|site at BTA below Picket Post Mountain|
Arriving at the park by early afternoon where we were met by another volunteer couple who had been instructed to direct us to our site. We spent the rest of the day settling in: hooking up utilities, laying out “pack rat deterring rope lights”, and a cursory exploration of our immediate surroundings including a walk to the park’s visitor center.
Our site provided us with a stunning view of Picket Post Mountain. On a purely practical note, Carol was delighted to find the laundry facility (free to park volunteers) was just a few steps away.
|view from Tom's desk window|
This was our third season volunteering in the Arizona State Park system, our two previous seasons volunteering at Kartchner Caverns State Park. It was only natural then that we started comparing how the management styles differed. Quite a bit as it turned out.
|a massive transplant into BTA from an arboretum in Flagstaff was underway|
|barrel cacti - Arizona's version of a pumpkin patch|
|Picket Post House - Boyce Thompson's home in the 1920's|
In recognition of recreational, educational and historical significance (and the fact that the arboretum was looking for more funding) bilateral agreement was expanded in 1976 to include Arizona State Parks.
This new trilateral agreement between the arboretum, the U of A, and state parks allowed the arboretum to weather fiscal crises while at the same time employ creative manage techniques to preserve and grow a complex resource.
|Fall colors and sunset view from the RV|
|Gray fox foraging for food; King Creek after a rain (typical a dry wash)|
However, before we could begin leading tours, we ourselves needed to be trained. And this portion of our experience is where we differed the most from our experiences at Kartchner.
At Kartchner we attended over fifty hours of classroom instruction learning all the aspects of conducting a cave tour. This was followed by several days of mentoring before we were ever signed off to become cave tour guides. Such intensive training at BTA was virtually non-existent.
|Jim Shepherd with an Edible Plants Tour; Tom with a General Tour; Carol helping at Hospitality|
|Carol helping band Monarchs in the Butterfly Garden|
|painting the Human Sundial; South Africa presentation in the Smith Building|
Since we’re both self-motivated, our self-training surged ahead. We shadowed Jim Shepherd (an extremely knowledgeable long time volunteer) on a four hour walk covering all the salient points we were expected to convey to the public: park history, key plant families, and the general route. Later the same week we shadowed another long time volunteer and, with much online research online, within a few week’s time, we felt confident to start doing general tours.
|a portion of the library; tallying birds following a Friday walk|
We had arrived at a seasonally slow time in the park as far as general tours go. The high season wouldn't begin until Feb when many of the snowbirds started arriving in large numbers. Visitors were not required to make tour reservations for the general tours nor was there a tour size limit. At Kartchner, we rarely teamed up on a tour and even then, one was a leader while the other was a trailer. At BTA we double teamed on a tour, each of us taking turns talking about various aspects of the arboretum. It was actually a lot of fun doing it together. And if we wound up with a particularly large group, we could always sub-divide the group as needed.
|two of our Friday regulars, Diane, Dana after a long Xmas Bird Count|
In addition to the general tours, a number of non-resident volunteers lead specific tours. These tours focused on specific topics. There were seasonal Wildflower Walks, seasonal Butterfly Walks, an Edible and Medicinal Plants Walk, a Plants of the Bible walk, and a Geology Walk. Area expert birders (mainly from the Phoenix area) guided the weekend bird walks. These walks were held on alternating Sundays and Saturdays. Participating in these weekend walks we got to meet a lot of the area’s top birders. We also realized there was a need for a walk on a weekday.
We quickly initiated a weekly Friday bird walk which by the time we left the park at the end of December, had become quite popular. So popular, in fact, that we encouraged two of our “regulars”, Lisa and Peggy, who worked in the Aviary Department at the Phoenix Zoo, to continue the weekly walks. They agreed and by all accounts are doing a terrific job (as we knew they would!).
|our last Friday bird walk group before we left BTA|
|what bird walk would be complete without a scope?|
|top: the Werlings with Dick's sister Pat and husband John; bottom: out for lunch with Dick and Sally|
|out on a private tour with Betty and Scott|
|out for pizza with Leslie and Don|
|lunch with Sharon and Mike|
|showing Dean and Chris around BTA|
|lunch with Russell and Connie (more bird walk regulars)|
|Carol and Marge at Salt River Canyon|
|on tour at the Olive Mill; birthday celebration|
Overall, birding at BTA was slow given the time of year. Between birds seen in the park and birds we attracted to our feeders and water, we tallied 79 species. We did, however, manage to add one ABA life bird: Rosy-faced Lovebird. There was an established population located in a neighborhood in Apache Junction.
|our regular feeder visitors: Gambel's quail and Phainopepla|
|Debs and Stuart on a chilly (but sunny!) Tucson day|
However, the hospitality coordinator (on several occasions) asked if we were returning and if so, to please consider working for her. Unfortunately, our preference is always interpretive work. The hospitality position didn’t include interpretive work.
Another consideration about whether or not to return was that the nearest acceptable grocery store was a 25 mile drive away (and that the nearest propane dealer was a twenty mile drive away in the opposite direction). Returning probably wasn't in the cards. Specially since we already had some interesting invitations for volunteer work in Texas.
On the first of January, we spent New Year’s Day closing up the RV and driving to Tombstone Territories RV Park near Sierra Vista where we would take a three month break from volunteering and getting ready for our next trip back to Costa Rica…the subject of our next blog entry.
Several more photos from BTA posted here at Flickr