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.

eagle 4

Participants demonstrating an eagle’s wing span

eagle 2

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

Flagstaff Open Space Spring 2017 Photo Contest

Our friends at the City of Flagstaff Sustainability Section Open Space are hosting a photo contest and we are calling all of our Willow Bend friends to participate! 

Visit Willow Bend, Sinclair Wash and the Rio Wetlands, Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve, Observatory Mesa Natural Area, any of the Arizona Watchable Wildlife Experience sites or hike along the Flagstaff Urban Trails System, post a photo of your adventure to the Flagstaff Open Space page with the hashtag #FLGOpenSpace for a chance to win great prizes from local outdoor gear shops!

Please read the official rules & eligibility below:

Contest Dates: February 1 – April 30, 2017

• Members of the selection committee are not eligible to submit photos.
• There can only be five (5) entries per person.
• There can only be one (1) photo per entry.
• Entries will only be accepted between February 1, 2017-April 30, 2017.

• Photos will be judged on creativity and how well they highlight any of the folowwing open space sites:
o Observatory Mesa Natural Area
o Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve
o Any Arizona Watchable Wildlife Site
(for full list of sites, please see website:
o Any location on the Flagstaff Urban Trail System
(See map:

• Photographers must complete the following steps:
1. Visit the Flagstaff Open Space Facebook page (
2. ‘Like’ the page
3. Post a photo of an open space site on our Facebook page with the following information included in post:
 “Open Space Spring 2017 Photo Contest”
 Full name of the photographer/contestant
 Name of open space site/location where photo was taken (*See locations eligible locations in THEME section above)
 MUST include the hashtag: #FLGOpenSpace
 Photo Title and/or Caption optional

• Submissions will be reviewed by judges starting on May 1, 2017. Winners will be notified via Facebook direct messenger by May 5, 2017 by an Open Space Facebook page administrator.
• There will be two ways to win the Photo Contest prize:
1. Peoples’ Choice – the photo receiving the most ‘Likes’ on their photo entry post by 11:59pm MST on April 30, 2017.
2. Judges’ Choice – The City of Flagstaff Sustainability Section staff along with the Flagstaff Open Space Program staff will select a winner. Entries will be reviewed beginning on May 1, 2017.
• Winners will be notified via Facebook direct messenger on or before May 5, 2017 by an Open Space staff member. The winners will also be identified on the Flagstaff Open Space Facebook page.

• The City of Flagstaff intends to provide the Peoples’ Choice and Judges’ Choice Open Space Program Spring 2017 Photo Contest Winners with the following prizes:
1. Publication on the Flagstaff Open Space Facebook page.
2. A gift certificate to local Flagstaff gear shop.
3. Publication in the Flagstaff CityScape Spring edition.
4. Publication in the Open Space Program monthly newsletter.
5. Publication on the Arizona Watchable Wildlife Experience website.
6. Promotion as marketing materials for the City of Flagstaff Open Space Program.
• Winners may claim their prize in-person at 101 West Cherry Avenue, Flagstaff, AZ 86001 on the second floor, City of Flagstaff Sustainability Section Office. Prizes must be claimed by June 1, 2017.

This Open Space Program Spring 2017 Photo Contest is sponsored by the City of Flagstaff Open Space Program, 211 West Aspen Avenue, Flagstaff, AZ 86001. This photo contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by, or associated with Facebook.

In submitting the attached photo(s) (PHOTO) to the City of Flagstaff and participating in the City of Flagstaff Open Space Program Spring 2017 Photo Contest, I (we), (CONTESTANT), hereby warrant and agree to the following:

CONTESTANT warrants to CITY that he/she has lawful ownership rights to the PHOTO and acknowledges that once submitted, the PHOTO becomes the property of the CITY.

The PHOTO is the result of the CONTESTANTS sole artistic efforts unless otherwise stated as a collaboration.

Except as otherwise disclosed in writing the CITY in this submittal form, the PHOTO is unique and original and does no infringe upon any copyright or patent.

