Arizona 2019 finale

Our last few days in Tumacacori were spent birding with Judy and Lillian.  Our Tuesday bird walk was cancelled due to rain and mud so we made up for it in a last gasp of going to places we hadn’t been yet.  We started at Historic Canoa Ranch which has been enhanced over the past few years with an enlarged pond and trails.  It was Red-tail Hawk day as we saw five of them along with two Northern Harriers and a Kestrel. Lots of Sparrows, a few ducks, some shore birds and a few others.  It was a Thursday when they have a farmers market so we went to that, too.

We started the next day with only Lillian and went to Florida Canyon which is next to Madera.  With all the rain we’d had we didn’t get very far and there weren’t many birds around except a small flock of Western Bluebirds.

Lillian knew where to find a Lewis’ Woodpecker so we went there and found him then went up to Rancho Sahuarita which is a new housing development north of Green Valley that seems to be becoming a bedroom community for Tucson.  Lots of young families live there in beautiful large houses some of which are around a large pond.  There are swimming pools and playgrounds and lots of nice park areas. But we were interested in the borrow pits at the outside edge where there was some water and lots of ducks, a Sora Rail and our first-of-season Cassin’s Kingbird.  Then we decided to visit the Hawk watch back in Tubac as they were reporting lots of hawks coming through.  I think that was their biggest day for Common Black Hawks with 149 and we got to see quite a few along with some Zone-tailed Hawks in our short visit there.  We also snuck in lunch at Wisdom’s Cafe which is famous for it’s fruit burrito dessert (burrito filled with pie filling and baked with cinnamon sugar and vanilla ice cream on top). There are some things one has to cheat on their gluten free diet for!

The next day we left our little place in Tumacacori for Sierra Vista.  This is about a 1.5 to 2 hour drive east from where we were and there are lots of good places to bird there.  Our cousins Rich and Dallas had their RV there so it gave us a chance to visit with them.  It’s a beautiful drive and we stopped along the way in Patagonia at Paton’s Center for Hummingbirds and finally got to see for the first time this year the Violet-crowned Hummingbird.  We stopped for lunch in Sonoita and tried to find the Rough-legged Hawk near there where it had been reported but to no avail. We did find 5 Prong-horned Antelope and some Coyotes though.

We arrived in Sierra Vista in time to have dinner with Rich and Dallas which was nice.

The next day we got up early for a 7:00 am walk around the water treatment plant.  They only let birders in once a week to bird.  Although they do have a viewing platform at the entrance open daily you can only see a small part of this vast facility from there and there are lots of birds.  We found about 65 species.  Highlights were about 1300 Yellow-headed Blackbirds and a Peregrine Falcon diving down to take out a duck right in front of us.  (He didn’t get it though there was quite a splash).  After that walk we met Rich and Dallas again for brunch.  It was a beautiful sunny, warm day so we ate outside.

They had to pack up to leave the next day so they couldn’t join us to bird in the afternoon but we spent a long time visiting and catching up on all the family before they left.

We spent the afternoon in Ash Canyon at a B & B that has chairs set up for watching the many birds that Mary Jo puts plenty of food out for.

There was a beautiful male Scott’s Oriole (FOS) that came in a few times.  Unfortunately this is where Denny’s camera battery died but you can follow the link to see one.  I had called Mary Jo earlier as she was reporting Montezuma Quail and requesting people call to find out what time they had been coming in.  I called after brunch and she said that the best time would be to come early in the morning and we needed to be very quiet and get there before they did as they are very skittish and won’t come in if we are loud.  Since we had missed our chance that morning we decided to go there anyway as she always has good birds to see. While we were sitting there another couple had been watching for the quail and they came over and told us that a male and female had started to come in but where scared away by a squirrel.  We went over to where they were watching and soon they decided to leave as they had been there since 8:00 am and only got that one glance.  We sat there for almost another hour when we saw them coming.  Eventually there were five of them–2 males and 3 females that were ten feet away from us feeding for about 5 minutes!  What a treat.  It’s been years since we’ve been able to see them. We ended up with almost 75 birds for the day.

Our last day in Sierra Vista we went to the San Pedro House.

This is a wildlife area along the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area with lots of birding trails.

Our highlights of our long morning walk were a Lark Bunting, an adorable Western Screech Owl in the tree by the gift shop and a really bright Lawrence’s Goldfinch.

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Then we went to Fairbank Historic Townsite.  This is just down the road from the RV park we used to stay in where I painted a mural in the laundry room about 15 years ago.  When we stayed there we would often go to Fairbank for a picnic and a walk along the river.  Fairbank was an Old West railroad town, founded in 1882 during the Tombstone silver boon.  From 1882 to 1903, it was Tombstone’s train depot.  The town had an elegant hotel, with a restaurant and bar, a post office, several businesses and a school.  Chinese farmers raised crops along the River.  The schoolhouse remains and is now a bookstore and museum.

Along the trail are the remains of the cemetery, corrals, the Southern Pacific depot foundation and the Grand Central Mill site.

Our last day in Arizona we traveled back to Tubac and made it to the deli just in time for the Tuesday bird walkers to arrive from their morning walk.  We visited there for a while to say goodbye to everyone until next year.  We had an early dinner with a few of them and then went up to Tucson to a motel by the airport for an early flight the next morning.

