Birding in Panama – 2

Birding in Panama – 2

We travelled from Canopy Tower in the back of a four-wheel truck called the “Birdmobile.” This gave us a good view of the rainforest.


Our first afternoon of birding was at Summit Ponds, just a few minutes from the tower. The ponds are near the highest point along the canal.

This Anhinga was sunning himself, just like a cormorant does. Anhingas have longer necks and bills and tails than cormorants and are in a different family.


We were lucky enough to see a couple of Mealy parrots. They were hard to see because they are almost all green and were high in the canopy, yet our guide spotted them and Doug was able to get a good photo.


We were also fortunate to see two Spectacled owls roosting.


The next day, we were driven to the bottom of the Semaphore Hill. From there, we hiked along the Plantation trail in Soberania National Park. The trail passes through mature rainforest and follows a small creek.

We saw the first of many Slaty-tailed trogons that we saw over our two week visit.

That afternoon, we visited the Canopy B&B in nearby Gamboa. There were wonderful birds on their feeders, but this Green iguana stole the show.


Here’s a look at our next birding sites. This spot overlooks a marshy area known as the “Ammo Ponds,” which we examined closely from the road below. From the hill, we had good views of birds and also of the canal in the distance.

For these two days, we enjoyed the company of two nature lovers from Berlin, while we tried to persuade them to become birders.


The next day, we headed for the Pipeline Road for a full day of birding. The road was built in the 1940s as a service road to the oil pipeline that crossed the isthmus and is world-renowned for its birding opportunities.

This juvenile Rufescent tiger-heron was perched on a branch that was overhanging the road. Perhaps it was a little off-track, because it wasn’t very near any water.


Our 4-wheel drive “birdmobile” was able to navigate the muddy ruts in the limited access road. This day, it was only our group of four (us and our friends, Gretchen and Bob) with our guide, Iqua.

The photo below is typical: the guide sets up the telescope on a special bird and we all take turns look at the “scope view.” Doug and Bob work to capture the image and Gretchen and Wendy look at it through binoculars. This time, after a quick look through the ‘scope, Wendy took a photo of the group because the holes in the bridge deck made her feel uneasy.


We can’t remember exactly which bird we were looking at. Perhaps it was this White-tailed trogon,


or this Yellow-throated toucan.


 We also got good views of Howler monkeys.


Since we were out for the whole day, had a picnic lunch in the forest. We had lots of food, and stools to sit on.


Shortly after we had filled our plates, the heavens opened. It was the longest and hardest rain that we had the whole trip. Our jackets kept us mostly dry. Once the rain had stopped, we dried off pretty quickly.

Here’s Bob making the best of a soggy situation.

Walking was our main exercise, but sometimes the small “window” between the leaves required some bending to get a good view. Not really a yoga pose, more like “douga” or “boba.” Here you can see our guide using a green laser pointer to help pinpoint the bird.


Maybe they were getting a photo of a Cocoa woodcreeper. We saw lots of these birds throughout the week.


 Gretchen practices yoga regularly which allowed her to “hold the pose” for as long as she needed.


Bob and Gretchen were probably looking at some kind of bird that is forages for ants in the undergrowth of the rainforest. There are antbirds, antthrushes, antshrikes, antpittas, ant-tanagers and antwrens. This photo is of a Bicolored antbird.


The next day, (Wednesday) was another full-day trip. This time we drove over an hour to the hills above Tocumen towards the two peaks of Cerro Azul and Cerro Jefe.

At lunchtime, we visited the “Hummingbird House,” the name given to the home of two American bird lovers. They have seed feeders along with over a dozen hummingbird feeders, all numbered so the guides could direct your attention to a specific feeder.


The owner removes the bee guards from the feeders so that honeycreepers can drink from them. This one is a female Shining honeycreeper.


Here’s a male Green honeycreeper.


We saw several Bay-headed warblers over our visit, but this view was probably the best.