The PHOTO is free and clear of any lien. Except for title and possession, pursuant to the Copyright ACT of 1976 (17 U.S.C. §101 et seq.), CONTESTANT will retain the copyright and all other rights in and to the PHOTO, however, the CITY will maintain a non-exclusive, perpetual, worldwide, royalty-free license to publicly display as well as reproduce the PHOTO on CITY items, such as print ads, postcards, posters, brochures, applications, television programs and the City website.

In addition the CITY will include CONTESTANT’S name somewhere on the document where the photo is used.

The CITY may alter images of the PHOTO as necessary to fit into reduced or enlarged format sizes.

The CITY may alter images of the PHOTO as necesary to fit into reduced or enlarged format sizes.

The CITY may use the PHOTO on CITY merchandise and commercial items such as a calendar which may be sold for fundraising purposes.

Pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 106A(3) and only to the extent that this Agreement differs, CONTESTANT expressly waives any rights that the he/she may have under 17 U.S.C. §§ 101 et seq., including, without limitation, 17 U.S.C. §§ 106, 106A, and 113, or any successor statute(s) or regulation(s).

CONTESTANT agrees to release CITY, its agents, officials, employees, and volunteers from and against all liability, including copyright or patent infringement claims or causes of action, arising out of this Agreement and claims arising from CONTESTANT’S participation in the City of Ventura Photo Contest. CONTESTANT agrees to defend (with counsel satisfactory to CITY), indemnify and hold City harmless and free from all liability, whether caused by passive negligence or otherwise, arising out of CONTESTANT’S participation or association with the Flagstaff Open Space Spring 2017 Photo Contest. CONTESTANT agrees to pay all costs incident to any claim, including, without limitation, attorneys’ fees. I agree that the above information is correct. I further agree that this agreement is intended to be as broad and inclusive as is permitted by the law of the State of Arizona.

Erin O’Keefe, Open Space Aide
City of Flagstaff
211 West Aspen Avenue
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
(928) 213-2155

Plants and Pollinators Workshop

Plants and Pollinators Workshop

Blog post by Jenny Skene, Willow Bend volunteer and workshop attendee

Which flowers should you plant to attract bats or avoid wasps? What are the main threats to pollinators and how can we help? Ever heard of nectar robbers, sentry milk vetch or hexose?

These were just a few of the topics covered in the plants and pollinators workshop held on Saturday, February 11th through a yearly winter partnership between Willow Bend and the Arboretum at Flagstaff.

Dr. Kris Haskins, Research Director from the Arboretum at Flagstaff, led the workshop and shared her expertise on pollinators, their natural history, human interference and what we can do with our gardens now to encourage them. Participants learned what nectar types and colors of flowers different pollinators prefer; dissected common flowers with toothpicks; and designed their own pollinator gardens with advice from experts.

Here’s a few fun facts from the workshop:

  • Different plants are pollinated by bats, bird, beetles, bees, spiders and mammals – even including one Australian marsupial that evolved together with its plants. Other methods include splashes of rain in the rainforest, a windy day or human intervention with a fine paintbrush.
  • Some pollinators can also be ‘nectar robbers’, animals that steal the nectar higher up the flower without serving their purpose by collecting the pollen lower down.
  • Bees, monarch butterflies and other pollinators have suffered dramatic population decrease in recent years due to conversion of wild land, pesticides and climate change – but there are lots of projects trying to reverse the trend, see some below.
  • Bats like white, cream and dull green flowers, birds like red and orange ones, while bees like most bright colors – blue, purple, pink and yellow flowers.
  • To attract and support more pollinators, try planting flowers of varying heights and flowers that bloom at different times of year. Make sure they are native plants (check out the Arboretum’s plant sales in the summer) and try adding other features to your garden, like a shallow water dish or fruit feeders. Even an old log can help!


And here’s a few fantastic projects you can get involved with:

Million Pollinator Gardens: Register your garden to be one of a million spaces to support pollinators.

