North America

Second spring

One of the most common misconceptions about the Sonoran Desert held by those who’ve never lived here is that there are no seasons. Isn’t it just hot and dry all year long? Maybe a little less hot in “winter?”

Of course, we don’t get the spectacular fall foliage that blankets states such as Vermont in swaths of yellow, red, and orange (unless you head to our nearby mountains . . . ). But nature compensates us for that: We get two springs. 

The geography of the Sonoran Desert region, while it restricts the overall amount of rain that falls each year, breaks what does fall into two major periods—one in July and August, another in December and January. The summer rainy season is characterized by brief, powerful thunderstorms that originate in the tropical Pacific Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico; winter rains are usually more gentle and of longer duration (and, of course, colder), and sweep down from the northern Pacific. In good years each season will result in about four or five inches of rain—perhaps 10 inches annually. Not much by the standards of Vermont residents, who’d cry “Drought!” if they failed to get three times that amount—but desert plants and animals have evolved to exploit every drop.

WTH is a WMC?

Image from SummitCountyVoice.comJust as humans need roads and highways to move between home and work, animals, especially large mammals, need protected corridors for migration, breeding, and finding food and water. These Wildlife Movement Corridors have become a vital tool for ensuring the survival of many species.

For decades, the standard approach to wildlife conservation around the world was to set aside large blocks of land that were then safeguarded from development and over-hunting. While these areas—from Yellowstone in the U.S. to the Serengeti in Africa—are vital as core habitat for thousands of species, biologists slowly realized they could not exist in isolation. In the U.S., for example, we learned that such animals as mountain lions, bighorn sheep, black and grizzly bears, elk, and many other large herbivores and carnivores regularly move between mountain ranges and other designated protected landscapes. This movement prevents inbreeding, allows escape from drought or fire-stressed environments, and lets animals follow seasonal changes in grazing or hunting. However, these corridors often cross unprotected land that is developed or in danger of being developed. By identifying where animals move, potential conflict can be mitigated or eliminated altogether.

"Use what you know to do good as you go"

The Muskoka Foundation, whose tagline is “Use What You Know to Do Good as You Go,” is getting the summer off to a great start with programs for travelers throughout Canada, USA, Latin America and Africa. Many overlanders don’t realize how much of a difference they can make in their own backyards: Muskoka has volunteering locations in Inuvik, along the Top of the World Highway; in Seward, along the spectacular Kenai Peninsula; and down to Canyon de Chelley in Arizona, to name a few. 

Muskoka runs programs for youth in photography, entrepreneurship, IT, and business, as well as “no volunteering skills required” programs in music and artisan crafts. The foundation provides all the equipment, contacts, and curriculum to get volunteers started, all you need to do is show up., or Twitter @dogoodasyougo

Trips & classes to El Aribabi, Summer 2011

A unique opportunity to explore the birds, wildlife and landscape of El Aribabi Conservation Ranch, the newly designated Natural Protected Area of Sonora, Mexico. Two conservation expeditions are being offered by Cynthia Wolf of Wild by Nature Tours (October 14-16 and 21-23) for only $275 per person (10% discount for couples), which includes all lodging and meals. Guided activities such as hiking, birding and wildlife watching and tracking will be led by Cynthia Wolf, Wild By Nature. The expedition’s caravan departs Nogales, AZ mid-morning on Friday and returns by Sunday late afternoon.

Experience the beauty of the Sonoran Sky Islands while learning about  birds, their identification, behavior, ecology, and other characteristics.  Three weekend workshops are being offered this summer for only $275 per person (10% discount for couples), which includes all lodging, meals, and birdwatching classes instructed by Homer Hansen.  The workshops depart Tucson Friday mid day and return by late afternoon on Sunday.  Minimum 6 participants required for each workshop. June 10-12, June 24-26, and July 15-17.

Wildlife tracking workshop in northern Mexico

ConserVentures assisted Sky Island Alliance this past weekend teaching a wildlife tracking class at El Aribabi Conservation Ranch in northern Sonora, just 30 miles from the U.S. border. Roseann & Jonathan Hanson volunteered as instructors, joining Sergio Avila and Jessica Lamberton of Sky Island Alliance, and Cynthia Wolf, of New Mexico, in teaching the class to 9 volunteers who are part of SIA's wildlife linkages program. Roseann helped start the program when she was director of SIA in early 2000. We found tracks of many animals, including bobcat, coyote, mountain lion, and a jaguar-killed deer. See our photo gallery here: El Aribabi Tracking Workshop. For more information on how volunteer wildlife tracking programs help save habitat for wildlife, please visit

Overland Expo nearly doubles in size

To say that Overland Expo 2011 was a huge success is in fact an understatement: the growth, excitement, and quality blew us away. Thanks to our title sponsors [Four Wheel CampersARB-USASportsmobileOverland JournalEquipt Expedition Outfitters] and special sponsors Land Rover, RawHyde Adventures BMW Academy, Jeep, and MaxTrax. For complete news, photo, and video, please visit