And of course there were hummingbirds. We all saw a Rufous-crested coquette with our binoculars but it was feeding on some flowers that were obscured by branches and it was difficult to get a well-focused photo. The coquette is one of the cutest and smallest hummingbirds and very common.

This Bronze-tailed plumeteer was more cooperative.


So that’s enough for one blog post. The next one will document the rest of the week of our stay at Canopy Tower.

Birding in Panama – 1

Birding in Panama – 1

We’re introducing our newest fox mascot who travelled with us to Panama, allowing us to stay true to our blog title: Travels with a Fox. “Felty Fox” is only 6cm (2.5 inches) high, so he will likely be harder to see when he is included in future photos. This view is from the lounge at YVR. We left Vancouver in early January.


We had one night in Panama City before going to our birding lodge. We chose to stay in a boutique hotel in Casco Viejo (the old quarter). Villa Palma was decorated in a unique style.


Each of the six rooms was decorated differently. Our room was on the third floor, reached by a spiral staircase. The elevator only went to the second floor.


We explored the narrow streets. Most of the cars stayed on a one-way circuit that looped around the peninsula that makes up the old town. The area has recently been revitalized and made safe for tourists.


Here’s a view from our hotel’s rooftop lounge area, looking towards the skyscrapers of modern Panama City.


And a view westward towards the Pacific.


The next day a “Canopy Family” driver picked us up and drove us to Canopy Tower, our home and birding base for the next week. Canopy Tower was constructed in 1965 as a radar station by the US military. In the mid-1990s is was retrofitted to become a birding lodge. It’s situated on the top of a hill surrounded by the lowland rainforest of Soberania National Park.


Even before we found our room, we were mesmerized by the hummingbirds visiting the feeders just outside the door. This White-vented plumeleteer posed on the nearby fence. We saw over twenty species of hummingbirds in our two week stay.


Since we booked so early (July 2018 for our January 2020 stay), we were able to stay in the Harpy Eagle suite. There was no air-conditioning, but the fan and the evening breezes allowed us to sleep relatively comfortably.


The lounge and the dining area were on the third level, surrounded on all sides by windows and views of the rainforest.

Here’s a view of us and others having a late breakfast on our last day at the tower. Usually we were leaving the tower earlier so we could be looking for birds in the early light.


The food was delicious. Some days we would come back to the tower for lunch after our morning of birding. Those days we would have a break in the middle of the day and set out again at 3:00. Even birds seem to need siestas!


The view from the lounge windows was amazing. Sometimes you could see monkeys clambering through the branches.


The top observation deck allowed views all around, both distant and close views.


Doug captured this Golden-hooded tanager with his 600 mm lens from the observation deck.


We saw many Broad-billed motmots throughout the week, but the first one was special.


Often we only heard and caught glimpses of the Red-lored parrot, but this one came close to the tower one morning.


Here’s a view of sunrise from the tower. If you look closely you can make out the skyscrapers of Panama City on the horizon.


This is the first of a number of posts about our two week trip to Panama. We have many more birds to show you!

November Fun in Arizona

November Fun in Arizona

We brought our mountain bikes down with us, but so far we’ve mostly ridden on pavement. There is a great multi-use paved trail system in Tucson called “The Loop,” because is loops around the whole city and into the surrounding towns. We’ve ridden at least six days on the trail system. Here’s a few photos to let you get the idea.

This is Wendy on the Canada del Oro River Park route, with views of some luxury homes behind her.


The same trail continues towards Catalina State Park, through a mesquite desert.


There are many beautiful bridges along the trails. Our place is just on the other side of the mountains in the background.


We did some hiking in the area close to where we live. This is a portion of the Ironwood Forest trail. It’s definitely not the typical forest that we usually hike in.


Another cooler day, we did a longer loop and retraced some of our previous hike. The Brittlebush trail starts up a wash.


Here’s a view along the trail. Prickly pear and saguaro cactuses dominate.


This bright green plant is known as “resurrection plant” and is a species of desert plant in the spikemoss family. During dry weather, it’s stems curl into a tight ball, and uncurl when exposed to moisture. The plant is hardly noticeable when it’s all dried up and it’s quite a surprise to see the green slopes after a rainfall.


