Exploring Patagonia, Santa Cruz County, AZ

March 11 & 12
Using Route I-19 south off of I-10 for our trip, I suggested we stop off to stretch our legs for awhile at the Peter Collins' Hawk Watch in Tubac. When I got a positive response from the other four in the car, I was elated . . . until these Toronto folks saw the Coffee Shop in the Arts area. Decision was made to drop me at the Hawk Watch at 8 a.m. while they all went back for coffee and a second breakfast since their Rise & Shine hour of 4 a.m. seemed long past.

At the Hawk Watch, when I told Peter Collins my birders went back to the coffee shop, he laughed and called them golfers. (!!)  Among them, though, Chris and Kathie were good birders but definitely not early risers.

Peter reported that someone had seen a Short-tailed Hawk down at Clark's Crossing so we should stay alert for that one to fly over. That would have made my day! Instead, our first and second sightings were of Black Hawks circling and flying north.

Next hawk up was a Red-tailed, our most common hawk in the USA. With various color variations in various parts of the country, this one had the traditional markings with the dark leading edge of the underwing, the red head, sketchy belly band of dark feathers and reddish tail. 

We saw a Cooper's Hawk perched on a pole; we spotted an American Kestrel perched at the tippy top of an evergreen tree; and non-hawks all around us in the form of Vermilion Flycatchers and Say's Phoebes.

After an hour of watching, over thirty birders were on hand and I would have stayed had my friends not remembered to return for me in 60 minutes!  With Lynne driving, we then continued south while Chris navigated her across Ruby Road to Rt. 82 north to our destination at Patagonia Lake State Park.  

For me to start out on the Birding Trail there at 10:55 would have been unheard of; I'm an early birder. But I've learned to listen to the energy around me and know that when we're all comfortable with one another, we'll see good things. And, so our late morning walk progressed. After pausing at the hummingbird feeders, we continued out along the trail to where it began to open up near that end of the lake where the first waterfowl we spotted were Bufflehead.

One male; three female Bufflehead

Vermilion Flycatcher in the bullrushes
After spotting the Vermilion Flycatcher near the lake, we birded some of the forest around us and I found this "walking tree".

With my friends wilting under the noontime sun, I went on alone toward the wash to see if I could find the Trogon. Came up with a First-of-year (FOY) sighting instead:--Cassin's Kingbird.

Then I thought I heard Sharon calling my name so I turned back quickly, realizing I had yet again left the "group".  Little did I know that my friends who had turned back were on the T-BIRD!  Unknown friendly and excited birders had gathered them into the bosque to show them the location of the Elegant Trogon. WOW! The "golfers" found the bird! They spent an hour with it as it flew to three different locations. I was able to spend thirty minutes with it and it was still perched when we left. Last year, I had heard many but seen none. I've seen this species before but never with such an opportunity for photos. It was fantastic! 

Elegant Trogon-Patagonia State Park Birding Trail

Elegant Trogon-rear view  -- Photo by Lynne Eaton

Elegant Trogon - photo by Lynne Eaton

After feasting our eyes on our target bird, we opted for eating our lunch in a ramada at the Day Use picnic area near the lake. Nice!

Fed and rested, we moved on to Paton's Hummingbird Center in Patagonia to see what might be scratching on the ground and flying to the feeders in mid-afternoon. This location is famous for its consistently seasonal Violet-crowned Hummingbird. Wouldn't you know? The one that came to the feeder first was female, not quite as photogenic as the male. 

But the Broad-billed Hummingbirds where stunning.

Broad-billed Hummingbird

And, the Lark Sparrows scratching around on the ground with their strikingly contrasting head pattern definitely caught my eye in the distance.

Since the male Violet-crowned Hummingbird didn't show up during our visit, I returned the next morning with much better luck.

Violet-crowned Hummingbird (above & below)

Hummingbirds are only part of the story at Paton's; Green-tailed Towhee, Pine Siskin, Lesser Goldfinch, Song Sparrows and Northern Cardinals and other song birds made themselves known.

Female Northern Cardinal
Our main focus for birding on Day #2 was the Nature Conservancy property beyond Paton's yard known as Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve where we did some good birding.

In addition to more commonly seen birds like Say's and Black Phoebes, we heard and saw at least a half dozen Bewick's Wrens, White-breasted Nuthatch, Gray Flycatcher and my best call -- a Dusky Flycatcher.  American Kestrel liked to perch high above the open fields and a couple Black Vultures soared overhead.

Dusky Flycatcher
Sonoita Creek Trail  [Photo by Chris Zehr]
American Kestrel

By the time we began birding Harshaw Canyon and Creek Roads, birds had quieted so we turned for home with memories of a wonderful get-together with Jennifer, Woody and Sandy at Velvet Elvis for dinner the previous night -- friends from our RV Resort who were camping for several days in Patagonia SP.

* * *

1 comment:

  1. Very nice day out. I'm going back for the hawk watch this week because more hawks are a coming ! It's pretty awesome. Excellent birds !