Nature’s Way: Birding Beyond the Gates of SaddleBrooke Ranch

Photo by Jim Hoagland

Photo by Jim Hoagland

Jim Hoagland

We are lucky to have our own nature trail, pond, and great backyards for observing the birds and nature here in SaddleBrooke Ranch. I have been asked, “Where can one go outside of SaddleBrooke Ranch to hike and observe birds?” This month, I am going to suggest six places all within an hour’s drive and some just 20 minutes away.

The two parks closest to SaddleBrooke Ranch are Oracle State Park and Catalina State Park. Catalina is a well-used park and can be very crowded, especially on weekends. Last summer, the Bighorn Fire caused severe damage to Catalina State Park. It may be many years before it returns to its beauty, but it’s still worth a trip there. Oracle State Park is under-used, as there is so much to offer the visitor. Once you drive through the community of Oracle, turn at the sign directing you to the park. Once inside the park, you can drive back to the Ranch House. There you will find hiking trails and the Ranch House with a museum, gift shop, and feeders on the patio that attract many birds. It is not usual to see over 10 species coming to the feeders. Both state parks offer many trails to explore and connect with nature.

Another local place to visit is the Peppersauce Campground area about 30 minutes from SaddleBrooke Ranch, especially if you are interested in hearing owls early in the morning or late in the evening. Both Western Screech Owls and Elf Owls are known to occupy the large sycamore trees there. Hike up the road that leads away from the campground to see many other birds.

Near Mammoth, also about 30 minutes away, is Bar 7 Nature Trail. The trail is about 1.5 miles long, meandering through a magnificent, mature mesquite bosque.

Heading north from SaddleBrooke Ranch, and about an hour and 15 minutes away, is the 392-acre Boyce Thompson Arboretum near Superior, now run by a nonprofit organization. Since it is a botanical garden with focuses on trees and other woody plants, it attracts many bird species. Although the admission fee is $15, it is well worth visiting for more than just the birds.

Our last place is probably one of the best-known places for birders in the region. Sweetwater Wetland Park, a 60-acre site, is known by birders from all over the world. Just 45 minutes from SaddleBrooke Ranch, located near I-10 and Miracle Mile, this park has plenty of water, using reclaimed water exclusively. It is not unusual to see over 50 species of birds and an occasional bobcat. Avoid going on the weekends.

We live in one of the most diverse areas in the United States, and to have these sites within our backyard is phenomenal; I encourage you to take advantage of what you will find at these sites. Remember, May is a month when our reptile friend, Mr. Rattlesnake will be out. Always be aware of your surroundings. Remember to carry plenty of water as the temperatures get hotter.

Next month, we will visit some sites that are a little further away and an overnight stay may be best.