On April 20th, I joined 7 others for a Desert Rivers Audubon Society trip to Patagonia and the surrounding area in southern Arizona. We departed Mesa very early in the morning and made a pit stop at Sweetwater Wetlands just outside of Tucson and could have spent an entire day there as it is a wonderful birding spot. However, we did have an agenda and did not stay long and headed on to our first destination, the De Anza trail at Tubac, Arizona. One of the first birds we encountered near the parking area was a Rufous-winged Sparrow singing its heart out from a nearby tree. This just happened to be one of my target birds on this trip and added to my life bird list. Did not get the best photo that I would have liked, but good enough to show the 2 black whisker marks which is one of the best field marks in identifying this species.
Also in the parking lot we found some very active Barn Swallows that had very little fear of humans and perched on wires right above our heads. This is a bird that I am very familiar with as they were always present on the farm back in Nebraska every summer. Always nesting in the rafters in the barn where we milked cows by hand. Seeing and hearing one of these up close, brought back many old memories. My dad always told me a child how nice it is to have these birds around in the summer due to the huge numbers of insects they consume, especially mosquitoes. They feed on the wing catching many insects while flitting every which direction.
We followed the De Anza trail for about a mile and a half in saw many birds during the walk, most were not so cooperative when it came to photos. Also observed a Gray Hawk, another life bird, soaring on the thermals above us. Got to observe more of these graceful raptors in other areas of our trip, but for now I was very pleased. As we came to the end of the trail a female Ladder-back Woodpecker made her appearance in a tree above us and although she did not present the most ideal opportunity for a photo, I did manage to capture one image of her before she flew on to the next tree.
From the De Anza trail in Tubac we then continued on to the Sante Fe Ranch where we stopped for our lunch break and saw some new bird species including a Canyon Towhee that really put on quite a show for us. Actually there were a pair of them, but one of them in particular was quite entertaining. First it took advantage of the the bird bath that was available to them, and then it flew up to a branch in front of us and fluffed itself up even while wet.
Finally it must have decided it was no longer hidden and flew up on a stump to check us out and let us know it was done with the fun and games and continued to dry out.
These few encounters were just the start of a fun filled trip. Next up on my blog will be photos from the wonderful birding hot spot in Patagonia, Paton's house.