it’s there.

Recently I gave the keynote address for the 2011 Regional Urban Wildlife Symposium sponsored by the Open Space Alliance of Yavapai County, Arizona.  Joe Phillips videotaped it and posted it on You Tube, so here it is if you want to hear and see my take on THE CALL OF THE WILD: ARE WE LISTENING?

Harris's Hawk is responding to climate warming in Arizona