Madera Canyon Birding

We drove an hour south to the Coronado National Forest and Madera Canyon, a premier birding destination. We walked up beside the canyon from the Proctor Road Parking area. Cacti were interspersed in the forest of sycamore, ash and juniper. Granite boulders were dominant in the canyon.


We had done a bit of research on eBird and knew that there were Sulphur-bellied flycatchers in the area. Their call sounds like a squeaky toy. When we heard that call we took a short diversion from the trail and located three flycatchers. They have a very limited range in the US, so we were very happy to get a “life bird” so early on in our hike.


Further along the trail, in a nice shady area, we saw numerous Bridled titmice, some Black-throated grey warblers and a couple of White-breasted nuthatches. All the birds were darting in the among the trees, but Doug was able to get a photo of one Bridled titmouse.

As we climbed steadily upward we came across a family of Mexican jays. We heard their raucous calls long before we saw them.


We turned around at the Whitehouse picnic area. It’s very civilized when your route has a restroom half way along. On the way down, we saw this Ladder-backed woodpecker. To compare it with woodpeckers that we have at home, its a bit bigger than a Downy woodpecker and a bit smaller than a Hairy.


We drove up the Madera Canyon road to Santa Rita lodge and gift shop. They have a viewing area set up with almost a dozen seed and suet feeders and numerous hummingbird feeders. We stayed for about a half an hour and saw over 30 birds of nine species.

Here’s a female Anna’s hummingbird.


On the left is another Anna’s hummingbird. The large hummingbird on the right is a Rivoli’s hummingbird (previously known as Magnificent hummingbird.)


There were also plenty of Yellow-eyed juncos.


And three Acorn woodpeckers.


A new bird for us was this female Arizona woodpecker.


We were back at our trailer by early afternoon after our successful birding adventure to Madera Canyon. It wasn’t that far away to see some amazing birds. We’re sure to return many times in the months to come.

Getting settled in Tucson

Getting settled in Tucson

We’re getting settled here at our spot for the season. We’re about 20 minutes from shopping and US 10 in one direction and 20 minutes from the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum in the other. Here’s a southeast view from our yard, taken one afternoon after a rain shower.


This is the view to the east, that same afternoon.


Another day, these thunderheads passes us to the north. This view is taken a short walk down the road beside the property. The other houses are mostly hidden by the vegetation.


We went for a short hike from the Signal Hill picnic site in the Saguaro National Park to some petroglyphs. The ridge on the left side in the background is the same one we look at from our patio. (That was also in the previous photos.)


This blooming barrel cactus was close to where the last photo was taken. The mountains in the background are east of the flat Avra Valley.


We visit the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum frequently. We bought an annual pass so we get our exercise walking on the trails in the early morning, before it gets too hot.


Here’s Doug on the Desert Loop, a gravel trail that’s a little under a kilometre long. (The rest of the park is paved.) We’ve worked our way up to briskly walking five “laps” with short pauses to look at coyotes or javelinas that are in enclosures along the trail. (And of course, birds)


One day it was raining hard enough to need an umbrella, but it was still warm enough for shorts.


After our walk, we usually spend some time at one or two of the exhibits. We’ve visited the cactus garden a number of times. These fuzzy cacti are called Woolly Jacket Prickly Pear.


The museum has a large hummingbird aviary. Here’s a photo of a Broad-billed hummingbird. The hummingbirds will nest and raise their family in the aviary. Once the young are independent, the museum will find them another home at a different zoo or botanical garden.


Here’s a male Costa’s hummingbird taken inside the aviary. The hummingbirds are conditioned to having people around and will allow you to get quite close. We also often see “wild” Costa’s hummingbirds in the gardens outside the aviary, but they tend to move quickly from bloom to bloom.


On one visit Doug took his camera with the long lens, and got a good photo of a Cactus wren on an Organ Pipe cactus.


There was a cute sparrow just below the same cactus. When we looked closely at the photo we realized it was a Rufous-winged sparrow. That small patch of red on its shoulder is one of its distinguishing features. The rufous-winged sparrow is only found in the northwest part of Mexico and in a small section of southern Arizona.


We also became members of another botanical garden about a half an hour east of us. Tohono Chul has been reviewed as one of the ten great botanical gardens of the world. Although you can sometimes hear the traffic noise of the busy intersection, it has a peaceful atmosphere.


There are statues throughout the park, as well as an art gallery.


There are large stands of trees and benches everywhere.


Here’s a blooming barrel cactus in one of their gardens.


They also sell plants. Here’s a view of their cactus greenhouse.


Tohono Chul advertises themselves with: Where nature, art and culture connect. We’re looking forward to attending their free Sunday afternoon concerts

This post describes the places that we are going to visit over and over again while we’re here in the Tucson area. Next post will be about our birding trip to Madera Canyon, likely the first of many.


Down to Arizona

Down to Arizona

We took a few days to drive down to our campsite for most of the “cold” season. First to Missoula, MT and then to American Falls, ID and then a couple of days in Ely, NV. From Ely, we took a day trip to Great Basin National Park.