Home again Wednesday evening but not for long.  Thursday afternoon after getting unpacked, doing laundry and taking care of a few things we packed up again and went to Stamford, CT for the American Crossword Puzzle tournament.  We were once again part of the judging team and spent Thursday putting together folders and name tags for the 750 contestants who would be arriving on Friday.  The Stamford Marriott was once again our host and they worked very hard to make us all happy.  The mayor of Stamford even honored us by proclaiming Sunday official Stamford Crossword Day!  There were fun and games for everyone on Friday and Saturday nights that weren’t part of the actual tournament but they gave out small prizes to the winners.  Saturday they did 6 puzzles of varying difficulty and we got to grade them all.  I was in charge also of gathering the funny wrong answers people had given e.g. Scientific phenomenon first published as a law in 1687— correct answer–GRAVITATION; wrong answer–LEVITTATION(sic).  Will read a bunch of these on Sunday morning to everyone gathered for the 7th puzzle.  He does this every year and it always gets a good laugh.  After the 7th puzzle there is a talent show with lots of crossword songs and jokes and jugglers.  Then we have the playoffs for the 3 top scorers in 3 different categories.  They do this in front of everyone on white boards wearing ear protectors to prevent them from hearing.

xword

The audience gets a play-by-play and this year as last we had Greg Pliska and Ophira Eisenberg (NPR host for Ask Me Another).  Dan Feyer won the $5,000 prize for a record 8th time this year.  Always a fun weekend but very tiring.

Back home now and hopefully soon back to normal, especially our sleep pattern.

Till our next big adventure,

Peace,

Nancy and Denny

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Arizona 2019 part 3

 

After the beautiful snows and not so beautiful cold the Arizona sun and warmth came back leaving snow capped mountains and blue skies.  

The Tuesday morning bird walk participants increased about 3 fold or more also but we are starting to see some migrating birds.  On March 1st the Hawk watch began and will last for the month.  This area is prime for migrating Common Black Hawks and Zone-tailed Hawks and so far there have been a few Black Hawks almost every day. 

 

A birder friend from Massachusetts who bought a house in Tubac 3 years ago decided she wanted me to paint sunflowers on her entry wall so I was busy with that for a few days.  She has a lovely patio that gets lots of birds coming over to eat at and next year she wants me to paint all the birds she gets on the patio wall.  That should be fun.

Last weekend was the Tucson Festival of Books which is always a great thing.  Over 100,000 people come to the University of Arizona to experience it.  There are hundreds of authors, booksellers, exhibitors, speakers, panels and more.  This year I had a 2 hour shift at the Indie Children’s Book Author’s Booth with the Children’s book I Illustrated.  With all the thousands of books around to buy I didn’t sell a lot but I got a lot of interest and gave out lots of business cards so hopefully that will help get the word out.  I also picked up some tips about marketing that will help in the future—a definite learning experience.  As for the festival itself we got to see Ed Asner on Saturday.  He, along with Ed Weinberger, just wrote a book called The Grouchy Historian, an old-time lefty defends our constitution against right-wing hypocrites and nutjobs. At almost 90 and somewhat deaf he was still quite entertaining and played his role as grouch well. 

On Sunday we saw a panel called Virtuoso Villains.  This had three different crime/suspense writers who each wrote in a very different style from the others— Matthew Quirk, The Night Agent, Jonathan Lethem, The Feral Detective, and T. Jefferson Parker, Swift Vengeance.  It was interesting to hear all the different ways they approached the aspect of what a villain meant to them in their writing.  We volunteered to help again this year with the take down on Sunday.  The middle of the campus is filled with tents, each having banner signs on them.  There are also other signs directing people where to go.  All of these has to be taken down, rolled up, cleaned and stored.  We just did the taking down of signs and rolling up the banners.  On Monday they clean and check what will need replacing for next year.  

Our friends Elissa and Bernie from our bird club back home came to Tucson for a week and we got together with them Tuesday morning at the bird walk.  We went on a tour afterwards of not particularly well known but interesting birding sites in Green Valley.  It was a glorious day and we had a picnic at a pavilion looking directly at the Santa Rita mountains.  There we were entertained by Gambel’s Quail running in and out of the bushes.  Then we went to the Arid Garden where there are of course a lot of different cactuses, all labeled, with paths around them.  We found the resident Costa’s Hummingbird there in his regular spot.  We’ve been visiting this place for many years now and he’s been there every time—pretty amazing.  Then we went up to the Esperanza Estates or EE trail.  This runs along a wash with funky rock sculptures along the way that are fun to see.  There was a beautiful Harris’s Hawk on the telephone pole as we started.  Lots of other birds, too.  

On Wednesday we decided to take the long, all day trek to Willcox and Whitewater Draw.  In Willcox there are several ponds by the Golf Course that are known to birders and with good reason.  There were lots of ducks in the ponds and even an American Avocet but the real show was the thousands of Sandhill Cranes that just kept coming down in large skeins.  Every time you looked up you’d see more coming in and hear their strange sounds.  It was quite a sight.  We knew that the migration had started and most of them had left so it was surprising that we got to see so many.  Then we moved on towards Whitewater Draw making a few birding stops and having a picnic in Elfrida along the way.  We arrived at Whitewater to find that they too had a few thousand Crane still there. (There were at least 15,000 at their peak). 

cranes

There were also some Snow Geese still there.  The duck population also had mostly migrated but we still saw quite a few.  Elissa was a great Snipe spotter and found three of them and some other shorebirds—Greater Yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper and Long-billed Dowitcher.  On our way out we stopped at this big pavilion where we saw a Great-horned Owl in the rafters at the far end. 

owl

(sorry it’s not a great picture but Denny didn’t have his camera so it’s from the iPhone)

We found out later from eBird that there was another one on a nest at the other end.  We kind of felt like pretty stupid birders not to have turned around to look.  We did end up with 41 birds for the day though.   On the way back we made a quick stop at Tombstone so Elissa and Bernie could see what that was all about. 

It was a long day and we got back and it was getting dark but really fun to go there with them.  

