June 11, 2013
We have returned once again with news from the Northern Jaguar Reserve. This month, our trip was during the beginning of the very hottest season, which was noticeable throughout our entire journey. On the reserve, Dubaral is where we feel the most oppressive heat because it is between two massive mountains and fairly exposed. Although the stream that runs through Dubaral is full of tall mesquite trees, there is very little humidity and that leads to strong bursts of hot wind. It is incredible to experience the microclimates on the reserve. We feel the extreme heat at Dubaral, but then at La Ventana the temperature is cool and fresh. This time of year, this is especially the case during the late afternoons when it is possible to feel a cool breeze. At night, La Ventana is very pleasant and even a little chilly at dawn.
There is definitely a rise in temperature on the reserve but also an increase in wildlife sightings, especially the number of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). As we mentioned last month, they can be seen close to the ponds and streams that also attract jaguars in search of prey. Also, there are a greater number of songbirds: phainopepla (Phainopepla nitens), canyon wren (Catherpes mexicanus), black-tailed gnatcatcher (Polioptila melanura), and beautiful, colorful birds like the western tanager (Piranga ludoviciana) and northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis). On two occasions at La Ventana, very early in the morning, we spied a wild turkey – known as huíjalo in Sahuaripa, although the name varies throughout Sonora. In Aconchi, they are called chihuis, and in Huachinera, they are known as coconas. One of the turkeys we were watching was frightened off by Loco (the reserve’s dog) as we were approaching the ranch house. Unfortunately, we did not see the turkey again. It is possible we will see an even greater number of birds next month due to the abundance of pitaya cactus fruit (Stenocereus thurberi).
We are anxiously waiting for the monsoon season to arrive, and so are the Viviendo con Felinos ranchers. Their cattle depend on the plant growth that follows a good summer rain. In the past, local ranchers have lost many of their cattle – both adults and calves – due to the ongoing drought. We all hope that the summer rains will come soon.
Javier Valenzuela Amarillas has worked on the Northern Jaguar Reserve and Viviendo con Felinos ranches since 2012. As a jaguar guardian, he helps to maintain an extensive network of motion-triggered cameras on the reserve and ranches, inventory the ecological health of the land and water, and patrol the area to keep out poachers.