Monday, July 13, 2015

A New Friend of Agua Caliente Park

My work with Tucson Audubon brought me to the Roy P. Drachman Agua Caliente Park on the east side of Tucson the other day, and what an oasis it is! I went with the operations and retail coordinator Sarah Whelan to pay a visit to our dedicated volunteers at the Agua Caliente nature shop an do some inventory. That's right, Tucson Audubon has ANOTHER nature shop for people who live far from the location on University Blvd or for anyone who wants to experience this quirky park and historic ranch house.

Agua Caliente Park (commonly referred to as ACP among frequenters of the area) is a very unique gem in Tucson, because it sits on a huge preserve of 101 acres and was once home to 9 hot springs! Sadly most of the springs have since dried due to a variety of environmental factors, like invasive species and increased groundwater withdrawal from a growing population. The remaining lake is now fed with treated effluent (waste water that has been treated at a facility and is recirculated for non-drinking purposes) and the animals love it. 
After my first quick scope of the park, I entered the Agua Caliente ranch house, which has been home to many a family, and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Another little known fact about the ranch house is that Tucson Audubon has a nature shop inside 
A glimpse of the ACP nature shop
The two devoted volunteers running the shop were busy hosting customers after the weekly bird walk every Thursday morning, so Sarah and I joined the friendly docent for a tour of the house. It turns out the house has a long history of homing several prestigious families before it was turned to the hands of the City of Tucson. Every occupant left their own mark on the property, and you can learn about them by visiting the house and going on a tour, ours was personally led!


A view of the hallway giving the photographic history of the home.

Once the bird walk dissipated Sarah and two volunteers, Rosie Bennett and Liz Harrison, went to work taking inventory. I went for walk around the property to become acquainted with the facility and see some animals. I had no shortage of wildlife to view, my first sighting being a Vermilion Flycatcher.
He saw me before I saw him.

Throughout my walk I realized this oasis is also a dumping ground for domestic animals that have lost their homes. I saw an albino catfish walking along the lake while I watched the smaller fish swimming close to the shore. When I told Sarah, she recalled a time a domesticated goose approached her and tried to make her its new owner. Silly goose!

These are the first small fish I noticed.
I did a double take when I saw this swimming through the water amass the crowd of small fish.
I saw a number of other animals, including a Gila Woodpecker and Road Runner. I was sadly unable to photograph them, but at the end of my walk I spotted a female Broad-Billed Hummingbird!

This one was difficult to snap a photo of, but I got it!
These binoculars face the water for your viewing pleasure
I had a fabulous time visiting Agua Caliente and I plan on returning at my very next opportunity, this time with a picnic! If you would like to learn about this cultural and ecological gem on the east side of Tucson, read the Agua Caliente Park overview from Pima county. 

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