Their last day here they came down to our place and we walked the Anza trail around the back of the mission

where we ended up for a tour of the Tumacacori Mission.  I think we’ve been on that tour 2 or 3 times and learn something new each time. 

Then we had a great lunch at a Mexican seafood restaurant and said goodbye till we see them again back home.  We always love to have familiar faces come to visit and experience some of our favorite haunts together.  (this is a hint to all of you to come visit us sometime)

spring

We have less that two weeks left here before we have to go back to cold New England so Greenfield shape up and get warm!  We leave Tumacacori on the 16th and go to Sierra Vista for a few days where we get to see our cousins, Rich and Dallas, who are staying there for a bit.  Then we go home on the 20th and the next day go to the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in Stamford,CT for the weekend.  Probably won’t have time to blog till after that.  In the meantime stay happy, healthy and warm.  Peace, N & D

 Couldn’t resist sending more pictures of our neighbors peacock thinking he could attract a chicken or a duck with his fancy feathers!

Arizona part 2

 

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Well I finally got to play some pickleball for a few days.  The weather was okay and I met some nice people who play about my level, some better, some not as good, but it was a lot of fun.

The birding group has been working over the past few years to create a Tubac Nature Center at the Community Center.  They had a grand opening on Wednesday, Feb. 13th.  It is still a work in progress but about a third of the exhibits are up and it looks great.They are also sponsoring walks and talks now and is a nice asset for Tubac.

On Valentines Day we went out to dinner with two other couples who we know from the birding group.  Really nice dinner with great company.  

The next day our friends Lillian and Judy wanted us to help them find the Whiskered Screech-Owl so we all went to Madera Canyon.  Got some great birds including Townsends Warbler and Townsends Solitaire and lots of Western Bluebirds. We also spent 15 to 20 minutes watching the Elegant Trogon move down the canyon and perch really close to us. 

trogon 1

 

The owl unfortunately had found a new perch for the day.  That evening we all went out to dinner along with Judy’s husband Don.  Another fun time.

On Saturday we went up to Tucson to meet our friends from Grand Junction who were staying there.  We started at Sweetwater Wetlands which is a water treatment facility that has become a wonderful birding spot and education center.  Our best finds for the morning were a Sora Rail

 

IMG_0859 and a Virginia Rail. IMG_0862

There were also a couple of Raccoons that walked by in front of us as well as some ducks and turtles.

  Then we had lunch and went up to Tohono Chul botanical garden.  We caught most of a tour which was very interesting.  It’s quite an extensive collection of native plants. These pictures are provided by Donna as Denny left the camera in the car.

On Monday Donna and Tom moved down to Tubac and came over for dinner.  Our casita is quite small so it was kind of like camping, fitting everyone in with a few borrowed chairs and tables but we managed. They came down from Grand Junction to get some warm weather and what we got was cold and that night it snowed!.  Since they only had a few days we endured the cold and went forward with out plans for outdoor activities.  

On Tuesday we started our Tubac bird walk at 33 degrees.  There were 13 brave souls who made it out there.  The sun was shining so it wasn’t too bad until the wind picked up at the end as we walked across a big field.Then we decided to take our picnic lunch up to Madera Canyon. Bad decision!  Since it’s at a higher elevation (4056 feet) there was snow everywhere and most of the picnic benches were wet. 

We did find one area that had a pavilion with a roof over it so the tables and benches were dry but too cold to sit on so we picnicked standing up in the sun!  The snow-covered mountains around us were beautiful.  Needless to say,we ate quickly! We then moved up to Santa Rita Lodge where we got to see lots of birds, including 13 Wild Turkeys. 

santa rita in snow

We looked for a while at the berry-filled pyracantha hoping to find the Trogon for Tom and Donna to see but didn’t. We did see lots of Hermit Thrushes though.

We did see a beautiful Painted Redstart and a Red-naped Sapsucker.  We decided to go down lower and try our luck at Proctor where we were greatly rewarded.  Folks had said they’d seen the Trogon, the White-throated Thrush and the Whiskered Screech-Owl was back at the tree where we saw it before so we went to find them all.  First we found the Screech-Owl and then had great looks at a Townsends Warbler.

townsend warbler

That gave them two life birds.  We walked around some more looking for the other two with no luck so we started our way out to the car.  Denny had left before us and we found him again on the path with another birder looking at a bird he couldn’t quite make out.  It finally was visible enough to see that it was the White-throated Thrush! —Life bird number three for them.  Our birding done for the day we decided we deserved a treat for dinner and went to Elvira’s in Tubac.  It’s rated the best in the area and it truly was.  They have at least 5 different varieties of Mole among other things like delicious seafood all prepared with great seasonings.  

It was slightly warmer the next day and the sun was out all day so we traveled down to Patagonia Lake State Park hoping once again to find them an Elegant Trogon.  There were lots of birds around the visitor’s center where they had feeders all around.  We got to see Broad-billed and Anna’s Hummingbirds and our first-of-trip Pyrrhuloxia among a lot of other birds. 

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We walked over a very steeply arched bridge looking for waterfowl and found some.

 

Then we went on the birding trail which starts out with an overlook of the Lake and some benches with feeders in front of them.  We could see lots of ducks, cormorants and Eared and Clark’s Grebes and Common Mergansers.

patagonia mergs

Then we went down to the lake on the trail and kept running into other birders who all seemed disappointed not to find the Trogon.  There were plenty of Ruby-crowned Kinglets and lots of different flycatchers including a beautiful Vermillion Flycatcher a lot of Yellow-rumped Warblers but not much of excitement. 

Then we walked back up to the feeders and found a beautiful Lazuli Bunting which was a real treat. 

