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Birders raising funds to save southeastern Arizona sanctuary

A Lucifer Hummingbird at the Mary Jo Ballator Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Rob Gallucci

For many birders, a once-in-a-lifetime trip to southeastern Arizona provides the opportunity to see dozens of unique species only available in this unique ecosystem. Many others make the pilgrimage annually. During those trips, lots of birders would eagerly anticipate a stop at Mary Jo Ballator’s Ash Canyon Bed & Breakfast. It is a place where you can regularly see Lucifer Hummingbird, Montezuma Quail, resident Gray Hawks, and dozens of other species.

On May 25, 2019, the birding world unexpectedly lost Mary Jo. The magnitude of that loss is still reverberating through the birding world. Working with her children, and volunteers from the local birding community, we are attempting to keep the yard open and available to the public. 

In her honor, we are changing the name to the Mary Jo Ballator Nature Sanctuary. We have registered as an Arizona nonprofit and are in the process of becoming a federally recognized 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization.

While volunteers will keep the yard open, there are many expenses, including seed and maintenance, as well as long term viability, that must be met. We have created a GoFundMe campaign to assist in meeting both the short- and long-term needs of the sanctuary.

Our immediate goal is to make sure we cover costs for daily operation, including feed and any directly related costs. Our more ambitious long-term goal, with the encouragement of Mary Jo’s children, is to ensure the continued access to the sanctuary for birders, scientists, academia, and youth. 

Thankfully, a group of volunteers, including Mary Jo’s son David, has been formed to manage the daily feeding of the birds and upkeep of the property. It is expensive to maintain the yard, and there is a lot of work to be done, both on projects Mary Jo had started and others to keep the sanctuary accessible.

We look forward to seeing you on your next visit to southeastern Arizona. Starting Friday, July 12, the yard will be open six days a week, Thursday-Tuesday, closed Wednesday, from dawn to dusk. The blind is not yet open. Groups and tours, please contact me in advance.

Originally Published

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Rob Gallucci

Rob Gallucci is a wildlife and landscape photographer based in Hereford, Arizona. 

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