Our conservation journey has been underway for some time…
Birdland Ranch was purchased by Tony Heath and Kate Scott in December of 1997. The 153 acre ranch at 5325ft elevation is an inholding within the Coronado National Forest on the western slopes of the Huachuca Mountains encompassing Sierra Madrean pine/oak woodland and open grassland terrain. After renovating the ranch house compound, they began restoration projects on sections of eroded grassland areas using field expedient methods of brush pile construction and hand seeding. September of 1999, Tony and Kate joined Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Nest Box Network and erected 4 nest boxes after observing Western and Eastern Bluebirds around the homesite and grasslands. March 2000 to Spring 200, reconstruction and seeding was begun utilizing land imprinting/dry method seeding of two earthen ponds (one of the ponds had been a trash dump, the other a serious site of soil erosion!) to provide valuable habitat for wildlife. Seeding utilized locally harvested native grasses; including blue, side oats, and rothrock gramma, plains love grass, sand drop seed, alkali sacaton, indian wheat, green sprangletop, and small flower fescue. Wood sorrel-oxalis and cypress sedge was hand seeded for grassland birds.
In 2013 Tony’s hard work was rewarded with a US Fish and Wildlife grant of $25,000 to continue wildlife habitat restoration, which has been an ongoing project to be completed this year. The pine/oak woodlands have been carefully cleared by conscientious rangeland fire crews. Very hard, demanding work under extreme weather conditions, but all was accomplished safely and with regard for all the feathered, furred, scaled, plants and trees. We are already seeing new tree growth and an increase in Azure bluebird activity (species of Greatest Conservation Need, as cited by AZ Game and Fish) within these cleared areas.
With the “birth” of the 501(c)(3), Madrean Wildlife Center in 2017, it has enabled us to partner with Tucson Audubon Society. They generously donated 20 nest boxes, which we will begin installing a few this month. We will have a total of 36 nest boxes when all the dust has settled.
To encourage other nest box trail development, Kate has written up a Nest Box Trail Blazer Guidebook. This will be a document that will continuously be updated as new data is shared from dedicated citizen scientists.