Farewell Val

Thursday, May 25th was Val Grimmett’s last day with Willow Bend.

Val was one of our educators, teaching in-class programs, leading field trips, and helping with tabling and Center events. Before joining Willow Bend, Val was a dedicated  elementary school teacher and taught for many years at different FUSD schools, including Kinsey Elementary.

Val joined the Willow Bend team almost 4 years, and is now officially retiring and moving down south (where its warmer!).

Thank you Val and good luck on your new adventures!

Field Trip Season

March – May is field trip season at Willow Bend, which means that we are b-u-s-y!

This year we had over 70 field trips, to more than 30 classes, in over 20 schools, engaging 500+ students from kindergartners to 6th graders.

We explored Picture Canyon with 3rd graders, hiked Walnut Canyon and the Rio Wetlands with 4th graders, discovered our senses with kindergartners at the Willow bend gardens, learned about the Rio de Flag with 6th graders, built shelters at Aspen Corner with 1st graders and so much more!

Below are just some of the images from all the fun educational experiences we had this season.

Amazing Arthropods, Another Successful Event!

Another successful Amazing Arthropod event took place on May 20th in partnership with Merriam Powell Center for Environmental Research.

In a packed room on Saturday morning families were able to learn, up close and in person, all about insects and arachnids. How many legs do true insects have? how many species of bees are there in the world, in AZ, around the San Fransisco Peaks? and what do cockroaches eat, were just some of questions answered by Lindsie, Paige, Mary and other knowledgeable entomologists and experts.

Throughout the talk participants got to see LIVE insects including Madagascar hissing cockroaches, and different species of spiders and scorpions. At the end of the talk participants went outside to catch their own insects using nets and special containers.

Hard to pin point the highlight of the day, but we are sure the kids enjoyed seeing their parent’s faces when the cockroaches came out, or when the tarantula didn’t want to go back into her box. But running around outside catching their own butterflies must be a close second.

Thanks to the Arizona Community Foundation Of Flagstaff for supporting this event.





Picture Canyon Tour, May 13th

Post written by: Andy Gould, Willow Bend board member and tour participant.

Picture Canyon is one of my favorite hikes around Flagstaff. The perennial stream flowing through it is the centerpiece of this beautiful wooded canyon. An outing organized by Willow Bend on May 13 was certainly not my first visit. What made it special was all the wonderful people who attended (over 50 participants!) and all that I learned from our leaders about the area’s history. The great variety of petroglyphs is always amazing. I learned a great deal from archeologists Neil Weintraub and Peter Pilles. The really impressive part of its recent history is the story of the efforts of many individuals and community organizations that transformed it from a ditch for treated sewage and a dump for abandoned cars to the beautiful natural and historic preserve that it is today.  The public hikes led by Willow Bend are a great way to learn about the history of this amazing place, both ancient and modern. They are also a great way to learn about the plants and animals and the important role of the Rio de Flag in sustaining this special place.

Archeologist and board member Neil Weintraub giving a talk about the area’s rich history

A beautiful day to be outside

Over 50 participants joined Willow Bend for the first tour of the season


Picture Canyon Tours are Back!

Starting in May Willow Bend will be offering FREE guided tours to Picture Canyon through a partnership with the City of Flagstaff Sustainability Section Open Space. Last year’s program was such a huge success, that we decided to make this year’s tours even better! This year each tour will have a different focus and feature guest experts.

Tours last between 2-3 hours and, in addition to the tours theme, cover basic history, ecology, geology, and archeology of Picture Canyon. The 3-mile loop offers viewing, photography, and educational opportunities for all!

We can’t wait to see you on the trail for our first tour on May 13th. May’s theme is Archeology.

STEM Night and Earth Day – a Virtual Tour with Willow Bend

We recently had the pleasure of participating in two fun community events, STEM Night (March 26th) and Earth Day (April 22nd). We had lots of fun tabling, and in addition to our wildlife matching game and our wildlife track exhibition, we also now have a virtual reality tour! That’s right. Board member Neil Weintraub put together an exciting virtual reality slide show of different Flagstaff open spaces and watchable wildlife sites including Picture Canyon, Frances Short Pond, and of course, Willow Bend habitat gardens. Event attendees were able to put on the virtual reality mask, and take a tour to one of the above sites.

If you want to go on the virtual tour, be sure to catch us at one of our next tabling events.

Adult Workshops with the Arboretum

The March “Introduction to Pruning Workshop” concluded Willow Bend’s Annual Winter Adult Workshop partnership with the Arboretum at Flagstaff.