We also drove across town to the Santa Catalina Mountains. One day, we joined an Audubon field trip at Sabino Canyon. We saw plenty of birds, but it was a rainy day, so no good photos.

A little farther north is Catalina State Park. We did a short birding hike among the granitic outcrops.


We experienced some interesting weather. These clouds preceded a cold front that brought lots of rain and some cooler temperatures.


That meant that we could enjoy some “comfort” food. Doug made his speciality, Chicken Parmesan for the first time in the Redwood.


Throughout our whole trip here this fall, Wendy has found time to sew. Usually she manages with a small table for her sewing machine. The “living room” was transformed into a “quilt palace” for the last few long seams in her throw size quilt top.


Here is Wendy’s “Arizona” quilt top.


We visited Tohono Chul gardens for the last four Sundays in November to attend concerts. Most times it was quite hot. This photo of Doug from November 24 is noteworthy because the cooler temperatures encouraged a new wardrobe: jacket, pants and shoes!


Jonathan W. Martinez played that day. We throughly enjoyed his original pieces and his use of unconventional techniques. (Guitar as percussion, multiple capos and use of looping.)


We’ve also seen a lot of different wildlife this fall. Here’s a Collared lizard that we saw sunning himself at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.


This coyote was also at the Desert Museum.


One day we went birding at the Sweetwater Wetlands and saw four bobcats. Three of them were a long way off, but this fellow was just down the path from us. He didn’t stick around long.


We were lucky enough to see three javelinas the same day. They trotted out from the bushes and gave us a good view. Javelinas are peccaries; a medium-sized pig-like hoofed mammal. They have a strong odour and we could smell them before we saw them.


And because we promised some birds…

Here are a couple of Northern shovelers, in breeding plumage.


And a male American kestrel.


We’ll be taking a break from the blog until the new year. Have a great Christmas!

Birds at the Desert Museum

Birds at the Desert Museum

This blog is all about the birds we have seen recently at the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum. Enjoy!

This bright fellow is a male Lesser goldfinch.


This male Phainopepla posed nicely on one of the sunny days that we visited the museum.


The Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum is not a typical museum. Most of the displays are outdoors. Many of animals that are on display have huge natural enclosures. There are two enclosed aviaries; one for hummingbirds and one for other desert birds.

From the end of October to the middle of April, they have an extraordinary bird of prey exhibition called “Raptor Free Flight.” The birds fly completely untethered in the open desert. We went to a couple of the presentations and Doug took his larger lens to capture these amazing shots.

Here’s a Barn owl. Barn owls feed almost exclusively on rodents and is nocturnal in the wild.


The raptors will swoop from perch to perch to feed on the meat scraps that have been placed there by the trainers.


Barn owls have the most accurate ability to locate prey by sound out of any animal tested. The shape of their face helps to focus sounds.

This Great-horned owl was injured when it was young and has imprinted on humans. It vocalized throughout the presentation with a call that normally would be used by very young owls.


Great-horned owls are found throughout North America. They forage for birds and small mammals up to the size of rabbits.


The broad ear tufts of feathers are not horns at all, but they help to focus sound.


Below is a Gray hawk. They are found in Southeast Arizona in the summer. Their banded black and white tail is a good identifying feature.


Here’s a photo of a Harris’s hawk. They are found throughout Mexico, and into Southeastern Arizona and a small part of Texas.


Their white uppertail coverts and tail tip and their rufous shoulders make them very distinctive.


Harris’s hawks are the only hawks known to hunt in family groups.

Here’s a view of a Ferruginous hawk. They have a wider range in North America and hunt over arid grasslands and the adjacent farmland. Ferruginous refers to their rusty colour. (Fe: symbol for iron) The feature photo of this blog (visible when you view the blog using an internet browser) is also a Ferruginous hawk.


