A Sonoran Field Trip During the Rainy Season

In the middle of this past July, I had the great pleasure of going on an outing to check remote wildlife cameras at Rancho Nuevo near Moctezuma, Sonora. Joining me was Marilu Peralta Aguilar, a wildlife intern with Sky Island Alliance and a recent graduate from the Department of Biology at the Universidad de la Sierra.

Whenever the rainy season arrives, I get excited to go out in the field to see what I can find. When we first started walking, we found beautiful landscapes all around. Everything looked so green, showing that the rains had arrived. With their songs, the birds let us know that they were there too. And we were lucky enough to be able to photograph a few different species, including a cardinal and two juvenile red-tailed hawks.

A cardinal and red-tailed hawk pause long enough to have their photo taken. / Un cardenal y un aguililla cola roja se detienen lo suficiente para que les tomen una foto.


After completing our first camera check on foot, we were going to travel to the second camera by car. But to our surprise, the road had been destroyed by the strong rising of streams, and there was no way to get through and check the missing cameras. We’d have to come back another day and hike out.

Later, when we did come back, we were very happy to see that all the tanks that didn’t have water now did — a lot. Two cameras were located near the tanks and placed in trees. But the water level had nearly reached them, so we removed the cameras and put them in a safer place.

Left: SIA Wildlife Intern Marilu Peralta Aguilar moves a camera to a higher spot where the water can’t reach it. Right: With the arrival of monsoon rain, signs of water and new growth are everywhere. / Izquierda: Marilu Peralta Aguilar, pasante de fauna silvestre con SIA, mueve una cámara a un lugar más alto donde el agua no puede alcanzarla. Derecha: Con la llegada de la lluvia monzónica, hay signos de agua y verde por todas partes.


When we got to the last tank, we saw something we didn’t expect. And at first, we weren’t sure if it was what we thought. But it was: a monarch butterfly. It was incredible to be able to observe such a small animal that can travel such long distances as part of its migration. We wondered how far it had gone and how much it had to go.

Left: A monarch butterfly takes a break in the middle of its long journey. Center & Right: Happy plants after recent rain. / Izquierda: Una mariposa monarca se toma un descanso en medio de su largo viaje. Centro y derecha: plantas felices después de una lluvia reciente.


It was a great trip — and as always, full of small surprises and familiar joys. Upon returning, we reviewed our wildlife photos from the remote cameras in the area and were excited to see some more good friends, including a pack of javelinas, a white-tailed deer, and a young mountain lion.

Javelinas, white-tailed deer, and mountain lion — just a few of the species seen recently on our wildlife cameras near Moctezuma. / Jabalinas, un venado de cola blanca y puma: solo algunas de las especies que se ven recientemente en nuestras cámaras de vida silvestre cerca de Moctezuma.


To learn more about how to join our network and set up a wildlife camera of your own, check out Sky Island Alliance’s FotoFauna project. It’s easy and fun; we’ll walk you through the steps. And the data you collect will help us study when and where wildlife is present so we can better protect their habitats and pathways.