Throughout the winter, while the Arb is closed, Willow Bend hosts workshops at our center featuring experts speakers and presenters from the Arboretum. The Pruning workshop was a huge success with both beginner as well as expert gardeners in attendance.

In addition to learning about pruning methods participants also got some hands on experience, and helped Willow Bend prune the gardens.

Renewable Energy and The Power of Lightning

For the March Science Saturday event Willow Bend hosted Prometheus Solar and Arizona Wind for Schools for a an event that was all about renewable energy! Kids (and kids at heart) designed their own wind turbines, created beautiful solar art, generated their own energy with our “power” bike, played with solar powered toys, ate solar oven s’mores and more!

In addition, the event celebrated the opening of the “Power of Lightning” art exhibition. The exhibition, which was up during the entire month, featured lightning and storm photography by local photographer Saylor.

Annual Eagle Celebration a Huge Success!

Over 130 visitors attended the Annual Bald Eagle Event held in partnership by AZ Game and Fish, Willow Bend Environmental Education Center and Liberty Wildlife

The day started with an early morning field trip led by AZ Game and Fish Biologists and volunteers. The lucky group spotted 6 juvenile bald eagles, one adult golden eagle, and numerous waterfowl species along Lake Mary Road.

The day continued with three talks at Willow Bend presented by AZ Game and Fish biologists and Willow Bend staff covering eagle ecology, management, and conservation. During the family focused program our young participants became ornithologists for the day and made observations about eagle characteristics, feeding habits, and habitat. One young volunteer got to dress up as an eagle to demonstrate key eagle adaptations.

But the highlight of the day was the appearance of live eagles from Liberty Wildlife. In addition to our annual eagle visitors: Aurora the adult bald eagle and the Anasazi the golden eagle, this year Liberty Wildlife had a special surprise. They brought Laddie, a juvenile bald eagle, which provided participants the opportunity to observe the difference in feather coloration and size between an adult and a juvenile bald eagle.

The eagles displayed their impressive wing span and their powerful talons while Joe and Jan Miller, wildlife rehabilitators and bird trainers from Liberty Wildlife, shared information about the birds, conservation efforts, and Liberty Wildlife rehabilitation center.

“This is a wonderful event and a great opportunity to educate the public, especially children, about eagles in hope of ensuring their continued survival” said Moran Henn, Willow Bend’s Executive Director. Joe Miller, from Liberty Wildlife, emphasized the importance of programs that rehabilitate and protect eagles, and shared a few simple ways each and every one of us can help, “from picking up fishing lines, leaving birds alone while in their nests, and notifying the appropriate entities if you see an injured bird or unlawful behavior” said Miller. Shelly Shepherd, AZ Game and Fish Information and Education Program Manager was pleased with the public’s interest in local wildlife. She explained that “programs like this are a way to promote collaboration and cooperation for wildlife management and conservation”. “This was amazing!” concluded 8 year old Lucy, one of the event’s participants, and summed up the day for all of us.

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Participants demonstrating an eagle’s wing span

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Joe and Jan Miller from Liberty Wildlife with Aurora, the bald eagle, and Anasazi the golden eagle.

Basics of Wildlife Tracking Workshop

This week’s adult workshop at Willow Bend focused on wildlife tracking (or sometimes, neighborhood cat tracking) . 

The workshop was held as part of an annual winter partnership between Willow Bend and the Arboretum at Flagstaff. Lynne Nemeth, Arboretum at Flagstaff Executive Director, introduced us to more than 10 different clues we can use to track or identify wildlife. It’s not just tracks – but also scat, chomped vegetation, burrows, scratching posts and remains of prey. Mountain lions even leave a strong smell – much worse than your cat’s litter tray – on their ‘scent posts’.

The workshop was a big success, covering everything from skunks and bobcats to the cheeky peccaries who’ve recently moved up to Flagstaff. Participants learned that you can tell an Abert squirrel’s age by the length of their ears; that porcupine scat sometimes resembles sawdust due to eating trees; and that raccoons leave prints a lot like a human hand print. Participants also looked at tracks and real scat (in sealed boxes) of all shapes and sizes.

After the local wildlife presentation participants followed Lynne outside. Despite the mud and ongoing rain they were able to see deer and coyote tracks, ponderosa branches chewed off by squirrels and learned to tell domestic animal scat apart from their wild relatives. So now hopefully participants will know how to tell they are tracking a bobcat and not the cat next door.

The next workshop, Pruning, is coming up is March 25th! Don’t miss it.


Looking at tracks outside on the trail


Indoor presentation


Track and scat samples