We’re in Arizona now, at the same place we were last year. Logistics were a little different this year, because we were allowed to fly into the US, but not drive over the border. We ended up chartering a small plane to fly us to Kalispell, and getting our truck and trailer shipped to us there.
It was a gorgeous clear morning in early December; perfect flying weather.
Wendy spent most of the fifty-five minute flight looking down, and taking photo after photo.
Here’s a view looking towards the Steeples. Fisher Peak is in the clouds.
The next morning, our truck and trailer were delivered to our hotel in Kalispell and we headed south.
After three long days of driving (Kalispell, MT to Idaho Falls, ID to Mesquite, NV to Tucson, AZ) we reached our winter residence. Our landlord had put up a new, and much larger gate, which made it really easy to pull in and get set up.
The day after we arrived we took a short walk down the road and into the State Trust Land. We took this photo of our local mountains, with Panther Peak on the left side of the ridge.
For our first real hike, we returned to the Tortolita Mountains. We chose to hike the same trail as our last hike in the spring, which was along the ridge to Alamo Springs. Here’s Doug standing near a magnificent saguaro.
On another cooler morning, we returned to the Hugh Norris trail and made a loop by going down the Sendero Esperanza, to Dobie Wash and back to the parking lot. (about ten and a half kilometres)
For our next hike, we combined birding and hiking at Sabino Canyon. Although we saw over a dozen species of birds, there were fewer than we had expected, probably due to the fact that there was no water in the canyon. When we were here in 2019, the creek was full to overflowing; this year there has been little rain, especially in the fall. It was a gorgeous location however.
We soon got into our routine of alternating between hiking, birding and biking. We did our first three rides on “The Loop,” a paved pathway that loops around Tucson. It’s not ideal to ride the pavement with our knobby tires, but it helps us get in shape for the single track trails.
We found some nice single track in the Tortolita Preserve. It’s a 15 kilometre loop that we can drive to in about half an hour. It’s not too technical; just enough to keep you on your toes and allow you to feel you’ve accomplished something. There are some steep washes to go down into and hope you have enough speed and strength to get up out of, and soft sand along the edges of other parts of the trail. And of course the ever present cactuses. But it’s quite enjoyable.
We also returned to the Desert Museum. We found that if we arrived at opening on a weekday, it’s virtually empty – of people, not birds or animals. The first time we went, the coyotes and javelinas were very active.
Here’s a couple of views of the cactus garden at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum.
And another one.
The second time we went to the Desert Museum, we focused on birding. Doug got a good photo of a Costa’s hummingbird sipping from a creosote flower.
This is a cute Black-tailed gnatcatcher hunting for bugs on the spikes of a saguaro.
We also went birding at the Sweetwater Wetlands, which uses treated waste water to provide habitat for wildlife and viewing opportunities for people. This Sora was in a shallow stream near the entrance.
Treated waste water is also added to the Santa Cruz River. There is a steady flow under the bridge that we cross every time we drive into Tucson, which provides suitable habitat for some interesting birds. We often can spot a Great egret or a Great blue heron as we drive across.
One morning we set out to look for a rare bird that we had learned was spotted there. We thought it might take us the whole morning to see it, but within five minutes, we had a good view of a Northern jacana. We spent several minutes looking at it, and Doug was able to catch the male in flight.
If you look closely at the photo, you can notice the jacana’s extra long toes. These toes allow it to walk on floating vegetation.
We had such good luck seeing the jacana, that we thought we’d try for another rare bird. There’s a male Elegant trogon who hangs out in Madera Canyon that we tried unsuccessfully to see a number of times last season.
So one early morning we arrived at his known “hanging out” spot. There was no one else around. Within ten minutes, we spotted the trogon perching on branches of low shrubs and flying from his perch down to the water in the canyon and up again. We were thrilled to see him, but when he flew out of view, we decided to take the trail downstream to look for other birds. It turned out the trogon had the same idea and we had a number of other good views of him along the trail, until he flew into the high branches of the tallest trees.
We continued birding to our turn around spot and came back up to the parking lot. Just as we reached the pavement, we caught another glimpse of the trogon. This time he perched in the sunshine and even came closer to us.
Enjoy this photo of an Elegant trogon. It’s like he is dressed in his Christmas finery of red and green.
Later the same day, we visited Canoa Ranch Conservation area. Wherever there is water in the desert, you’ll find birds. The pond was full of waterfowl; American wigeons, Ring-necked ducks, Northern pintails, Redheads and of course, American coots.
We also have plenty of birds to look at at our own place. Doug got a good shot of this male Pyrrhuloxia, through our back window.
Wendy also had some time to sew and quilt some festive placemats.
She finished the binding outside in the sun.
On December 21st, we viewed the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. We could clearly see the moons of Jupiter and the rings on Saturn, through the spotting ‘scope, but our photos taken through the ‘scope couldn’t show the detail. You can make out the “bright star” in the early evening sky in the photo below.
Merry Christmas from our wee spot in Arizona.
And happy new year!