Sonoita Creek Restoration
A healthy creek brings the birds to Patagonia
The Sonoita Creek is the lifeblood of birds and wildlife in Patagonia, making the connection from the Santa Cruz River and Sonora Mexico through the low valleys and up into the mountains of the Sky Island region. The creek turns this area into an amazing corridor for wildlife diversity and creates a birders’ paradise. Threatened western Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Gray Hawks, Violet-crowned Hummingbirds, and a wide variety of other species call this creek home.
However, much of the creek is choked with invasive species, the water table is dropping, banks are eroding, and the majestic cottonwoods are not recruiting a new generation. The understory in many areas forms dense areas of Johnsongrass and vinca – niether providing habitat for most birds and crowding out the incredible biodiversity of native grasses, shrubs, and pollinator plants that are associated with the amazing birds folks travel from all around the world to see.
Tucson Audubon Society has accepted the challenge from Matt Fraker to turn the Johnsongrass-choked bankside of the Sonoita Creek at the Paton Center into an area instead crowded with native grasses and flowers, a weedy-seedy (in the best senses of those words) haven for finches, buntings, and all the other little seed-eaters, as well as producing a bountiful crop of the insects that provide meals for cuckoos and flycatchers and all nesting species. Once completed, the area will be a living memorial to his mother Carol.
Further, Tucson Audubon has received a grant from Partners for Fish and Wildlife to extend this project onto 5 adjoining acres with the project specifically being focused on benefitting cuckoos, pollinators, and a wide suite of migratory birds using the Sonoita Creek corridor. Improvements will be made by removing Johnsongrass and replacing it with a wide variety of understory pollinator plants–including milkweeds for monarchs, dense patches of desert honeysuckle and other nectar-laden flowers for the hummingbirds, and Arizona walnut and cottonwood trees for the cuckoos.
Check out the Creekside Restoration Facebook page to stay updated on this project and see photos of the work!