Thursday, September 27, 2012

Pink Fire in the Sky

1. DSC_0805-kab The Last Sunset of Monsoon 2012 on September 13

As a single thundercloud moved over the valley I happened to go out onto my balcony and saw this! I quickly grabbed my camera and started snapping. The sky looked as if it were on aflame with the color pink! It was brief, but breathtaking while it lasted. This is just one of the perks of being back in Tucson!

2. DSC_0808-kab 

3. DSC_0809-kab 

4. DSC_0810-kab 

5. DSC_0815-kab The Lavender Cloud that created it all!

Skywatch Friday!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Quick Hike in Saguaro NP

1. Freeman Homestead Trail-kab View of the Freeman Homestead Trail in Saguaro National Park (east)

On Friday, September 14 I awoke to a beautifully cool and sunny morning. It was such a relief after the heat and humidity from the monsoon. As I sat out on my balcony drinking tea and watching birds, I was thinking I would like to go for a hike somewhere, but I was stuck at home. The moving company was sending someone to come pick up my empty boxes between 10 and noon. I had to stay and wait. As I sat there sipping my tea, my son texted me asking if I wanted to go for a hike. It was an invitation I couldn’t resist, so I suggest we go to Saguaro National Park, which is nearby, and we could hike the Freeman Homestead Trail. I knew it was a short hike and we could probably go and get back before the movers arrived. So, I threw all my gear together and we were on the road within 20 minutes!

2. turkey vulture-kab Turkey Vulture in Saguaro National Park 9-14-12

Saguaro National Park  consists of two units divided by the city of Tucson. The Tucson Mountain Unit sits on the west side of the city and is the first place I ever visited in Tucson over 5 years ago. While the eastern Rincon Unit is larger in land area, it is also the least visited. My son had never been to the eastern unit of Saguaro National Park. While there is a very nice 7 mile loop road you can drive with pullouts and side trails, we chose to take the right-hand turn where we headed for the Freeman Homestead Trail. The Freeman Homestead Trail is a short hike down into a desert wash where the Freeman Family homesteaded years before this was ever a National Park. It is an easy hike with a good chance of seeing a wide variety of desert birds. We had barely started our hike when a turkey vulture dipped its wings in greeting!

3. thrasher on ocatillo-kab I found a curve-billed thrasher perched on some ocotillo still green from the recent monsoon rains. Cactus wrens moved through the undergrowth and Gila woodpeckers called from the desert.

4. martin in saguaro-kab We saw a female purple martin bringing food to her young in a saguaro.

5. purple martin-kab Overhead the father bird swooped!


6. cliff-kab I scanned the holes on this packed clay cliff knowing that I had seen a great-horned owl here years before. I did not see the owl, until we were down in the wash. Then it flushed from its hiding place and landed farther up the embankment in a tree.

6. GHOW-kab Great-horned owl in tree.

The sun was directly behind the cliff making looking for it quite difficult. GW finally found it for me and I snapped a few shots off, trying to adjust my settings for the shady light. Though we were far down the slope it felt we got too close and flew off again. I let it be and we hiked on. We did the hike in less than an hour and were soon back on the road again…

7. Saguaro NP-kab With a turkey vultures bidding us “good-bye” as we drove away!

As we drove up in front of our house the movers pulled in behind us, a half hour early! Good thing we came back when we did! But I was glad of the quick escape and the early morning hike in the cool desert!