This strange-looking bird is a Crested caracara. Although it is in the falcon family, it has scavenging behaviour closer to a raven. It will fly relatively low in search of prey (lizards, mammals) and patrol roadways in the early morning to find carrion before vultures fly.


Notice the lack of feathers on its beak, which is an adaptation for eating carrion.


If you are ever in the Tucson area, we highly recommend visiting the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum.

Our next blog will include photos of hiking and biking, and likely some birds as well!

Arizona Yard Birds

Arizona Yard Birds

This whole blog is about the birds that come to our feeders at our place near Picture Rocks, Arizona. Our favourite hummingbird is this male Costa’s. He is very inquisitive and will come right up to Doug when he is filling the feeders. The male Costa’s has a long, flared gorget, that shimmers when it catches the light. Also notice the white “eyebrow.”


Here’s a view of him sitting on a nearby branch.


We also have a number of Lesser goldfinches.


They love the nyger seed that we set out for them.


We also have a few House finches. House finches are found throughout the US and Canada, often in urban areas. In Arizona many of them live in the desert which could have been their original home before they became more widely distributed. We see a lot of them on our desert hikes.


Here’s a female House finch (left) with a male Pyrrhuloxia. The Pyrrhuloxia is similar to a Northern cardinal with a grayer overall colour with rosy-red highlights. Around here, Pyrrhuloxia are found in desert scrub and Northern cardinals in riparian woods.


We have a couple of Gilded flickers that visit the feeders and suet. They are very similar to the Northern flicker that we have at home, but with a brighter cinnamon forehead and an all-brown crown and nape. They also are yellow underwing, unlike the Northern flickers (western) that are red-shafted.


These Gila woodpeckers look a little bit like the Gilded Flicker but without the black chest patch. Male Gilas have red on the top of their head. The two females in the photo below are swallowing simultaneously.


There are a number of Cactus wrens in the area. This one came for some water.


The yellow eye on the Curved-bill thrasher makes it seem that it is always angry. Their call sounds a bit like someone whistling for their dog.


Gambel’s quail usually feed on the ground. When they approach the area, they usually trot along, so we were a bit surprised to see that one had flown up to the feeder.


Soon his buddies joined him.


On the left side of the water dish is a White-crowned sparrow. We have about six or seven that come regularly. In the background, you can see a small portion of the number of Mourning doves that also come to visit the feeders. Some days there are fifty or so. They are also fun to watch.


We also have a few other species that are around the yard, but don’t come to the feeder and generally hide in the trees and bushes. They are: Verdin, Black-tailed gnatcatchers and Phainopepla.

Our next blog will also be all about birds. Doug’s got some great pictures from the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum to share.

Back to Tucson

Back to Tucson

We drove to Calgary and flew to Tucson via San Francisco. We were happy to leave the snow behind. Here’s a view from the airplane of the Steeples and Mt. Fisher with Cranbrook behind them.


The ridge behind our place was as pretty as ever.


And we had some beautiful welcoming sunsets.


The hummingbirds came back almost as soon as the feeders were filled. This is a female Anna’s.


The weather wasn’t too hot to hike, so we ventured out. We hiked to the top of Wasson Peak, the highest one in Saguaro National Park (Tucson Mountain Division). Here’s a view of Wendy near the summit. Our trailer is somewhere on the flats below (above her head in the photo.)


Here’s Doug with a view of the Avra Valley behind him.


Another day we returned to Tubac. We went birding in the morning and we were unable to locate a Rose-throated becard. But we enjoyed the birding and saw lots of interesting birds. We came to listen to a talk, “Return of the Rose-throated becard” that was scheduled for the afternoon. We had time to have lunch in Tubac and see a little of the Mexican-feeling town.


All this wall art was for sale. Some pieces were ceramic, others were made of metal.


It was very windy that night and it was still windy in the morning. By 10:30, it seemed to die down a bit so we headed out for a hike. We drove to the trailhead for Picture Rocks wash in about ten minutes. It was a pleasant hour and a half hiking through the wash, past the “picture rocks” (petroglyphs), and finishing the loop on a desert trail.


