Every so often the namesake of Beaver Creek makes an appearance. This beaver was just going for swim late one afternoon when park staff was lucky enough to catch it on film. Over the past 100 years the beaver population in Arizona has dropped dramatically due to over hunting and habitat loss. Luckily, there are still some places left where beaver swim free.
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Floods are common events in riparian ecosystems and this flood of Beaver Creek in December of 2004 was one of the most impressive that Montezuma Castle has ever experienced. The area shown in this video is the picnic area, which is usually 6-8 feet above the level of the creek, however in this flood it is 4-5 below the surface of the water. Interestingly enough, while floods like this certainly damage the park, they are necessary events that ensure the health of the riparian ecosystem that the park is set aside to protect.
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These Hooded Orioles hung their nest from porch rafters in park housing, making it unusually easy for staff to capture this video. The three babies rely on Mom and Dad to feed them (insects and invertebrates), and to keep the nest clean by carrying away ‘fecal sacs,’ sacks made of mucus, strong enough to hold scat from each baby. Watch for Mom to take one of these sacs away at the end of the video. The Hooded Orioles may have two broods per season, during the summer here in Arizona, before returning to southern Mexico for winter. We were lucky to watch as these little Orioles grew and fledged.
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Visitors often ask what animals are responsible for all of the dirt piles and holes that can be seen all over the ground at Montezuma Castle and Montezuma Well. The answer more often than not is the Pocket Gopher. Pocket Gophers are plentiful, but they are rarely seen because they live a vast majority of their lives underground. Though considered pests by some, Pocket Gophers are actually very important members of the ecosystem. Not only does their burrowing promote and encourage a dynamic mosaic of nutrients and soil conditions that promote diversity and maintain disturbance-dependent components of plant communities. They also feed a great number of the ecosystems predators from snakes to raptors.
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Every year the maintenance staff at Montezuma Well has to divert the water that normally flows through the pre-historic irrigation canal into Beaver Creek. They do this in order to do maintenance on the canal, maintenance which is required in order to keep the canal working properly. Pre-historically the Sinagua would have had to do the exact same thing. This video shows the moment when the water from the outlet is once again directed down the canal. While you watch this try and imagine what moments like this one would have felt like to the Sinagua whose whole existence at Montezuma Well was dependant on the crops that this canal supplied water to.
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Squirrels, like this one, are a very common site at both Montezuma Castle and Montezuma Well. The fact that these little critters are cute and fearless is great for it allows visitors to watch them. However, those two traits also get the squirrels in trouble because well intentioned people try often try and feed them. This has become a big problem because some of the squirrels have become habituated to and reliant on humans for food, which is not only dangerous for us, it is ultimately a death sentence for the squirrels. Enjoy this short video and remember that squirrels are experts of finding food on their own.
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