Major donation to SABO saves a beloved birding hot spot

Lucifer Hummingbird at Chuparosa, © Tony Battiste. Used by permission.

Thanks to a single extremely generous donation, Ash Canyon Bird Sanctuary will remain open to the public, maintained for the benefit of birds and birders under the ownership of the Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory.

Mary Jo Ballator

Mary Jo Ballator with her cherished companion, Cookie, a rescued African Grey Parrot. Photo courtesy Debbie Lindes.

This beloved birding hot spot faced an uncertain future following the unexpected passing of owner Mary Jo Ballator in late May. While local volunteers maintained the feeding station and gardens and welcomed visitors, friends of Mary Jo and members of the birding community frantically searched for a way to keep the property open to the public. Both time and options were running out when California resident Dr. Mario Molina contacted SABO about making a donation to purchase the site. SABO Directors Tom Wood and Sheri Williamson drafted a proposal for acquisition and management of the site, Dr. Molina approved the donation, and the estate accepted the offer, fulfilling the wishes of Mary Jo’s family that the property would go to someone who would maintain her legacy of hospitality.

We are deeply indebted to: 

  • Dr. Mario Molina and Therese Molina, whose extraordinary generosity made it possible for us save this special place;
  • Mary Jo’s close friend and neighbor Tony Battiste for his critical support and guidance in our efforts to acquire the property;
  • Debbie and David Lindes, who were extremely supportive of our efforts to preserve and continue their mother’s legacy;
  • the many volunteers who helped to maintain the feeding station and gardens and welcome visitors;
  • current board members Mark Newstrom and Michelle Cook and members of the birding community who have agreed to serve on the board and advisory committee;
  • and the members and donors who have supported SABO throughout its 24-year history, making it possible for us undertake this new mission.

SABO will manage the property with the assistance of a live-in caretaker and volunteers and with guidance from an expanded board of directors and an advisory committee that will include several of Mary Jo’s closest friends in the birding community. Planned enhancements to the site include a memorial to Mary Jo, expanded native and wildlife-friendly plantings, and additional photo blinds. The site will reopen November 2, continuing for now with a $10 suggested donation. The sanctuary will be closed Thursday mornings.

To support this new mission for SABO, we have added a new flexible donation option specifically to support the sanctuary and a new membership category, Lucifer Hummingbird ($150/year). You can access these options below or use the purple button to join SABO at any level.