Birds seen in Saguaro National Park Rincon Unit 9-14-12:

  1. Gambel’s Quail
  2. Turkey Vulture
  3. Great Horned Owl
  4. Gila Woodpecker
  5. Purple Martin
  6. Cliff Swallow
  7. Cactus wren
  8. Curve-billed Thrasher
  9. House Finch
  10. Lesser Goldfinch

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Return to Agua Caliente Park

1. Palms-kab Agua Caliente Park 9-9-2012
On a windy Sunday morning at the beginning of September I agreed to meet a fellow blogger at Agua Caliente Park in northwest, Tucson. Agua Caliente was one of my favorite birding spots from when I lived here before and this would be my first time birding here since my return. With my husband and son both at home watching football, it was a nice break from all the unpacking since I moved back.
2. chris-kab Chris of Las Adventuras 
I knew Chris from his blog, Las Adventuras, but had never met him in person. We met in the parking lot and were soon decked out with binoculars and cameras. The park was amazingly quiet from what I remembered, but a cool wind was blowing giving us the feeling of Autumn, even if it really wasn’t here yet. We headed towards the spring fed pond where the only ducks were the resident mallards. In the winter this spot is a great place to find ducks.
2a. reeds-kab The gusting wind was blowing a gale keeping most of the birds down, but finally was saw a small flock of grackles lift out of the reeds and into the air.
3. turtles-kab Around the side of the pond we found a few red-eared sliders trying to bask in the sun.

4. gila woodpecker-kab Finally a Gila woodpecker flew up onto a dead snag.

5. breadfruit-kabWe learned this fruit that looks like a green brain is called breadfruit, a remnant from when this was a working ranch and planted as an ornamental tree. We found this fruit on the trail through the mesquite bosque at the back side of the park.
6. mesquite bosque-kab The shaded path through the mesquite bosque.

7. back country-kab Once through the mesquite trail it opens up again to an overflow pond, dry now except for a small puddle. Once out in the open we started to feel the effects of the sun, even though the wind kept blowing. We found a few sparrows in the brush, and then…

8. who's this-kab …this! Who’s this hiding in the scrub?

9. hiding-kab Rusty cap, green tail…I think I know!

10. greeentailed towhee-kab A Green-tailed Towhee! My first since my return!
After this we weren’t seeing many birds, so I focused on the native plants.
11. barrel cactus-kab A flowering barrel cactus!

12. saguaro-kabA Giant Saguaro

13. breadfruit-kab The non-native breadfruit again.

14. turtles-kab On our way back to the parking lot we saw more turtles.

15. Chris and I-kab Chris and I at Aqua Caliente Park (photo taken by a passer-by)
By the end of our two hours of birding Chris and I were fast friends. We had a great time and made further plans to go birding again. Below is the list of birds we saw on this very windy day In Agua Caliente Park.
Birds seen in Agua Caliente Park 0n 9-9-2012:
  1. Mallard
  2. turkey vulture
  3. Gila Woodpecker
  4. Bell’s vireo
  5. Verdin
  6. Bewick’s Wren
  7. Curve-billed Thrasher
  8. Green-tailed Towhee
  9. Abert’s Towhee
  10. Brewer’s Sparrow
  11. Great-tailed Grackle
  12. House Finch
  13. Lesser Goldfinch

Sunday, September 23, 2012

More Tucson Yard Birds

1. Anna's Hum-kab Anna’s Hummingbird at feeder 9-9-12

I have been here in Tucson for almost a month now and I am still settling in. Since I have put out my hummingbird feeders and nyjer seed feeders I am getting some regular bird visitors in my yard with a few surprises thrown in.  I don’t think I will get the same variety of hummingbirds here in town that I use to get out in Sycamore Canyon but I have had more of a variety than I thought I would. Since it is hummingbird migration I am seeing young birds that are more difficult to identify but I am doing my best. By far the most regular hummingbird species I am seeing is Anna's, which is really what I expected here in town.

2. DSC_0650-kab Anna’s female seen from the back.


3. DSC_0652-kab Unsure of this bird seen on 9-6-12


4. rufous-kab However, this Rufous male is unmistakable!


5. anna's hum-kab Male Anna's Hummingbird again.


6. Anna's-kab Feeding.


7. Pigs-kab Rock Pigeons on neighbor’s rooftop.


8. say's phoebe-kab Say’s Phoebe on neighbor’s rooftop pipe.


