Community Nature Walks
By Doug Moore
A walk in Madera Canyon is always a fine time, but the chance to walk along with an expert that “knows what’s out there,” can make for a truly memorable nature experience. The natural history docents of the Friends of Madera Canyon lead guided nature walks on the accessible Proctor Nature Loop Trail in the canyon for the local public and area visitors. The paved trail winds through four distinct plant communities along Madera Creek in an easy to medium difficulty three-quarter mile hike.
Our Sky Island canyon has plenty of scenic beauty and is teeming with wonderful plants and animals to discover. Madera Canyon is particularly famous for birds, but there are also hundreds of species of seasonal wildflowers, dozens of butterflies and all sorts of other arthropods, reptiles, and mammals. Furthermore, the canyon reveals many different faces through the year, changing markedly with the seasons for those that choose to look closely. Friends guided nature walks provide an opportunity for “newbies” to discover and experience the canyon, and allow “more-experienced” locals to explore the nature, geology, and history/cultural context in greater depth. Cameras are encouraged and there is plenty of photo-worthy subject material!
So far in 2011 the nature walks have proved lots of fun. Last spring, late rains brought out a nice bloom of perennial wildflowers and shrubs and there was an excellent spring bird migration. A May walk highlight was an unusual Sonoran Mountain Kingsnake - one of the most beautiful, colorful snakes in the world! In August and September, bountiful monsoon rains produced a fine late-summer wildflower bloom to line the Proctor Trail and butterflies, like Bordered Patch, Cloudless Sulphur, and Pipevine Swallowtail, filled the air. Participants got looks at Blue Grosbeak, Varied Bunting, Bell’s Vireos, and other canyon birds. A September highlight was a trio of Eacles Imperial Moth caterpillars, looking much like emerald-green concertinas with blue spots, munching away on soapberry leaves along the creek.
The community nature walks are held on the 2nd Saturday of the month, August - November and February - May, and are open to anyone that wants to participate. Walk dates, start times, and information appear in the activities calendar on this website and in the Green Valley News “Five Things to Do” column. Two more community nature walks are scheduled for October and November in 2011, so mark your calendars and plan to join the Friends docents for a guided walk in the canyon. You’ll be amazed what’s out there!