Sweetwater Wetlands - Tucson, Arizona

There's an old birding joke that goes a little something like this: Three Tucson birders walked into Sweetwater Wetlands. Get it?

It's a joke because Tucson birders don't walk into Sweetwater Wetlands; they run. It's that good, even in a town known for exceptionally good birding locations. Over 300 species have been observed at the water treatment facility, located only half a mile from Interstate 10 but cloaked in the shelter and shade of protective willows and cottonwoods. If you set up shop at Sweetwater for only a few hours, you're likely to cross several species off your life-list, with a few mammals thrown into the bargain as well. Along with the birds, you're likely to spot coyotes, jackrabbits, and, if you're lucky, maybe even the resident bobcat.

Part of what makes Sweetwater so popular is the fact that the sanctuary from the city it provides for its native plant and animal life is exactly what attracts the flocks of visitors and residents. In a world of rapidly expanding population and development, it is reassuring to know that these sorts of refuges can still exist and flourish adjacent to our own disparate ways of life.