Las Cienegas National Conservation Area © Lang Elliott

IN EARLY TO MID APRIL, I made two visits to Las Cienegas National Conservation Area (elevation 4600 feet), located about eight miles north of Sonoita, Arizona. Located in the transitional area between the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts, the picturesque refuge comprises more than 42,000 acres of rolling grasslands with numerous riparian corridors lined with tall cottonwood trees.

Fellow recordist Christine Hass of Wild Mountain Echoes introduced me to the area, which is easily accessible and holds considerable promise for nature sound recording. Although still early in the season, I managed to get some extraordinary soundscapes, several of which are featured below.

Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, north of Sonoita, Arizona.

Mattie Spring Dawn Chorus (with Gray Hawk): A relaxing dawn chorus recorded at Mattie Spring in Las Cienegas National Conservation Area near Sonoita, Arizona. Listen for the sounds of Gray Hawk, Yellow Warbler, White-winged Dove, Gila Woodepecker, and more! 7am, 12 April 2017.

Mattie Spring Nightscape: Along with the gentle trickle of water from the small spring-fed stream augmented by a pleasing cricket chorus, listen for the snores and chuckles of a Chiricahua Leopard Frog (possibly Lowland Leopard Frog?), and the toots of Western Screech Owl. Recorded at Mattie Spring in Las Cienegas National Conservation Area. 8:19pm, 6 April, 2017.

Las Cienegas National Conservation Area © Lang Elliott

Elf Owls Cavorting: Elf Owl activity around their nest tree, an Arizona Walnut, with a pair of Great-horned Owls hooting in background. Listen for lots of wing noise of flying owls. Recorded at Empire Gulch in Las Cineagas National Conservation Area near Sonoita, Arizona. 10pm, 9 April 2017.

Chiricahua Leopard Frogs: A small group of Chiricahua Leopard Frogs sounding off in a spring-pool at Empire Gulch in Las Cienegas National Conservation Area. Listen also for a Common Poorwill, loudly calling at times. Air temperature was around 40F, which suppressed calling, but this single outburst of activity nonetheless occurred in the middle of the night. I had no idea the frogs were there; I had placed my microphone to record the dawn chorus, but let it run all night just in case. 1:18 am, 13 April, 2017.

I hope you enjoyed these recordings from Las Cienegas National Conservation Area. My plan is to revisit this wonderful refuge in early May, once the migrant birds are back. I’m sure the natural oundscape will be busier then, which should result in some wonderful recordings.

Naturally Yours,
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