We’re back at our place near Tucson, Arizona. This time it was a lot easier getting across the border. The hardest part was getting off our street because it was slippery with a new snowfall. Once we were on the highway it was smooth sailing.
The border wasn’t crowded at all, even though we went through on November 8th, the first day that it opened.
After three long driving days, we were at our place looking east at the mountains in Saguaro National Park.
The weather was unseasonably warm those first few weeks, so we enjoyed some outdoor dinners.
We’d missed the Arizona sunsets,
Instead of shovelling snow, we helped our landlady place new fenceposts.
In the first few weeks, we worked on our fitness, with easy walking while we were birding. It also took awhile to retrain our ears to the bird calls and familiarize ourselves with the local birds. Here Doug is likely looking at a Yellow-rumped warbler at Sweetwater Wetlands.
We visited Silverbell Lake at Christopher Columbus Park to see if the resident Snow Goose was still there (he was). The lake is popular with fishers. We’ve seen huge catfishes being caught. The water is coloured with a non-toxic dye in order to keep the algae from growing.
There were plenty of other interesting birds there, which will be covered in the next blog post. And this orange dragonfly, a Flame Skimmer, caught our eye.
We visit the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum about once a week. Doug always gets good photos there. This time, he was getting shots of a Rufous-winged Sparrow. Have a look at the cholla (a multi-spine cactus) just to Doug’s right in the photo below. That messy bit of twigs on the top is a nest of a Cactus Wren.
Wendy was in position to capture the wren leaving the nest with her phone camera.
The cactus garden at the museum seems to always have something in bloom. Below is a Crow’s Claw Barrel cactus. Its native to central and southern Mexico.
Another day at the Desert Museum, we viewed the Mountain Lion (we’d call it a Cougar at home) through a thick piece of plexiglass. He was literally right in front of us.
Our first hike was on flat trails in Arthur Pack Park, a desert oasis in northwest Tucson.
We also hiked the gentle hills at the Sweetwater Preserve.
Towards the end of November, Doug figured his new knee was ready for a real hike. We hiked the Alamo Springs trail in the Tortolita Mountains.
It was good to get up high again, and we were happy that we managed the four hour hike without any trouble.
In early December, we hiked another of our favourite trails: the Hugh Norris trail in Saguaro National Park (west). The first part of the trail is really well built with hundreds of stone steps.
Within half an hour, we reached the ridge. The trail traversed the ridge with slight changes in elevation and with good views.
We were surprised to see this little flower blooming among the rocks. It’s known as Trailing windmills (Allionia incarnata).
We’ve also had a great time mountain biking. We rode on the paved “Loop” trail a couple of times to gain some fitness, but by the third week in November, we tackled our favourite trail at the Tortolita Preserve. Here’s Doug in action.
And another of Doug coming up a slightly rocky bit.
The photo below shows Wendy approaching the steepest piece. It’s probably only 30 degrees but from the sandy bottom it appears to be vertical. Anyway, everytime we make it up this bit we give ourselves a cheer.
The whole trail is about fifteen kilometres and it takes us a little over an hour. The last part is gradually uphill, and it seems to never end. This stately saguaro let’s us know that it’s five minutes to the truck.
Wendy named the saguaro, “Mr. Majestic.” Here’s a staged photo of Wendy (she turned around and rode back) with one of her favourite saguaros.
At the end of November, we drove to Ramsey Canyon Preserve, which is close to Sierra Vista. We had two goals; to see some different birds and to view the fall colours. We saw a lot of birds that we could see in BC in the summertime. Townsend’s and Yellow-rumped warblers, and Ruby-crowned kinglets were plentiful.
The white-barked Arizona Sycamores add a brightness to the scene.
These cacti are all ready for Christmas.
We’ll do one more post that will be “birds only,” then take a break until the end of January. We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.