It was time to visit Sabino Canyon again for some birding. Here’s a view of the recreation area before the trail climbs into the canyon.


Doug got out his camera and big lens for the first time since our Panama trip.


He got some good photos. Here’s a male Costa’s hummingbird.


This is a female Northern cardinal.


We walked up the Bluff trail and looked across into the branches of the tall cottonwoods. A Cooper’s hawk was building a nest. We watched as it pulled dead twigs off branches and carried them to the nest. It rested for a few moments and Doug was able to get this shot.


A little further up the trail was this male Broad-billed hummingbird. We had seen them before but only in vicinity of feeders, so it was wonderful to see one “in the wild.” Note his broad, notched tail and bright red bill.


He was preening and shaking out his feathers. Doug caught him fanning his tail.


There were Black-tailed gnatcatchers flirting about in the creasote bushes. One male paused long enough for this photo. He was in breeding plumage which made him very easy to identify.


Here’s a view of Picacho Peak that we took in September when we were staying at the park for a few days. Its centrepiece spire is visible from Tucson as well as from the roads near our place. It was on the list of “mountains to climb that we can see from our winter home.” So we picked a day in February. (February 25 to be exact.)


We left our place by 7 am and were on the trail just after 8. The trail starts on the side you can see in the previous picture and switchbacks up to a shoulder. The route then heads down the cliff face on the other side. Here is Wendy down climbing with help from the cables.


The trail then skirts the cliffs. It’s amazing that this saguaro can survive here.


Soon the real climbing began. Doug climbed this section by leaning back and pulling up.


The trickiest bit had cables on both sides for handholds. It allowed us to get up a section that would have required full-on climbing gear.


This ramp and handrail made for an easy traverse.


We were on the top by about 10:00 and had the place to ourselves. We didn’t stay long though, because it was quite windy.

Picaho-summitOn our way down, we met many people ascending, but we only had to wait at one of the “one-way only” sections.

We took a short side-trip near the trailhead to take photos of the Mexican gold poppies. (Eschscholzia mexicana)


Another day, we visited the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. This view of the cactus garden shows Organ Pipe cactus and Totem cactus surrounding a number of varieties of barrel cactus. Notice the heart-shaped prickly pear cactus on the front left.


After spending months riding the pavement on “The Loop,” we finally found a good place for mountain biking. It’s about a 40 minute drive to the trailhead for us, but it was definitely worth it. Much of the trail is the nice desert riding we enjoy; not too many rocks or too much sand. Here’s Doug on the “Honeybee Loop” trail …


and Wendy just a bit further down the trail. The trails in Honeybee Canyon are reached from the Big Wash trailhead in Oro Valley.


We went birding again to Reid Park. Back in November, we saw this Greater Pewee and got a fuzzy photo of it. It was a rare bird for the area. It seems it decided to stick around for the winter. This time, it cooperated better and Doug was able to get this shot.


The other reason for birding at Reid Park, in the middle of Tucson, was its closeness to the Davis-Monthan Airforce Base. On the day we were birding, the pilots who fly historic warbirds from Korean, Vietnam and WWII were being recertified. Some modern planes were also flown. That meant there were plenty of interesting planes overhead. Doug probably took as many pictures of aircraft as he did of birds that day. Here’s a view of an F-16.


This blog gets us caught up for February. More hiking, biking and birding to come!



One thought on “Tucson: Feb. 24 – Feb. 29: Birds, Flowers, Picacho Peak

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