Fan-tailed Warbler

Fan-tailed Warbler

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ruby, Arizona - A Gem in the Desert

About 6 weeks ago, Chris Rohrer and I were invited by Kathy Cooper to join in an all night outing with a group of tracking experts in the ghost town of Ruby, Arizona.  After a short discussion we decided to accept and this was going to be a somewhat new experience for me as we were going to spend a night camping out in tents.  I have only spent 2 nights in a tent in my life and that was when I was in Army basic training a very long time ago (early 70's to be exact)!  So with some borrowed equipment, I was packed and ready to try my luck and now I have learned a couple of do's and don'ts about any future camping that I might want to do. 
Ruby is considered the second best preserved ghost town in the state of Arizona.  This was a mining town that was at its peak in the 1930's but after the mining operations ceased, the town was deserted by the early 1940's.  Many of the buildings are still standing and the mine's tailings definitely left a mark on the landscape as a large sand dune and beach area.  Ruby does have quite an interesting history and was very fascinating to read.  However, Chris and I came for the birds and although we did not see anything rare and exciting, we did get some great looks at a few that sometimes like to play hard to get. The best birds for photos right in Ruby consisted of a Ladder-backed Woodpecker, a couple of soaring Red-tailed Hawks, and a Rock Wren that has taken up quarters in the open attic area of the old deserted school house.
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
 Red-tailed Hawk
Rock Wren
The topographical landmark to Ruby is Montana Peak with an elevation of 5073 feet; not huge by any standard, but its unique shape and height stands out from the surrounding summits. 
 Montana Peak

 Trailings created by the mining operation
 Remains of part of the old mine
Some of the most accommodating birds for us were actually seen at Pena Blanca Lake which we visited on the way to Ruby.  Here we had Northern Cardinals and Pyrrhuloxia in mixed company.  One of the Northern Cardinals appeared to be gathering nesting material and kept coming back to a spot near us and gathering some fine plant material which it whisked away and came back for more.  At least 4 Pyrrhuloxia were seen right nearby and a very handsome Pied-billed Grebe was trying to be a star in a small finger of the lake which was very close by.
 Northern Cardinal
 Northern Cardinal
Pied-billed Grebe
Sunday morning dawned very cold with frost on the tents and time for us to start thinking about the trip home and while we were that far out in the wilderness, we decided to take the back road home through Arivaca, AZ.  Another place I had not been to before and after our brief visit on the road back to Tucson, I definitely want to return to this great birding spot with its boardwalk area and pathways that lead to some incredible birds and other wildlife.  Birds included a handsome American Kestrel and some more Pyrrhuloxia and the nmammals included some Collared Peccary (aka Javalina) and a Coyote stealthily hunting for food in the dry grasses.
 American Kestrel
 Coyote in the grass
Collared Peccary
Definitely a worthwhile visit and the rewards of seeing more of what lies within the borders of the fascinating state of Arizona and its wonderful bird life.