Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Border Patrol Agents and Helicopters

Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge is a dandy place. It's so damn pretty I can hardly stand it. It's almost 120 thousand ares, with mountains, grasslands, lots of riparian zones. It rocks. And like i mentioned before, there are jaguars who call the refuge home, which is unbelievably cool. There are Chiricahua Leopard Frogs too, which are really endangered as far as I know. And last night when I was setting up the camera, I saw the tiniest, itty-bittiest frog, toad? um, in the whole world. He was half the size of my pinky fingernail. And I can't figure out what he was. But I know he was adorable. Lots of other wildlife we've already seen also. We heard tons of coyotes last night too, singing for us. Very kind of them.

I have always loved Southern AZ, and Zac and I think it's a pretty good choice for a yurt. Yesterday we went to Madera Canyon and finally went hiking. (because you know, after driving so much, we have basically become sedentary fat asses). We saw lots of cool birds and lizards and got to hike with some real inviting lightening and thunder - which, was actually quite welcome considering I haven't seen rain in much too long. Two people coming down the trail told us there was a young black bear a mile up right off the trail. But he had moved on to better things i guess by the time we got there. So, no bears for us yesterday.

So...Buenos Aires NWR stops at the Mexico border. Zac and I have had our share of experiences on the border (one near death one for me, 3 near death ones for him), so this is nothing new for us really.

We had to get a permit for the research down here, so in that process, we were talking to the refuge people, who expressed some concern about us setting up night vision cameras on watering holes at the refuge.

Apparently, Border Patrol does this at times and usually the equipment gets trashed. We actually have to leave a laptop and other expensive equipment out all night long sometimes, sooo...we're just gonna scratch that on this site.

Last night was the first night at the site here - going in, we passed at least 15 Border Patrol vehicles,and then a handful of other stopped on the side of roads. There were helicopters circling the refuge all night, with their landing pads about 200 yards from our field site.

Of course, they get a lot of people trying to come across the border - we were told roughly 200 a night at this spot, with lots of drug smuggling. Yay, drug smuggling. I'm real glad I'm not doing this site solo. I think word got around NOT to stop the red Cherokee with CA plates, because 'they are bat researchers.' That is good because otherwise, I have a feeling we would have been pulled over no less than ten times.

It takes about an hour and a freaking half to get to the field site, and we have to pass a border check point on the way back to town. So, we stopped and the guy made some real funny eyebrow movements when he flashed the light into the backseat. I don't blame him - with all the insane equipment, including 4 video cameras and tripods and shit, i'm sure it looked sketchy as hell.

I'm putting money on it that he'll search the car on the third night.

On the way out of the refuge, we passed a big bus with two Border Patrol agents standing outside...waiting to haul people back to Mexico.

So this is going to be an interesting 8 days.

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