Friday, July 19, 2013

Water, Mud and Birds at Perry Park

1. mperrypark-kab Michael Perry Park view of Rincon Mountains 7-6-13

On Friday, July 5th the monsoon let loose on Tucson. Gus and I spent most of the day inside but by evening the rain had tapered off and I wanted to see the after affects of the storm. We jumped in Gus's car and in little over a mile were stopped by the barricades and flash flooding on Harrison Road where the Pantano Wash crosses it. We were not the only ones out looking. Other cars were parked and people were taking pictures of the raging water that tumbled brown and frothy across the road. The air was thick with moisture and a few clouds still hung overhead, but the storm itself had moved on, or petered out.

2. paloverdedown-kab Palo Verde down at Perry Park 7-6-13

The sun was setting as we drove away and headed west on Golf Links Road. As we drove west we could hear and then see emergency vehicle headed towards us. We wondered where they were going and suspected perhaps to a swift water rescue. After a drive around the streets, I asked Gus to drive me over to Michael Perry Park. I wanted to see the wash flooded as this would be my first time being there when the water was raging. It was dark by now and as we headed east on Golf Links road we had to cross the bridge over the wash before we could turn into the park. As we neared the intersection I looked to my right and saw the road was blocked by the emergency vehicles! All along the trail there were ambulances and fire engines. Instead of turning in, we drove right by then stopped for an ice cream cone a bit farther down the road. From where we parked I could see a helicopter circling overhead and shining a spotlight down on the wash. It wasn’t until the late news came on that I found out what had happened. Apparently some woman decided it would be okay to take her dog for a walk in the flooded wash but then she got stuck on one of the sand bars as the water started to rise. Thankfully she and the dog were safely rescued, but I couldn’t help but wonder who would take their dog for a walk in an already flooded wash?

3. trail-kab After an hour or so the drama was over, so I asked Gus to drive me over to the Pantano Parkway so I could looks at the raging torrent. by now it was very dark and most everyone had gone home. There was no one in the parking lot where we stopped and got out to looks at the current illuminated by the street lights. I was fascinated by the tossing waves and tumbling debris carried by such force. I have walked along this wash so many times with its sand and dry brush. Birds, rabbits, lizards and coyotes all live in this wash. But tonight it looks like a raging river. Water in the desert always amazes me and it seems like a miracle, even though this water was brown and frothy.

4. pantano wash-kab So it was that on Saturday morning I got up and drove over to the park by myself. Gus was sleeping in and I wanted to see if there was still any water in the wash.

5. peopleinwash-kab To my utter surprise, no only was the water gone, but there were already people, kids and dogs running around in the wash again!

6. mudpatterns-kab Still, the remnants of last night’s flood were still visible.

7. ripples-kab The water left mud patterns everywhere.

8. alluvial fan-kab A small alluvial fan of sand.

9. mud-kab Mud patterns left by the flash flood in the Pantano Wash.

10. ashtroated flycatcher-kab Since there wasn’t much water, I decided to count the birds, but then, you knew I would do that, didn’t you? I found an Ash-throated Flycatcher munching on on bug in a bush by the baseball fields.

11. verdin nest-kab I head a verdin calling form one of the pine trees and looked up to find this Verdin nest. As I stood there photographing the nest I noticed something else even higher in the tree.

12. whats this-kab What is THAT, I thought?

13. coopers hawk-kab I don’t think the Cooper’s hawk liked me watching it, so I moved on. It was so hot out and I did not want to chase it off its shady perch.

14. zebra tail-kab There was little shade for this Zebra-tailed lizard as it scurried across my path!

15. water-kab Finally I found a pool of water leftover from the flash flood.


16. reflections-kab Though it was fun to look at the reflection in the pool, I knew it would not last long in this heat. Before long Pantano Wash would be a dry wash once again.

17. juv vermillion-kab As I headed back to the parking lot I started to melt from the humidity. I knew I needed to get out of the sun and head home. A small flycatcher landed on the railing before me. A quick look revealed a juvenile Vermilion flycatcher. Between the monsoon rain, the flash flooding, and the birds I was seeing, there was no doubt that I was back in the Sonoran Desert in summer. I watched as a few Barn Swallows swooped over the wash catching insects in mid flight. As I headed to the parking lot and anticipating the cool air-conditioning in my car a male Vermilion Flycatcher fly by and landed on the tip of an ocotillo. It always amazes me how they can do that, perch among the thorns, but they do. And since I like to be amazed, it seems like I live in the right place. It was as if the desert was saying, “Welcome Home Kathie!”

18. vermilion fly-kab Male Vermillion Flycatcher in Michael Perry Park 7-6-13


And Mom Said we Could!

I remember a thunderstorm

A day when we played in the mud

And Mom said we could!

I remember sliding,

Gliding in

Black sticky ooze

And laughing, laughing

All of us laughing,

And Mom said we could!

And my brothers

And sister and I

Were all one

In the fun

Of the sticky, black oozing mud,

And Mom said we could!

~kathiesbirds (12 May 1988)


  1. Water is such a special treat in the desert, if one is cautious. That mud pattern looks like a satellite view of Grand Canyon.

    I love your poem, and the image it evokes of you and siblings playing in the mud.

    1. Gaelyn, I thought the same thing about the mud pattern! I'm glad you liked the poem. It is based on a real event, and you should have seen what we looked like when we were done playing in that mud!

  2. Amazing how people never learn about playing in the washes during monsoon. That's Risky Business:) love how the rain is a game changer:)

  3. Kathie, I am glad that the woman and her dog were rescued! Love the images of the patterns in the mud. And the birds are awesome, especially the Vermillion Flycatcher. Happy Birding!

  4. Great poem Kathie and you certainly have some colourful Flycatcher species.

    1. Roy, we sure do, but the Vermilion Flycatcher has got to be the best. It is also the symbol for the Tucson Audubon Society and the name of their quarterly magazine.

  5. Enjoyed your post. Love the patterns on the sand.

  6. Brilliant post Kathie, I'm glad the lady and her dog were rescued. I hope she thinks a bit about trying something like that again. Thoroughly enjoyed all the photos, your commentary and another lovely poem.


Welcome to my nest! I hope you will enjoy spending time here with me and the birds. Thank you for your comments. I will try to get back to you as soon as I get back from counting more birds.