Two days of Birding for Arizona desert species resulted in a Big Day with my guide Melody Khel, on Wednesday, birding around Tucson, Medera Canyon, and best of all, Patagonia Lake State Park.
But first, I had the first afternoon to myself. I arrived in Tucson on Tuesday evening and soon after checking into my hotel I was on the road heading to Ash Canyon Bed and Breakfast. I wasn't there for either the bed or the breakfast, but for the bird feeder buffet they offer for a mere $5.00 donation at the front gate. The gate is nowhere near the front of anything. Ash Canyon is just over an hour south of Tucson and should be on every birder's To-Bird list. Once you leave the main road, you have a long drive down, to what turned out to be one of many, dusty, dirt roads, full of brain rattling ruts and bumps. I am sure one of the many woodpeckers I saw while there wouldn't have noticed a thing.
I arrived just after a foursome of Birders from Britton,(says so on their business cards), and we all sat in the proprietors back yard and watched the birds come in so fast we could barely keep track of them. This was one of those times when 5 sets of eyes and a field guide really made the difference. There must have been at least twenty species visit the dozen or so feeders, drips and orange halves in the hour I spent there, and I got 10 new Year birds. The birds came fast and furious and it was almost overwhelming, but Between the five of us we had the yard covered. I added: Acorn, Ladder-backed and Gila Woodpecker, Mexican Jay, Pyrrhuloxia,(a large, cardinal-like finch), Scott's and Hooded Oriole, the first of hundreds of Chipping Sparrows I would see in Arizona, Spotted Towhee and a Broad-billed Hummingbird.
In retrospect, based on the rest of the day I should have stayed until sunset and picked up some owls too, but I was overly anxious to get a peek at Patagonia Lake State Park. I mistakenly believed, with Daylight Savings Time, I would have over 90 minutes to bird in Padigonia before dark. Arizona does not subscribe to such nonsense as saving daylight and I arrived in the park just as the sun was setting and the birds were roosting and hidden in trees for the night.
The next hour was more excitement than I was really looking for. The GPS lady wanted me to take a shortcut back to my hotel, saving me about 50 miles, by driving on a roller coaster of a dirt road that warned: "Road is dangerous and impassible and subject to flooding when it rains.". It was pitch black, high beams did nothing to pierce the darkness, and there were ghostly apparitions. Okay, a little melodramatic. There were cows. Pale cream colored cows. Blocking what little road there was. I was scared, I was nervous. I plodded on at 6 miles per hour, hoping to not get a flat tired. I stared up a hill that the car really didn't want to climb. No wonder everyone drives 4by4's and pickup trucks down here. I came to my senses, told the GPS lady to stuff it and turned around. The cows gave me the stink eye as I passed by then again and a Jack Rabbit ran past my headlights and scared the wits out of me. I made it back to the main road with fewer wits than I arrive with and made a hasty retreat to my hotel to get some rest for the long day ahead, hoping to have better memories of Patagonia the next day.