Monarch Watch: Plant some of the native Flagstaff milkweed species (showy, horsetail, poison or antelope horns) and register your garden as a Monarch Waystation.

Pollinator Partnership: Work on your garden and join events for Pollinator Week 2017 from 19-25 June and check out the website for more tips on how to support pollinators in your area.

Xerces Society: Join the Xerces Society for invertebrate conservation and learn more about all the tiny life forms in your garden.

And don’t forget to check out the Arboretum at Flagstaff website for their upcoming events and summer plant sales, where they can advise you about local plants. If you’re interested in volunteering, their docent training program starts in March for 2017.

Dr Kris Dr. Kris H workshop plant disecting plants

Winter Tales Press Release

February 1st, 2017

For Immediate Release



Winter Tales: Family Event and Art Exhibition at Willow Bend

Flagstaff AZ— Willow Bend Environmental Education Center is inviting the community for a fun and interactive celebration of winter this Saturday, February 4th from 9am-1pm. The event is part of Willow Bend’s monthly Science Saturday program, occurring on the first Saturday of every month. But this month, in addition to hands on activities and experiments, Willow Bend will be hosting the Jones Benally Family and an opening reception for the Winter Tales Art Exhibition.

Saturday’s event will offer hands on activities and displays such as wildlife track making in the snow, observing snow under a microscope, measuring snow temperatures, and creating your own snow crystals. During the event the Jones Benally Family, an internationally acclaimed traditional Diné (Navajo) performing group, will be sharing winter stories and teaching, and playing some games.

The art exhibition will feature a number of local artists including Rachel Wilson, Ken Walters, Julia Williams, Pieter Schaafsma, Frederica Hall, and Tom Bean. Winter focused artwork will include photography, paintings, and mixed media. The exhibition will be up until the end of February.

Berta Benally, the manager for the Jones Benally Family said that they are “excited to share traditional Diné (Navajo) winter stories, which are a delight and an educational opportunity for one and all”.

Artist Rachel Wilson, who is one of the art exhibition’s organizers, said that she is “pleased to be part of this group show of Flagstaff artists’ work celebrating the transformative and mysterious beauty of winter. Winter Tales is part of a series of art shows about nature that Willow Bend is generously hosting this year in their wonderful, solar-warmed space”.

Moran Henn, Willow Bend’s Executive Director added that “we love our Science Saturday events, since each month focuses on a different theme and provides the community with fun and engaging activities. However, we are especially looking forward to this month’s event as it will be extra special. We are honored to host the Jones Benally Family and thrilled to have so many talented artists featured in the exhibition”.

The event will be held at the Willow Bend Center located at 701 E. Sawmill Rd. For a full schedule of the event and directions please visit Willow Bend’s website: or contact Moran Henn at (928) 779 1745,



The Jones Benally Family

winter art

Artwork by Rachel Wilson

bunny winter

Photo by Tom Bean

Happy 2017!

Wow! What a start to the New Year.

Thanks to YOUR help we were able to reach our $5,000 fundraising goal and hit the ground running.

Even with the internet being down, our car still in the shop (long story), and having had to postpone an event and a few school programs due to the snow storm, January didnt slow us down! We hosted our The Art and Science of Water Science Saturday event, got into the schools and taught our recycling and wildlife programs, and were able to finalize the details for our Annual Eagle Celebration. The year is off to a great start.

The view from our window on January 20th. One snow storm down, three more to go.

The view from our window on January 20th. One snow storm down, three more to go.

Annual Report Released!

Our 2016 Fiscal Year Annual Report has been released!

While our fiscal year ends in June, we usually release our report at the end of December just in time for the new calendar year.

And what a GREAT year it has been! We were able to serve over 18,000 students, teachers, and community members, stabilize our budget, hire new staff, and more. We want to share our outreach numbers, success stories, program and volunteer highlights, and financial information with our community and supporters.

You can read the full report (as well as past reports) HERE.

On behalf of Willow Bend,

THANK YOU to everyone who made this year’s programs, events, and activities so successful.