April and May bring new scenery, flora, fauna and perfect conditions for enjoying a guided birding, photography, geology or wildflower walk on the Red Rock Ranger District. Or join the monthly First Friday lectures at the Red Rock District Visitor Center one mile south of the Village of Oak Creek on Highway 179. Guided walks are free and space limited. For hike registration and details call the Ranger Station at 928-203-2903. First Friday talks do not require registration but are limited to the first forty participants. The Red Rock District schedule of public events for April and May is also posted on the Sedona Friends of the Forest website.

The April calendar starts with a First Friday talk on April 6 at 11:00am on a topic of interest to those who may wish to enhance their experience in our vibrant landscape. Uses of binoculars and spotting scopes is the topic. Naturalist and birding guide Kevin Harding will decode the often-confusing terminology and technology of recreational optics. This is an opportunity to immerse in the world of diopters, magnification, field of view, “eye fatigue and relief” and more. Guidance on choosing optical gear is just the first step. Harding will offer tips for care of gear and demonstrate how to use binoculars and scopes for best results. The talk should be of interest to birders, hunters, trackers, butterfly enthusiasts, boaters, wildlife and sports watchers. Harding has guided birding and nature walks for the Red Rock Ranger District Interpretive Program for 4 years and says, “I was inspired by many people asking me questions about the variety of binoculars/scopes that are available. ”

April 6 is also the start of the spring program of wildflower walks scheduled each Friday from 9:00-11:00am during April and May. The weekly walks are led by Friends of the Forest and Arizona Natural History Association naturalists. Registered participants will be advised of the changing hike locations as the wildflower season progresses. An early blooming plant likely to be observed is the Purple Nerve Spring Parsley producing a cluster of purple flowers close to the ground. Blackfoot Daisy and Evening Primrose follow a bit later, with groups tending to bloom at the same time creating spectacular displays of white flowers. All lilies are protected in Arizona and a local lily, the perennial Blue Dick, is a favorite flower with bright blue blossoms atop a foot-tall plant. Later in spring the cactus put on their floral display. The yellow bloom on the common Engelmann’s Prickly Pear cactus and the bright red Hedgehog cactus are favorites of many of the native bees of Arizona. It is typical to see more than a dozen different flower species in bloom on these seasonal hikes.

Tuesday April 10 from 8:00-10:00am is Photo Walk day. Explore Red Rock Country through your camera lens with local photographer JK Lovelett. This relaxed outing is suitable for any level photographer and any type of camera (or smart phone). “With wildflowers blooming, new tree foliage and other greening vegetation, the red rocks are a perfect backdrop against the changing cloudscape of Spring”, says Lovelett. Photo composition ideas and techniques that work with our landscape will be introduced. The moderate level hike provides many iconic Sedona views, including Bell Rock, Courthouse, Twin Buttes, Thunder Mountain, and Cathedral Rock while meandering through junipers and pinyon.

Birding Walks are offered on April 10 and 24 from 8:00-10:00, led by Kevin Harding. In addition to practicing new optics skills gained at the April 6 talk, participants will have a chance to see a wide variety of wetland species, migrating and native Arizona birds. April’s Geology Walk is on April 19 from 9:00-11:00 with earth science specialist Chris Weld. Sedona’s legendary red rocks evolved over millions of years, as wind, water and faulting shaped the land. Hikers will view the dramatic effects of Oak Creek Canyon faulting and examine sedimentary, volcanic and erosional land features to discover more of Sedona’s geologic story. All guided hikes involve two hours of moderate level hiking and periods of standing. Locations are provided at registration at 928-203-2903.

Heading into May, the First Friday Red Rock Visitor Center talk on May 4 at 11:00am is titled “Liking Lichens”. Lichenologist and Friends of the Forest volunteer Garry Neil will explain what is that “stuff” growing on rocks, trees, and soils around us — and why we might appreciate these organisms. Learn about the role of lichens as major partners in biological soil crusts, enriching and increasing soil stability. Participants will have an opportunity for hands-on examination of various local lichen species.

More program information is available at https://www.friendsoftheforestsedona.org. Friends of the Forest is a nonprofit that supports the Red Rock Ranger District of the Coconino National forest in Sedona.