Field Notes

We’ve Detected Over 100 Species in the Borderlands!

December 11, 2020

In March 2020, Sky Island Alliance partnered with Mexican nonprofit Naturalia, A.C. to document the wildlife that lives in or migrates through the U.S.–Mexico borderlands, one of the last remaining stretches of open wildlife corridor in the region. How does the documentation work? An array of 58 trail cameras operates 24/7 along 34 miles of…
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Microscopic View of a Hedgehog Cactus Fruit

November 23, 2020

Hedgehog cacti of the Echinocereus genus are relatively small-stature cactus plants with multiple cylindrical stems. In eastern Arizona, Fendler hedgehog (Echinocereus fendleri) may go unnoticed for much of the year until its brilliant pink blooms open in April-May. The large round fruits are bright red and ripe, attractive to many wildlife species that help disperse the hedgehog cactus seeds after…
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Friday Creature Feature: Gould’s Turkey

November 20, 2020

For today’s Friday Creature Feature, we’re highlighting the Gould’s turkey, a subspecies of wild turkey that is native to Arizona and slowly returning to our mountain ecosystems after being overhunted. So instead of eating this turkey for Thanksgiving, let’s marvel at these fun facts—a friendlier way to celebrate the upcoming holiday season and this endemic Sky Island species.  Description:  The Gould’s turkey (Meleagris gallopavo mexicana) is the largest of the…
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Recapping the First 30 Days of Sky Island FotoFauna

November 17, 2020

With October now complete, we are excited to look back on the first month of Sky Island FotoFauna, a wildlife monitoring network powered by many organizations and individuals that call the Sky Islands their home. We are thrilled at the turnout of the first month—a big thanks to everyone who jumped on FotoFauna right as it launched and helped the network…
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Microscopic View of a Desert Cardinal Feather

November 9, 2020

  We have two lovely cardinal species that reside in the Sky Island region, the Northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) and Pyrrhuloxia (Cadinalis sinuatus), also known as the desert cardinal. Pyrrhuloxia has a prominent crest on its head, distinctive yellow bill (in contrast to the darker reddish-orange bill of the Northern cardinal), and gray feathers tinged with light red. When in flight, the…
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Friday Creature Feature: Gray Fox

November 6, 2020

Two fox species have been detected in the Sky Islands. One of these—the gray fox—is this week’s Friday creature feature! The gray fox is considered an urban-adapted species and is one of the animals listed on our FotoFauna checklist. So, grab a cup of something good and let’s learn!  Description:  While the name “gray fox” (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) may conjure up visions of a small, all-gray canine, the gray fox is actually a lot more…
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Microscopic View of a Cholla Fruit

November 1, 2020

When you zoom in closer and closer to living things you encounter in the Sky Island region, it’s amazing what you find! I was recently drawn to look more closely at the Desert Christmas Cholla (Cylindopuntia leptocaulis) growing in my yard. Its scientific name means cylindrical slender stem, a fitting name for this short and branching cactus abundant…
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Can You Get a Sky Island Skunk Bingo?

October 29, 2020

After eight months of running the Border Wildlife Study, we’ve finally detected all four Sky Island skunks on our remote cameras! These four skunks are: the western spotted skunk, the hog-nosed skunk, the hooded skunk, and the striped skunk.  Here are some trends we noticed in our skunk spottings:  Hooded skunks appear most often across all our Border Wildlife Study camera blocks.  Hog-nosed skunks are the…
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10 Fun Facts for International Bat Week

October 27, 2020

Don your capes and fangs and grab your wings (but make sure to leave the garlic behind): it’s International Bat Week! Is there any better way to celebrate spooky season than with bats, one of the most classic and iconic species represented in Halloween-appropriate décor … or in films like Dracula, The Last Weekend, or Batman Begins? We think not!  Bats are incredibly important to our ecosystem. Some are pollinators, helping our plants…
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Friday Creature Feature: Turkey Vulture

September 25, 2020

Our bird of focus for this week’s creature feature is the turkey vulture (Cathartes aura). Despite the name, turkey vultures are more vulture than turkey—they belong to the vulture family—and are commonly seen across our Sky Island region; in fact, they are one of the 70+ species we’ve detected through our Border Wildlife Study.  Keep reading to…
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