This feature is a reprint of a story that originally appeared in Arizona Wildlife Views.
Increase your odds for successful wildlife viewing
Sometimes people are surprised that they don’t see wildlife easily when they go looking.
Remember, wildlife movies and TV documentaries need many hours of patient filming to get footage for the screen.
To increase your odds of a successful viewing experience, here are a few tips.
Places to Watch
In Arizona, water is the key for better viewing. Streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, basins and depressions holding water are good spots to watch (always from a distance, so you don’t disturb the animals’ natural behavior). Water enhances vegetation, and vegetation offers food, shelter and nesting sites. But dry washes hold wildlife, too. The vegetation uses water flowing underground. Plant growth is often quite apparent; plus, dry washes offer travel corridors.
Time of Day to Watch
Humans and wildlife are generally on different activity schedules. The weather and especially temperature dictate wildlife activity: When it is hot, animals lie low and don’t expend energy. So don’t expect to take an outdoor lunch break at midday and see wildlife easily.
The best times to look for mammals are at dawn and dusk (for crepuscular animals) or in the dark of night (for nocturnal animals). For birds, the major activity occurs early in the morning. If you get out before the sun comes up, you’ll notice what is often called the “dawn chorus.” A smaller evening activity peak occurs as birds head to their night roosts.
While hiking, stop and wait. Be patient. As your senses heighten, sounds and movement will grab your attention. While you are stopped, don’t forget to look for small mammals, lizards, snakes, dragonflies and butterflies. These animals often are abundant and can be seen easily.
By moving more slowly, looking for water sources and getting on “wildlife time,” you can greatly increase your odds of seeing wildlife anywhere in Arizona.
—Joe Yarchin, Arizona Game and Fish Department watchable wildlife program manager