We decided this time not to deal with the picnic and went into the town of Patagonia for lunch then on to the Paton Center for Hummingbirds where there were no Hummingbirds to see.  We did however see some Gambol’s Quail, a Sharp-shinned Hawk, Inca Dove and another Lazuli Bunting among the other birds.  We thought that we hadn’t seen that much that day but it turned out we had 52 species for the day—but who’s counting?

As you have probably figured out the weather has not been great lately. In fact I think it’s the coldest February we’ve ever experienced here but it seems to be the case all around the country.  Wednesday it rained most of the day and it’s predicted to either rain or snow tonight and rain all day on Thursday.  Donna and Tom left this morning after brunch and walking around Tubac with them. 

It started to rain here about an hour later and continued most of the day and evening.  But there is light and sunshine at the end of the tunnel.  After Thursday it is supposed to get warmer and by mid week will back up to the 70’s.  And although it’s been cold here it’s still warmer and less snowy than back home. 

And this morning as we were leaving to meet Donna and Tom this guy was sitting on our fence! The farm on the other side of the road raises them and they sometimes come to visit.

 

peacock

I wrote this last night and woke up to the following this morning:

I don’t think it amounted to an inch where we are but they closed schools and up above 5000 ft. they had up to 34″.  Tomorrow will be a better day weather-wise!

Arizona 2019

Greetings from sunny Arizona.

 

Denny and Annie having lunch in front of our casita.2019-02-02 13.45.32

It hasn’t been quite so sunny and warm for a few days but now it’s warming up again and should be in the high 60’s-low 70’s for the next week.

We’ve been here a little over a week now. Let me tell you about the place we are staying. You could call it a kind of farm as there are goats, chickens, geese, ducks and turkeys along with a few dogs and cats.

There are 5 casitas on the property some of which seem to be a work in progress. The insides are very nice while the outsides lack in glamour.

We were supplied with both chicken and duck eggs on arrival. The owner also makes beautiful wooden furniture, cutting boards, lazy susans, etc out of mesquite with inlaid turquoise and sometimes river rocks.

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She has a gallery in Tubac. Tubac is an arts community with lots of galleries and restaurants. We are just south of it in Tumacacori. We are situated on a road that we have birded on many times and surprisingly although the road has lots of birds they don’t seem to make their way to our casita where we have put up bird feeders. We hope they will eventually discover us. We are also right around the corner from the Anza trail along the Santa Cruz river which flows north from Mexico.

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Also next to us is the Tumacacori Mission which is a National Historic site. We are about 20 minutes south of Green Valley where we usually stay and about the same distance north of Nogales, Mexico. The WiFi is pretty slow here although our neighbor told us of a spot by the pool that seems to work well. We’ll check that out so I can send out this blog. That didn’t work so I’m now at the library.

We got here on a Friday and spent a lot of time stocking our kitchen and getting organized. On Sunday we watched the Superbowl with our friend Lillian which was great to see the Pats win again. On Tuesday we went on our regular Tubac bird walk. It was a bit chilly and cloudy so not a lot of people came but it was nice to reconnect with some old friends and visit with them after at the deli.

Wednesday was the start of the Tubac Arts Festival but it was very cold so we didn’t bother. It runs through the weekend. The streets are lined with vendors of food and art and it’s fun to walk around. We had to go to Green Valley for a few things and it gradually warmed up and the sun came out so we decided to make a quick trip to Madera Canyon. A White-throated Thrush has been reported there. It is a first for Arizona and although we had seen one a few years ago in Panama this would be a first for the US. So we were fortunate to run into other birders who told us where to look and we got good looks at it. Then we went up the canyon to where the Elegant Trogon had been seen. No luck there and it started to snow and sleet so we gave up on that one.

The next day was a little warmer so we spent the afternoon in Tubac checking out all the artwork. Didn’t buy anything though.

There is supposed to be a group who play pickleball in Tubac so on Friday morning we went over there to check it out and no one was playing. We decided instead to take a picnic lunch up to Madera Canyon because it was such a beautiful day finally. This time we started at Kubo which is the last B & B near the top of the canyon drive. It’s always been one of our favorite places in Madera and Cora, the owner, keeps all the feeders well stocked. It even has IBA standing (Important Bird Area). There were lots of Bridled Titmice, some Mexican Jays, Acorn Woodpeckers, White-breasted Nuthatches, both Dark-eyed and Yellow-eyed Juncos and even a Magnificent Hummingbird.

Then we moved down to Santa Rita where the Turkeys were out with the Lesser Goldfinches, Pine Siskins, more Acorn Woodpeckers, an Arizona Woodpecker, a House Wren, Bewick Wren and a Blue-throated Hummingbird. Walking down to the Madera picnic grounds we found a Painted Redstart and a Red-naped Sapsucker. Still no Trogon at the picnic grounds but we ran into a birder who knew where to find a Whiskered Screech Owl down the trail. We followed him down to it and Denny got some pictures. It is hard to understand how anyone discovered it as it blends in so well with the tree it is on. Unless it is pointed out to you you’d probably never see it. We were fortunate to have it shown to us. See if you can find it in the picture.

whiskered screech

While I was walking along a trail by myself I came within 6 feet of this girl and she didn’t seem to care.  It was a great way to top off a beautiful day.

deer

Our neighbors in the casita are from Montana and they brought their 2 dogs. They go out walking on the Anza trail every morning and invited me to join them.

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We go about 3 miles. It’s beautiful along the river. This could become a daily habit.

That’s it for now. Will check in again soon.

Happy New Year 2019

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Leila, Tessa, Sam, Tionna, Nancy, Denny, David and Cindy

Here we are on New Year’s Day at David’s house.  It was probably the only time in the 2 weeks we were there that all of us were together but we had lots of fun with all .  We arrived very late on Dec. 23rd in Seattle and met David at a motel nearby.  Leila and Tessa were asleep.  Leila wasn’t feeling great as she had her tonsils out 2 days before but we were glad that she could make it for the long ride from Olympia.  The next morning after a nice breakfast we dropped Tessa off in Bellingham at the band bus that was taking her to Spokane to get a flight to San Antonio.  She is a freshman at WSU and a member of the marching band and they were going to the Alamo Bowl.  It was a great experience for her but for some reason the school thought it a good idea to be there over Christmas even though they didn’t play until the 28th.  They did win which was exciting for them and Tessa got to see some new places such as Riverwalk and the Alamo.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch we had a lovely Christmas eve dinner at David’s with the rest of us.

 

Being in Washington in the winter means you see a lot of rain but there were days when it was only cloudy so we could do some things outdoors.  We went one day to Maclane Creek which is a great example of Pacific rainforest  with lots of mossy trees and water with lots of ducks.

As we approached it there were some tall trees along the creek with 28 Bald Eagles in them!  We found out on our walk why they were there–the salmon had spawned and the shores were filled with dead salmon.

We also had a nice walk around Capital lake with lots more ducks.  Around here we may see a Bufflehead or a pair but out there we saw at least 50 on the lake.

On New Year’s day we went with David and Cindy to Nisqually NWR.  It was a nice day by Washington standards and was quite busy with people even though the visitor’s center was closed because of the shut down.  Lots of birds including Bushtits, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Golden-crowned Sparrow, some shore birds, lots of eagles, a Kestrel and even a Snipe.  We also saw a few deer.

On our 54th Anniversary Leila, David and Cindy took us out to a fabulous dinner at Anthony’s.  They are famous for their seafood and quite deservedly so.  They also gave us a box of amazing chocolates:

chocolates

We had lunch one day with Oscar and Barbara Soule who are long time friends.  Oscar went to high school with Denny and taught for years at Evergreen College.  In fact David had him as a teacher when he went there.  His father was my father’s partner and he delivered me and David.  Barbara was a year ahead of me, in my brother’s class in high school so you can see we’ve known each other for quite a while.  It was nice to see them.

My friend Beth Watrous has a daughter who lives near there and she was able to join Denny and me for lunch one day.  It was really fun to see her and catch up with what she is doing out there.

lunch with naomi

Once Tessa was back, while the male half of the family was watching the football games I went with the girls to the Puget Sound Estuarium.  It was a small museum but apparently has a lot of programs outside and does a lot of education.

estuarium

Tessa, Leila, Tionna (Sam’s girlfriend)

We are back home until Feb. 1st when we leave for warmer climes in Arizona.  We will be there until March 20th and I’m sure we’ll send more from there.

Best wishes for a happy, healthy new year.

Peace,

Nancy & Denny

Europe with 2 Granddaughters part 4

The next day walked along the Quai

to the beautiful Musee d’Orsay with their wonderful collection of pre to post impressionists. It is housed in the former Gare d’Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900.

We walked along the Quai some more

before making our way up to Montmartre. We did a little walking tour going up and stopped to view the Moulin Rouge (sorry no picture), the cafe de 2 Moulins, the place where Van Gogh lived with his brother Theo and the square with all the artists selling their work and trying to get you to sit for a portrait and lots of interesting graffiti on the way.

We had lunch up there and toured Sacre Coeur and got great views of the city from above.

We got to take the funicular railroad down the steepest part of the slope back.

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We stopped at a chocolate shop on the way home that had a model of Notre Dame in chocolate and other goodies.

 

Our final day we visited Versailles.  Versailles is an incredible monument to opulence! One can easily see why there was a revolution.

Our train there even had interior designs like the palace.  There were of course long lines to get in and you’ll notice the reconstruction on the front with the faux scaffold cover.

We spent the day there and after touring the main palace

walked through the huge acres of gardens

to the pool where Louis would be entertained by watching war exercises and then to the Trianon where Marie Antoinette had her own retreat complete with gardens, farms, hamlet and orangerie (orange orchard).

Marie Antoinette’s bed and the King’s pool room

The Gazebo and pond

Grand Lac and Farm

Louis XIV had his own orangerie near the palace. He was the first to grow oranges in France. The girls took us out for our final dinner in Paris. It was a an amazing trip and we are so grateful to have been able to show our granddaughters many of the highlights of London and Paris. They were so appreciative and interested in all the history and beauty that they made it that much more special.

Peace,
Nancy & Denny

Europe with 2 Granddaughters, Part 3–Paris

Our Airbnb in Paris was larger than London and a whole lot quieter.

Our neighborhood and our building

It did have a problem however, which was that we didn’t have hot water! It was fortunately quite warm outside so taking cold showers wasn’t too awful. We did complain but were told that the hot water was controlled by the whole building and we should wait a bit as it was probably being used a lot. We waited 6 days and it didn’t change. The owner was the only rude French person we met on the trip. He just didn’t seem to care about being a good host. It didn’t keep us from having a great time though.

Our first full day in Paris we started out walking to the metro when we saw a street market which we immediately stopped at and bought food for dinner and breakfast and snacks. Then after putting it in the apartment we set out again in route to the Eiffel Tower getting off at the Trocadero.

invalides

Walked all around that and down to an equestrian jumping contest. It seemed to be a very big event and the girls who are both equestrians (Tessa was on the high school eq team and Leila will probably do that, too), were quite impressed with how high and wide they were jumping. They’d never seen that caliber of jumping.

 

We then walked along the left bank past the beautiful Pont Alexander III,

the Grande Palais and Petit Palais

grand p with g's

and up the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe.

arc d t

We did stop for lunch at a nice cafe for the girls to have their Nutella crepes and they said they would try escargot if I had it so of course I did.  And they did. (!)

Did a little souvenir shopping, too.

IMG_9608

A beautiful day and introduction to Paris.

The next day was Tessa’s birthday and a Sunday so our stop at the Place Vendome

where all the fancy jewelry stores are unfortunately didn’t have all their jewels in the windows. The obelisk in the middle is a tribute to Napoleon with all his battles around it. We walked by the Opera

then through the Tuileries,

past the Louvre

where the girls pretended to be one of the statues.

Then we walked to the river

and the Ile de la Cite to see Notre Dame

then to the Pompidou Centre

where we enjoyed the outside sculpture. We continued through the Marais (which was originally the Jewish Quarter of Paris) with stops at gardens

and the Picasso museum.

Guernica, flowers, and Picasso-designed jungle gym (!)

There is a great restaurant around the corner from our apartment where we went for a fabulous dinner to celebrate Tessa’s birthday. It was highlighted by Coconut Shrimp with a peanut sauce, Rosemary Lamb that was so tender you didn’t need a knife and Filet Mignon with a sauce au poivre.

Then for dessert Tessa had profiteroles, and we shared a flour-less chocolate cake that was filled with a gooey fudge. All way too rich but delicious.

Each morning I would get up earlier than the rest and go down to the patisserie around the corner to get our fresh croissants. Not a bad way to start the day!

 

We started the next day at the Place de la Concorde. Unfortunately there was a lot of construction or reconstruction going on in Paris so some of the beautiful squares we remember were filled with scaffolds, fences and trucks.

They did try to minimize the effect by covering much of their scaffolding with faux pictures of what the original wall or building should look like some of which were in previous pictures.

We moved on to L’Orangerie where Monet’s Water Lily paintings covered the walls. We were very sorry not to be able to take the girls to Giverny to Monet’s house and the lily ponds but there just wasn’t enough time. They’ll just have to go back.

L’Orangerie is at one end of the Tuileries in the Parc Champs de Mars so we got to walk through the gardens again past the fountains and statues and stop for a picnic lunch before going through the Louvre.

It was incredibly crowded at the Louvre and there were lines everywhere.

l crowd

In front of the Mona Lisa it was so packed it felt like we were sardines.

monalisa

(Photo credit: Leila)

We did get to see quite a bit, though,  including some amazing ceilings.

And some great statues including the Winged Victory and Venus de Milo.

We wouldn’t recommend visiting Paris in the summer as the lines everywhere were rather ridiculous. After we left the Louvre we walked along the Seine to Saint Chapelle to see the gorgeous stained glass windows

and then to the Luxembourg gardens

where they have the fountain with model boat races. One expected to see Stuart Little piloting one of them. It was almost 5 and Leila kept bugging me to climb the Eiffel Tower so I finally gave in and went with her while Denny and Tessa went back to the apartment. We didn’t realize, when we told them to wait for us for dinner, how long we’d have to wait in line. It took 50 minutes to get our tickets to go up. We got tickets to walk up the stairs thinking we could take the elevator from the second story up to the top as recommended by our guidebook. It turned out after walking up 669 steps

669

to the second floor there was a huge line for the elevator and we didn’t have the right tickets. It was also 7:00 by then so we took pictures, enjoyed the view

and headed back down the stair for home. It was almost 8:00 when we got there and Denny and Tessa had been waiting for us. (We planned that wrong). We picked up a pizza for us all.

 

Europe with 2 Granddaughters, part 2

 

The next morning we set out at what we thought was early —9:30 for an 11:00 changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. We were sadly mistaken as there was already a huge crowd around the yard but we were able to find a place where we could watch the procession in and hear the music that was played. Since there were so many people we didn’t see Christopher Robin or Alice.

Afterwards we walked around St. James Park and gardens which were lovely.

Rose-ringed Parakeet, Mute Swans

Then we walked through the Palace gate

 

to Hyde Park to the Wellington Arch then Marble Arch

Wellington Arch, gate and statue

and eventually found our way to the British Museum.

It is so huge that we were only able to see a part of it but what we saw was fascinating. There was a piece of the Rosetta Stone

7:5 Brit m rose stone

and lots of really old statues from ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt.

There was a docent who let us hold a hand ax that was 35,000 years old.

7:5 Brit. Mus hand ax 35,000 y.o.

We also went through exhibits from all parts of Africa with amazing masks and sculptures.

It’s really quite a wonderful museum that one could spend days walking through.

Sadly, this was our last day in London.

We went to Kings Cross the next morning for our trip on the Eurostar through the chunnel to Paris, stopping in the station at platform 9 3/4 for the girls to get their pictures taken with their Harry Potter scarves on.

7:6 king X

The Eurostar was not a great experience however.

We had tickets together which we had purchased back in January. However, the day we left there was a fire on the earlier train so it didn’t run and all those people were trying to get on our train. When we went through the ticket taker the girls got their tickets and seats and Denny and I got marked as having no seats. There were hundreds of us in the same boat. We were told we’d have to wait for those with seats to board first and they would see what seats to put us in. They assured us that everyone would get on. So the girls got on and we waited while they called names and handed out seats. I kept trying to get their attention so that they would know we couldn’t leave our 2 granddaughters on alone but no one would acknowledge me. Finally after giving out many tickets (none to us) they announced that those who didn’t have seats would have to take the next train. After a great deal of panic and a lot of yelling and screaming we finally got someone to let us on. They gave me a seat in coach 1 and Denny in coach 8 and the girls were in coach 15 but they didn’t know if we were on the train or not. Finally after we got going I was able to make my way up to coach 15 to see 2 much-relieved girls. As I passed Denny it looked like there were empty seats near him so the girls took their bags back to coach 8 to sit with him. When we got there the conductor was telling Denny he didn’t have a seat and the girls had to go back to theirs. Denny almost had to sit on his luggage along with a few others in between cars but one of the servicemen in the dining car found him a place and even gave him some complimentary cokes.

We finally arrived in Paris about 2 hours late where we made our way on the metro to our Airbnb in the 16th Arrondissement.  And no one told us to “mind the gap”! (at least not in English).

Europe with 2 Granddaughters, part 1

This is a big year for our granddaughter Tessa. She graduated from high school and turned 18. She starts college, Washington State University, in the honors program in August. To celebrate all this we wanted to do something special for her so we asked her where we could take her and she responded, London. Then her 14 year old sister spoke up to point out that by the time 4 years passes we might not be able to take her anywhere, being maybe too old? Unfortunately she had a point so we decided to take her along and add where she wanted to go—Paris!

On June 30th we set off from Boston on Iceland Air for London. Arriving the next morning with almost no sleep we were in no shape to do much so once we settled into our Airbnb we took a walk about the area.  ..

7:2 our neighborhood

We were situated just south of central London right next to a bus stop that could connect us to everywhere we wanted to go. It wasn’t a great neighborhood but not unsafe. Its main problem being noise but as one of the other folks staying there said “what do you expect, you’re in London!” We were there when England won their world cup game and there was nowhere that night that was quiet!

 

After a good night’s sleep we set out to see the sights. Our first stop was Westminster Abbey where we spent about 4 hours touring the abbey.

 

We had audio guides which we were happy to see that the girls listened to all of being fascinated by the history. Denny’s favorite part was poet’s corner, which I also liked but even more liked Stephen Hawkings marker (next to Sir Isaac Newton) which said “Here lies what was mortal of Stephen Hawking” along with a mathematical equation.  Not sure what the girls liked best but they were very impressed with how old some of the markers were. When we left there we walked around Parliament Square

 

Mandela, Gandhi, Millicent Fawcett (suffragette), Lloyd George, Churchill

and across Westminster bridge

 

and along the Thames.    Lamppost (with locks), Tessa and Leila

 

Big Ben, War Memorial, New Scotland Yard and Royal Lamppost

Then we walked through a bit of St. James Park where we saw lots of avian life on the river.

 

 

Greylag Goose, Grey Heron, Common Pochard

7:2 Thames with Eye

We found a boat that would take us along the Thames to the Tower of London and back to the Royal Observatory so the next day we started out early on the boat. The boatman told us all the things we passed along the way including where Helen Mirren lived, where Sir Walter Raleigh laid down his cape for the queen, a pub  Charles Dickens frequented and wrote about, where pirates were tortured by tying them down on the edge of the Thames at low tide and watching them drown as the water came up. Sounded pretty cruel. He also pointed out different buildings and bridges along the way

7:3 London Bridge

including London Bridge

 

 

 

St. John’s Wharf, the Shard, Cleopatra’s Needle

 

Helen Mirren’s house, Oliver’s Wharf

We got out at the Tower Bridge and went for a tour of the Tower of London.

7:3 tower bridge plaque

 

 

 

I think we spent about 5 hours here, first with our Yeoman guide giving us a great and entertaining overview, during which we went

 

into many of the towers to see torture chambers, where Sir Walter Raleigh was imprisoned,

 

and where Mary, Queen of Scots and Ann Boleyn were kept. We also saw where the Tower Ravens were kept and the area where the be-headings of the more royal people occurred. Most of the public be-headings happened on Tower Hill.

7:3 Execution site

There were numerous sculptures of the animals that they used to keep there.

 

 

We got back on the boat and went the other direction to the Royal Observatory in Greenwich where we saw the Cutty Sark.

7:3 cutty Sark

She was for a long time the fastest ship around until the steamships came along. We walked through the Naval Academy and up a steep hill to the observatory.

 

This is the source of Greenwich Mean Time and the historic Prime Meridian where east meets west.

7:3 Greenwich mean time

We saw the giant telescope they use and some of the many time pieces.

 

We got back for one of that last boats back to the dock. Really fun day.

The next day we took a train for about an hour’s trip through the countryside to visit Windsor Castle.

 

This is quite an impressive castle with over 900 rooms.

 

Of course there were some birds there:  Magpie, Mallard and Jackdaw

 

The castle and grounds:

7:4 Windsor pano

 

We could only tour the chapel, the state apartments and the Queen’s doll house. Through a bit of confusion we lost one another while going through the chapel and I thought the girls had moved ahead so went that way and Denny went back and found them then couldn’t find me. I finally ran into them coming into the State apartments as I was coming out. Sadly, it was too late for them to see the doll’s house which I looked for them in and ended up being the only one who got to see it. We couldn’t take pictures so they had to settle for seeing the pictures of it on line.

 

 

Back to the cold

We rode the bus back to Nogales, Mexico, then crossed the border and picked up a rental car and got a really lousy motel in Nogales, AZ.  Fortunately it was only for one night!  We were in time to meet our friends Judy and Don at Wisdoms for dinner.  If you’re ever near Tubac, AZ,  check it out.  They are famous for their fruit burros (burritos) and the rest of their food is great, too.  Had a great visit with Judy and Don to boot.

Next morning we went to Tubac for the regular Tuesday morning bird walk and to see all our friends from that area.  I guess most all of them were there, too, as 45 people showed up and we only found 43 birds! It was still fun to see everyone.  Sue Emerson had Sally Hills visiting, both from back home and we went out to lunch with them after the walk.  Then we ran a few errands and went up to Tucson where we had a nice Airbnb reserved for our time in Tucson.

We hadn’t gotten much sleep the last few days so we were beat and Wednesday was a day to do laundry and shop and recoup.  We did end up at Ft. Lowell Park for a walk to see some birds but basically crashed early.  Ft. Lowell is a city park that has a pond where they have some domestic Peking ducks mixing with the wild ones.  You can see the evidence of their promiscuity in the strange colors on the Mallards in particular.

pond ft lowell

The next day we went back to the Green Valley area (the rental wasn’t that far away) to have a picnic at Madera Canyon–one of our favorite places.

Judy and her friend Carol who was visiting met us there.  The birding was kind of slow but we did get nice looks at Red-naped Sapsucker and Rufous Hummingbird and 29 other birds.  After a beautiful day we went back to Judy and Don’s house for dinner and root beer floats!  They are from Iowa but moved permanently to Green Valley two years ago.  Their house is on a golf course with a patio facing it.  With lots of feeders around they have great birding in their backyard.  We saw 21 birds just sitting there having appetizers.

The next day we spent in Tucson going to Agua Caliente Park and picnicking at Saguaro East National Park. “Agua Caliente, literally meaning hot water, is a unique 101-acre park that features a perennial warm spring and pond that is home to an exceptionally rich mix of plants and animals. Agua Caliente Park has a long and interesting history with evidence of human habitation dating back about 5,500 years. In 1873, a ranch and health resort was developed to promote the curative properties of the warm springs.”  There were lots of ducks and turtles on the water and nice birds in the trees.  Our picnic at Saguaro East was somewhat bereft of birds as we only saw 6 while we were there.  Still a lovely place to picnic and have a hike.

The weekend was all Tucson Festival of Books and it was fabulous.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with this event it happens at U of A and they take over the whole campus. There are hundreds of authors and other exhibits.  If you follow the above link you can get a sense of what is offered.  They usually have over 100,000 people attending it. We were fortunate to get into quite a few of our first choices.  We started off with a program on Memoir with Amy Tan and Mary Karr.

amy

They were great together, each one trying to one up the other with whose mother was worse!  If you’ve read their books you’ll understand why.  After this panel we grabbed some lunch and went to get in line for the next presentation.  We were early enough to get there in time to see almost half of the panel which was with 3 sports writers — Scott Simon, who just wrote a book on the Cubs winning the pennant, Leigh Montville and Erica Westly. Next came a mystery panel with J. A. Jance, T. Jefferson Parker, and James Rollins.

 

tj

These 3 authors had an interesting discussion which included the point that none of them likes to outline.  They were quite adamant about it.  In the next panel of 2 mystery writers, Sophie Hannah (who has been conscripted by the Christie family to write more Agatha Christie books)  and Craig Johnson (author of the Longmire series),

craig johnson

both talked about how they couldn’t imagine how anyone could write a mystery without an outline.  In fact Hannah (who is British) said that when authors say they start out with a few characters and let them take them where they will it was a bit “twee”! It was all entertaining and gave us new ideas for books to read.

After the day’s presentations were over there was a free concert of the Rock Bottom Remainders.

concert

This is a rock band made up of authors that changes depending on who happens to be nearby for an event.  This time it included: Dave Barry, Sam Barry, Amy Tan, Mary Karr, Ridley Pearson, Mitch Album, Alan Zweibel, Scott Turow and a few more we didn’t catch the names of.  They are really fun and do a lot of fun things; Amy Tan dresses up in leather, boots and a whip and sings “These Boots are Made for Walking”; Scott Turow wore at least 3 different wigs, one Rasta, one Elvis and one looked like a head of tinsel when he sang “Wild Thing”.  Dave Barry wrote a song about being in love with a proofreader who would never be caught saying “between you and I” and Mary Karr did her ‘slut’ song about the ‘me too’ movement. All very fun.

Sunday we only saw 2 presentations but they were good ones.  First was Billy Collins and Juan Felipe Herrera who were both poet laureates of the US.

Herrera and Collins

We found Collins somewhat disappointing as we had heard him many times on Prairie Home Companion and Fresh Air and really enjoyed him but he didn’t seem like he was really into the presentation.  Herrera on the other hand was terrific and very enthusiastic.  In the afternoon we saw a solo presentation from Scott Simon.

Scott

He is such a charming man and so compassionate I love to hear him talk.  If you haven’t tuned into Weekend Edition Saturday on NPR to hear him and his morning essay you are missing a treat.  He always brings along his lovely French wife and his 2 adopted Chinese daughters and this time their dog, Daisy.  He also brought his cousin Pam Simon who worked for Gabby Gifford when she was shot.  Scott and his wife are friends of Gabby and her husband also and he teared up talking about it.  His presentation was a sweet way to finish off the festival.

The next day we volunteered to help organize and clean up the thousands of signs that were taken down, throwing out those that were damaged or dated and entering the others in a data base for next year.

Our last day in AZ we went on another Tubac bird walk.  This time there were 34 birders and we found only 32 birds.  It’s migration time for Common Black Hawk and Zone-tailed Hawk so we spent some time at the Hawk watch site and saw a bunch of them.  Then we went out to lunch with some more friends at a lovely restaurant in Amado called Firefly. We sat on the porch overlooking a beautiful pond and garden and view of the Santa Rita Mountains. It got up to 85 degrees that day.

Next day we left the beautiful weather and sunshine and came back to Massachusetts where it was cold and snowing when we arrived.  It isn’t springtime here yet but it’s coming.  Next weekend we’re off to Stamford, CT, for another fun weekend of helping with judging at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament.

Until our next adventure,

Peace,

Nancy & Denny