On April 1, we drove two and a half hours to Organ Pipe National Monument. Perhaps we were the “April Fools,” because by the time we started hiking (9:30) it was 26 degrees. We took the path to Bull Pasture that you can see veering off ahead of Wendy in the photo below.
Organ Pipe cactus has a limited range in the US. It is common in Mexico in eastern Sonora. It is far more frost sensitive than saguaros, so it grows better near rock outcroppings that keep the heat and shield it from frost.
The trail was through rocky terrain.
We climbed up to an area called “Bull Pasture,” which is an elevated plateau. We can’t imagine that any cattle would be happy here.
These Golden Hedgehog cacti were close to the trail, almost at the elevation of the “pasture.” They are another of the cacti species that is found here, but in only a few other places in Arizona.
This pretty cactus is quite small (15-20 cm tall) and according to our field guide, is “exceptionally common” in Southern Arizona. It’s known as Graham fishhook.
We came down from Bull Pasture through Estes Canyon. By the time we were back at the truck, it was 11:30 and 35 degrees. April’s heat wave had just begun.
The next day was too hot to bike or hike, so we went to Sweetwater Wetlands to look at birds. We were sitting in the shade, surveying the pond, when we saw this Green Heron catch a frog. It looked at first that it was too big for the bird to manage, but after the heron positioned the frog properly, it was able to swallow the whole thing at once. Notice the lump in the heron’s throat in the last photo.
We went to Reid Park for some birding, early on Easter Sunday. The park was busy with the “advance crews”: family members who were designated to set up and “claim” a spot for their family picnic later in the day. It wasn’t too busy for the birds, however.
This American Pipit had us stumped at first, because we would usually see it on mud flats and in a small flock.
We have seen Yellow-rumped Warblers almost all winter, but this male looked especially nice in his breeding plumage.
On our way home, we made a quick stop at Christopher Columbus Park, especially to see if the Western Grebe was still there (it was). We were really lucky to see this Hermit Warbler in a pine beside the lake. Hermit Warblers are only in southern Arizona during migration, and then they would be more likely to be found in a forest. This sighting was therefore given the “rare” designation. And it was the first Hermit Warbler we had ever seen.
Later that week, it was still too warm to do any more desert hiking, so we headed to the upper trails of Madera Canyon. We took the Old Baldy trail up to Josephine Saddle, where this photo was taken.
This photo of the tall pine (and Wendy for scale) is a few 100 metres down the “Super Trail” from the signpost in the last photo. We took the newer and less steep “Super Trail” down to our starting point to make a ten kilometre loop hike.
It was just after twelve when we got back to the truck, so there was plenty of time to look for birds lower in the canyon. This Arizona woodpecker was near the feeders at Santa Rita Lodge.
We walked the trail below the Madera Canyon Picnic site. This Painted Redstart put on a show for us for at least fifteen minutes, so Doug got plenty of photos.
Ramsey Canyon Nature Conservancy Preserve is just southwest of Sierra Vista and was on our list to visit. It used to be the Mile-Hi Ranch and still has some standing buildings, although many have been removed. Because it has high canyon walls and a perennial stream, it has a cooler environment. On April 12, we saw plenty of warblers: Lucy’s, Yellow-rumped, Grace’s, Black-throated Gray, Townsend’s, Hermit and Painted Redstart; and three species of hummingbirds (Rivoli’s, Black-chinned and Broad-billed.) There would be many more varieties of hummingbirds later in the season.
The Paton Center for Hummingbirds in Patagonia opened in April after having been closed to the public since spring of 2020. We visited the center on April 15, and were rewarded with a good view of the Violet-crowned Hummingbird, the species that made the center famous.
This Broad-billed Hummingbird, although more common, is our favourite hummingbird.
After the Paton Center, we headed to Patagonia Lake State Park. We walked the birding trail and saw Summer and Western Tanagers, and a Zone-tailed Hawk, along with forty-one other species of birds.
After that, we got a permit for the Sonita Preserve, which is just outside the state park. After driving to the end of the road and the parking lot, we walked down a service road to get a view of the lake. Through the scope, we could see Ring-billed Gulls in the middle of the lake and a pair of grebes (Western and Clark’s) in the bay.
We got five mountain bike rides in before we left the Tucson area. We sometimes set the alarm for 5:00 so we could be on the trail by 7:30 to beat the heat. Even though we rode the same trail in the Tortolita Preserve over and over again, it was never boring. We enjoyed mastering the tricky bits and noticing different things along the trail.
These two saguaros, dubbed “The Hugging Twins” were a significant landmark for us, because when we passed them we knew we only had five minutes before we could see the parking lot and the end of the trail. Each ride took us about an hour and a quarter.
We visited the Desert Museum for two more times in April. These Passionflowers fascinated us with their variety of colours.
These Long-spine Prickly Pear flowers were also captivating.
This Saguaro is from South America, and grows in Argentina, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. It has a showier flower than the local saguaros.
But the local saguaros were also putting of a show. This saguaro was an “early bloomer” on April 7 at the Desert Museum.
By April 15, the saguaros were blooming everywhere. This nice one was growing right beside the main road into our neighbourhood.
And the Palo verde tree in our yard was also in blossom.
We always want to include a sunset in our post. A few clouds always add some interest.
And this is the last one for this season from our spot in Picture Rocks, Arizona.
Part 2 will detail our trip home to Canada. You can look forward to sights from Page, Arizona (Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument) and Cortez, Colorado (Mesa Verde National Park).