Jan – Mar 2015
This is the Nature Conservancy’s oldest Arizona preserve, located 1/4 miles on a gravel road from Patagonia, a small town 20 miles Northeast of Nogales, AZ. As the host volunteers, we were the only residents on the near-400 acre preserve, with the manager’s house across the street and outside the fence and gate. The site was level gravel, surrounded by Mesquite trees, with full hookups and free Wi-Fi that could be picked up from the office.
The Preserve is open Wed-Sunday, and our days on were Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. We opened the gate and visitor center at 0730 and closed at 4:00. Our main duties were to provide visitor services – check in, collect fees, operated the small store, and provide information to visitors. We also did light housekeeping and kept the two restrooms clean.
The Manager was very easy to work with and is willing to adjust hours/days if necessary. He’s very busy as the only employee of this and other Nature Conservancy properties, so be prepared to operate on your own.
Having a working knowledge of birding is a plus. The Preserve is a birder’s hotspot, particularly if a rare bird like the Rufus-backed Robin is in the area. We learned a great deal about birds in the area, saw many new to us birds as we walked the trails, and met many interesting people from around the country. There’s also ample wildlife; Javelina and White tail (Coues) deer are common, and Bobcat, Coatimundi, and Coyote are frequently seen.
After closing, the preserve was ours and we watched as the deer came out of the trees to feed, with an occasional Javelina family. It was quiet, peaceful, and very dark at night. There’s virtually no danger from immigrants or smuggles as the area is well patrolled by the Border Patrol.
The little town of Patagonia is an interesting mix of aging hippies, cowboys, and retired folks. There are a few good restaurants, small market, and post office, and Sierra Vista is only 38 miles away.
The only cons, and they’re minor, is that the well water is very hard and you’ll have to be mindful of wood rats getting into your rig and damaging wiring. We used a combination of Fresh Cab and lights to deter them and had no problem.
To sum up, this is a magical place – walking along the creek under the cottonwoods is like being in another part of the country. The birding is world-class, the setting is perfect, and the management is wonderful. It’s one of the best opportunities we can imagine.