Within an hour we were at the Lehman Caves Visitor Center. We were early for our tour, so we were wandering around and happened to sit down beside a young woman who looked familiar. It was Marysa who we had last seen in August when she was visiting her parents in Cranbrook. We had recommended that she try to see the caves since she would be travelling right by them on her way to Colorado. We had both booked the same tour on-line by coincidence. It was such a surprise to see her there that we asked a nearby tourist to take our photo together.Cave_entrance_Marysa

The cave tour was worthwhile. Our tour guide, although a bit quirky, had interesting stories and facts about the caves. The caves are artificially lit, but still quite dim.


The next day we drove to Kingman, AZ, and in one more day we were in the Tucson area. We booked a site at Picacho Peak State Park for two nights, so we had time to reconnoiter the route to our the site we had leased near Saguaro National Park (West). Here’s a photo of our first night at Picacho Peak S.P.


This is a view towards the Santa Catalina Mountains and Highway 10.


This one is looking towards the ridge of Picacho Peak in the morning.


Both mornings we were there, we got up at sunrise (around 6 am) and went for a birding walk. It would get too hot to be comfortable walking by 8. Here’s a photo of a Say’s phoebe in a Palo verde tree.


Here are some views of our spot for the season. We’ve leased the site from the homeowner who also lives on the property. We’ve enjoyed beautiful sunsets most evenings.


This is the view looking east. The sandy area in front of our unit is surrounded by trees.


Parts of the yard are still wild; here’s a view of a Prickly pear cactus with fruit.


There is also Chainfruit cholla on the property.


We’ve had a chance to see a bit of Tucson. After we stopped in at the Visitors Centre, we went to a park close by for a short walk. There were a number of these beautiful bushes in bloom. We found out they are Red Bird-of-Paradise (caesalpinia pulcherrima), in the legume family.


Our site is about ten minutes from the Red Hills Visitor Center for Saguaro National Park (West). One day we viewed the displays, took the short nature walk and listened to very informative talk about the life cycle of the Saguaro.


Another day, we drove across town and up a winding road to the top of Mount Lemmon. Mount Lemmon actually has a ski hill! It has a limited season but it has a chairlift and about a dozen short runs. There are campgrounds and picnic sites all the way up the road as well as many hiking trailheads. We chose to hike from the upper most parking area. There were sections near the top that were reminiscent of a forest in Canada. It was cool enough to hike with a long-sleeved shirt. (Locals were wearing fleece jackets, however.)


Here’s a view looking west over Tucson and the craggy ridge of Mount Lemmon. We didn’t get a photo, but we were able to see several Yellow-eyed juncos, a bird that has a very limited range in the United States.


We’ve seen plenty of birds already, and Doug has several good photos that we’ll include in our next blog.

Kelowna, BC: a visit and some family time

Kelowna, BC: a visit and some family time

A niece’s wedding was a good excuse to spend some time in Kelowna this August. We booked about a year ahead to get a site in a boutique RV park in South Kelowna. Canyon Farms RV has ten fully serviced sites. Our site was closest to the washroom and laundry, but still very private with the landscaping and plantings.


Canyon Farms is also a working farm, with chickens and gardens. They provided us with a container to collect our vegetable scraps for the chickens. The chickens were very keen to see what delectables were coming to them next and would run to the fence if they heard someone approach.


There were plenty of flower gardens. This one was right in the campground. During our stay, a vase with cut flowers appeared on our picnic table.


There were also grape vines full of a tasty eating varietal planted to give privacy between sites.


The RV park was walking distance to Mission Creek Greenway Regional Park. Twice we walked down into the canyon and once we rode our bikes. This is a photo of Doug in front of the canyon walls at Gallagher’s narrows, on a side trail to the “Rock Ovens.”


We also took a trip to Vernon to visit family. We wish we had remembered to take a photo from their deck that overlooks the city, oh well. On our way back to Kelowna, we stopped in at The Batik Corner in Oyama. The cute shop sits on the owner’s rural property.


The shop specialized in batiks that are made especially for her, which meant there were some unique designs and very reasonable prices. The shop is a bit out of the way, but we bought enough fabric to make it worth the trip.


The day before the wedding, we met the mother and father of the bride at Summerhill Pyramid Winery, the wedding venue. Here’s a photo of the rehearsal in progress, so you can see how great the view is.


Another bonus of the wedding was spending time with our daughters and their partners, including the eldest daughter’s in-laws. We hosted them for a lunch before the afternoon wedding.


The next day, four of us rode the Myra Canyon Trestles trail, a highly scenic section of the Kettle Valley Railway, that was originally completed in 1914. We started fairly early on a cool morning, so it wasn’t very crowded on our way out. Here’s a view of one of the 18 trestle bridges. Decks had been added to the trestle bridges back in the 1990s, but major restoration has occurred more recently since twelve of them were burnt in the 2003 forest fires.


There are two tunnels on the route. They are dark, but there is enough light from the entrances to be able to see without lights.


We rode 12 kilometres to another parking area for the trail, then headed back. Here’s a view of one of the longer, curved trestle on our way back. As we got closer to our truck, it became crowded on the trail, with families of hikers, dogs and more cyclists.


As we got closer to our truck, the trail became more crowded with families of hikers, dogs and more cyclists. We all enjoyed the leisurely three hour trip.

This was our last trip of the summer; now our focus will be to get ready for our fall adventures: Arizona, here we come!