Two years ago I enrolled as a volunteer at Boyce Thompson Arboretum near Superior; it’s an Arizona State Park and a 300-acre collection of towering trees, cactus gardens and paths -- fall foliage each November, and colorful wildflowers in March-April. All that vegetation means lots of habitat for "camera-ready" small animals - and the park boasts an impressive bird list. I’ve found it a good place for bird photography, some small mammals, and I finally got some shots at a couple of the foxes I know lived in the area.
If you go, the following is a suggestion from my go to friend at the Arboretum Paul Wolterbeek. “Get to know the groundkeepers and park staff; they're a friendly crew, welcoming to photographers, and usually quick to share insiders' tips about places and times to see and photograph animals and birds. When you pay your admission in the gift shop ($10-a-day, or $50-a-year to be a member), ask if Becky or Gonzalo are on duty that day, and if they'd have a minute to speak with you. Ask for Ricky, or Ruben or Chris Spencer -- each a knowl edgeable outdoorsman who knows the gardens and the animals which live there, knows their habits and what fruit trees they're feeding under this week!”
Paul alerted me this week about the Gray Fox, a tough species for anyone to photograph. He pointed out that the foxes have been seen daily - gobbling up the fallen fruit beneath the palm trees. They're also being seen climbing up in to the large, shrubby myrtle that overhangs the main trail just past the "pumphouse" (that's on your trail map), between the suspension bridge and the "catwalk" (that's not on your map - but any BTA staffer can point out the location. Fox are excellent climbers and will venture into trees after fruit, to raid nests for bird eggs, or just to nap on a limb. It wasn’t easy to find them but persistence and walking back and forth paid off.
I started this post saying I had signed-up as a volunteer, and here's an invite to meet me and learn why. Dec. 22 (Sunday) I'll be at BTA giving a lecture about bears, and showing a slideshow of recent photos. That's in the morning at 10am, and included with daily admission. That afternoon I'm giving a talk to the BTA Photo Club; that's not a public event, but you can attend if you're a BTA annual member and you're into photography. This is the 3rd time I've been involved with the BTA photo club - last year Lisa Langell and I offered a "tag team" presentation on wildlife photography, and then guided a walk into the gardens to demonstrate a few of the camera techniques we'd been discussing. Meet me at BTA on Dec. 22! As an added bonus, after the event at the Arboretum my family and I are heading over to one of my favorite Christmastime events in AZ, the once-a-year "festival of lights" up at the Besh Ba Gowah archaeological park in Globe, another 45-minutes drive east of BTA. The event is free, and lures photographers from across the valley. Read more & check out photos: