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.
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.
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,
Nancy and Denny