9. LEGO-kab Lesser Goldfinch in my yard.


10. MODO-kab I have seen a couple dozen Mourning Doves about.


11. feeding-kab Including the mama who is raising a small brood in my rafters!

I think she raised two chicks who have fully fledged now, though they are still using the nest. I will have to knock it down soon as the patio is getting covered in droppings which I have to hose off every day. They are big enough to survive on their own and its best they move on, but it’s been fun watching them.

12. Monsoon morning-kab I arrived back here in time to experience the tail end of the monsoon. This was the sky on the morning of September 12. I was able to experience a few thunderstorms from the safety of our new home.

13. PUMA-kab I was surprised to discover that the purple martins are still around and flying over my yard at times!


14. Cooper's hawk-kab The birds were even more surprised when this Juvenile Cooper’s Hawk landed in my backyard!


15. dead ballerina-kab But I was sad to return from errands one day and find my ballerina broken on the ground! I was so happy to set her up and hang the hummingbird feeder off her hand again. I have had her since the early 2000’s and she has lived in 7 houses with me! I haven’t decided what to do with her yet. I am keeping all her piece parts for now.


16. good-bye-kab She looks so sad.

But the birding continues. Yesterday I saw my first Broad-billed hummingbird in the yard. I have also gone out on a couple of other birding adventures, one of which ended with more excitement than I planned. You can see the complete list of yard birds in the side bar, and come back tomorrow to read about my further adventures in birding since moving back to Tucson!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Texas to Tucson Day 6

1. Fabens Rest area-kab Rest Area near Fabens, TX 8-27-12

On our last day of driving when we were so weary we were awakened early by my cats jumping on the our beds. They kept jumping on us and crying and we could not figure out why. They had not done this on the whole trip. They started about 4 o’clock in the morning, jumping and meowing and running around. I got up to use the restroom and the kitties followed me in there, but whatever they were trying to tell me, I just did not get it. I called them onto my bed and tried to cuddle them and calm them down, but they remained restless. Finally, about 6:30 a.m. Kathryn got up and noticed that their water bowl was empty! It was so hot and dry in this part of Texas that Blossom and the cats had drunk all the water we had put out for them the night before! As soon as Kathryn refilled the bowl they ran over and drank and drank! Then they settled down peacefully on my bed. The cats were trying so hard to communicate with us. We were the ones who were dumb! But, by now it was too late to really go back to sleep, so Kathryn and I just got up and got dressed. We soon loaded the car and headed out for our last day of driving.

2. Desert willow-kab Desert Willow at rest area near Fabens, TX

As we followed the open road the final miles fell behind us. I do not remember much of how I was feeling, other than tired. Once again, I felt the finality of it all. I was moving back to Tucson for good and leaving the rest of my family behind. I wanted to be excited, but instead I felt sad. When I saw a desert willow at the Fabens Rest Area I knew I was back in the desert. Then a female Broad-tailed hummingbird flew in for a sip from one of the pale pink blossoms and I smiled. It was my first Texas hummingbird and I knew there would be more waiting for me in Tucson. Only in Tucson do we get winter hummingbirds!

4. somewhere in TX-kab Somewhere on the road in Texas


5. El Paso-kab I think this is on the west side of El Paso

We did not stop to bird today. We just kept driving, though we did count birds at one spot where we stopped to get gas and found a few Western Flycatchers sitting on the fence behind the station. They were so close to us but I was so tired by now I didn’t even bother to get out my camera! Sorry!

6. I-10 near Tucson-kab Finally, after 2600 miles we were nearing Tucson!

I was driving at this point and Kathryn was taking pictures out the window. Monsoon clouds hovered overhead but sunlight was streaming through like a golden benediction on the road before us.

7. Rincon Mts-kab We saw the Rincon Mountains out our window on the right…


8. tucson Mts-kab …and the Tucson Mountains just ahead.


9. sonoita highway bridge-kab We passed under the bridge of the Sonoita Highway…


10. Houghton rd. exit-kab …then exited at Houghton Road.

We were finally home.