Birding and Exploring around Tucson

Birding and Exploring around Tucson

Tucson is still pretty warm in September, so we didn’t bike or hike much. However there are many birding opportunities. One day we drove south about an hour and a quarter to Tubac. Tubac is a very old settlement on the Santa Cruz River that has found new life as a tourist town with quaint shops and galleries. We started our birding route at Bridge Road, just before the bridge and followed the Juan Bautista de Anza trail for a little ways until it connected with the TGR (Tubac Golf Resort) trail.


We were hoping to see Rosy-breasted becards high in the cottonwoods. But no luck. Perhaps we’ll have to return with our scope. Those treetops are a long way up!

While we were wandering near some lower bushes, we heard some close scuffling sounds, but the source was out of sight. A few minutes later we caught sight of three javelinas trotting along. They were too far away to get a good photo, but it was our first sighting of them in the wild.

Javelinas are also know as collared peccaries and are similar to wild boars. Although they are herbivores, they can become aggressive if startled and can inflict damage with their long, sharp canine teeth that protrude from their jaws by about an inch.


We did see a new bird for us: a female Varied bunting. We’re looking forward to seeing a male version, which is blue and red and quite beautiful.


There were quite a few Inca doves right close to the road.


And a Warbling vireo allowed us a viewing. Usually we only hear its distinctive song.


We toured the Tubac Presidio State Historic Park which was nearby. There were a few interesting buildings, including an old school house which was set up to be like it was in the late 1800s. A couple of classes of school kids from Tucson were touring the park with their clipboards and worksheets dressed in period costume and it reminded us of school field trips to Ft. Steele.

We thought that the prettiest place in the park was this collection of cacti surrounding an old wagon.


Seven minutes down the road is Tumacacori National Historic Park. This old church was built in several stages starting in the 1750s by Franciscan monks.


Since we were in “tourist mode,” we stopped at the Titan Missile Museum which is just outside of Green Valley on our way back to Tucson. We were expecting a static display, but instead signed up for the last tour of the day. Doug was thrilled to sit in the command post. Doug was very interested in all the technology and the history from the Cold War era. Wendy figured that since she dragged Doug to plenty of quilt shops and shows she would come along.


Another day we went birding closer to home at the Sweetwater Wetlands. The Sweetwater Wetlands are part of the City of Tucson’s water reclamation system. Treated water is naturally filtered as it moves through the wetlands, and is recharged in basins and reclaimed for use in city parks, golf courses and school grounds.


There are viewing platforms built to view the ponds. The ponds are green with a coating of algae.


There were plenty of American coots enjoying the lushness.


This Nashville warbler paused for a moment to allow Doug to get a photo.


We were surprised to see a Greater Roadrunner because they are often in more open areas. There were probably plenty of lizards round for it to dine on.


Another day, we went out to lunch at a brewpub near the university. We took a short walk through the University of Arizona’s campus. Here’s a view from the steps of the Old Main. It’s hard to tell it’s in the middle of the city.


After lunch, we drove to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum to attend the opening of an international exhibition of art quilts: Connecting our Natural Worlds.


About fifteen of the artists were present and we had conversations with some of them about their work. The exhibition continues until January, so we’ll return a number of times when we’re back in November and maybe get some good photos of the works then.


Since we had a bit of time, we viewed the aquarium at the museum. Since the Sonoran desert is on both sides of Baja California, marine life from the bay is included in the exhibits, as well as any native fish that may be in the rivers.

These are Garden eels that are about 40 cm long. They need to live in sand that is at least 60 cm deep. They were fascinating to watch as they twisted and swayed trying to catch particles of food.


Tohono Chul, where we have a membership, hosts Sunday concerts in the garden. We enjoyed listening to this jazz ensemble from the University of Arizona.


This is a view of our dinner on October 6. It was just over 30 degrees C. We headed home the next morning, leaving the fifth wheel behind.


On Monday we drove from Tucson to St. George, Utah. The next day we drove longer than we had planned in order to get over the pass into Montana before the weather changed. We knew a severe winter storm was coming and we’d hoped to miss it. It didn’t quite work out that way and we woke to blowing snow and below freezing temperatures. (-7 C) Here’s the view of the truck in Dillon, Montana.



We had a few hours of full-on winter driving until we reached clear pavement. The weather for the rest of the trip home was beautiful. It was great to see the autumn colours.

We’re now back home for about a month. We’ll return to our Redwood in November.