Wednesday, April 17, 2013

TrekWest and the Western Wildway

John Davis is undertaking an epic journey––by foot, horseback, bicycle, boat––to dramatize the need for wildways, for safe wildlife corridors that connect habitats and wildlands to each other. This particular Western Wildway is a 6000-mile-long corridor stretching from the Northern Jaguar Preserve in Sonora, Mexico, into Canada. The wildway's route is based on more than a decade of scientific research and conservation mapping.

John Davis (Photo from his blog)

Not only will completion of the wildlife corridor allow large animals, requiring large home ranges, to roam where they need to go (and thus survive!), but the corridor may also buffer against the effects of global warming by conserving a north-south span of continuous natural landscapes, where changes in the plant and animal communities can proceed, by contracting or expanding with the changing climate.

The work of restoring connections between habitats is being undertaken by a coalition of highly respected conservation organizations, under the auspices of the Wildlands Network and including, in our own Arizona, the Sky Island Alliance and Grand Canyon Wildlands Council. Partners in Mexico include the Northern Jaguar Project, Naturalia, and Cuenca los Ojos (known to birders as the legendary Cajón Bonito).

I urge you to check out the TrekWest website, and to follow the excitement of the journey through John's blog of the epic trip. A film by Ed George is documenting and celebrating the journey, and will one day be launched for all to see.

Grand Canyon Wildland Council is also featuring TrekWest and other conservation news in their blog.

The vision of connecting wildways through North America (and elsewhere, like Australia) is perhaps the most exciting conservation initiative to emerge in recent decades.

A Western Screech Owl

Last night Alan and I ventured into Cave Creek Canyon above Portal, as wind swayed the sycamore branches, and a thickening crescent moon shone over the scene. We joined friends Dave Jasper and Rick Plage to see the location of a likely owl nest that Dodie Logue and Bob Hautman had found a couple of days ago.

Night deepened. We listened, hearing mostly the rustling of the leaves. When darkness was complete, a Western Screech Owl began to call, but it wasn't the usual territorial whistling or trilling. Dave thought it was perhaps a male's pillow talk. I wondered whether it was the female announcing to the male that she was ready for her evening meal. "Her" intensity while vocalizing in the cavity entrance made it clear that she was including the magic word: "Now!"

A Western Screech Owl calls in Cave Creek Canyon
(Photo by Narca)

Cave Creek Canyon is renowned for its small owls, which also include Whiskered Screech, Northern Pygmy, and Elf. Occasionally a Flammulated will also breed at lower elevations in the Chiricahua Mountains, though usually they are higher in the mountains.