Doug visited the Pima Air and Space Museum on two different days. (Wendy did quilting related stuff: once to a Quilt festival/market and another day to a sewing day at a local quilt shop.)

The Pima Air and Space Museum had several hangars displaying WW2 vintage aircraft that Doug really enjoyed. He grew up reading about them and making models. Quite a zing to see the real thing!


The Spitfire was nice to see up close and so much bigger than the model Doug built when he was 12. His current favourite military aircraft is the A10 Warthog which happen to pass over our fifth wheel on a regular basis.


We had a late start one day because we had planned to ride our bikes, but one of the tires on Doug’s bike had a rip in the sidewall. So after taking the wheel to the bike shop, we headed to Reid Park for a little birding.

We chose Reid Park because a rare bird, a Ruddy ground-dove had been seen there over the last week or so. We didn’t see the dove, but we did see another rare bird, a Greater pewee. Doug got a photo of it that is good enough for identification but too small to include here.

Reid Park is in the middle of the city, with a zoo, rose gardens, two ponds, lawns etc. Alongside the ducks that enjoy being fed crusts, there are some interesting birds. This one is a juvenile Black-crowned night heron.


Here’s another Black-crowned night heron (who’s a bit older, but still immature) standing near a yawning Neotropic cormorant. The bird behind is an American wigeon just taking off.


We don’t often see Northern shovelers when they aren’t in breeding plumage. It’s bill gave it away.


And it’s always a pleasure to see a Vermilion flycatcher.


So the next day, with the bikes all ready to go, we rode about 18 km on a paved multi-use trail along the Santa Cruz River in Marana. In the photo below, we’re close to the most northerly end of the trail near the El Rio Open Space Preserve. The flowers are flowing over the fence of the garden of a high-end home.


Another day we hiked up and along Brown Mountain, which is in Tucson Mountain Park. We can drive to the trailhead in about 20 minutes. Here is Wendy at the beginning of the uphill section: a nice trail with switchbacks and not too far to climb.


Here’s a view looking northeast towards Wasson Peak, the highest one on the skyline.


Once we got to the top of Brown Mountain, we walked along it’s ridge and worked our way gradually down. We got a good view of the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum grounds. (Doug turned around for the photo.)


There were some magnificent saguaros along the trail.


We were watching out to try and find the smallest saguaro, and this one was probably the littlest we could find. It was about 20 cm tall and perhaps five to ten years old. Although we didn’t see very many small ones, once the saguaro becomes established, it can grow to be very old. The first branches of the saguaro develop when the cactus is fifty years old.


Here’s our final photo for this blog, a male Black-tailed gnatcatcher. We saw at least a dozen of them along the trail. They especially liked foraging in the Palo verde bushes.


You can look forward to more bird photos in our next blog.

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.

Madera Canyon Birding

We drove an hour south to the Coronado National Forest and Madera Canyon, a premier birding destination. We walked up beside the canyon from the Proctor Road Parking area. Cacti were interspersed in the forest of sycamore, ash and juniper. Granite boulders were dominant in the canyon.


We had done a bit of research on eBird and knew that there were Sulphur-bellied flycatchers in the area. Their call sounds like a squeaky toy. When we heard that call we took a short diversion from the trail and located three flycatchers. They have a very limited range in the US, so we were very happy to get a “life bird” so early on in our hike.


Further along the trail, in a nice shady area, we saw numerous Bridled titmice, some Black-throated grey warblers and a couple of White-breasted nuthatches. All the birds were darting in the among the trees, but Doug was able to get a photo of one Bridled titmouse.

As we climbed steadily upward we came across a family of Mexican jays. We heard their raucous calls long before we saw them.


We turned around at the Whitehouse picnic area. It’s very civilized when your route has a restroom half way along. On the way down, we saw this Ladder-backed woodpecker. To compare it with woodpeckers that we have at home, its a bit bigger than a Downy woodpecker and a bit smaller than a Hairy.


We drove up the Madera Canyon road to Santa Rita lodge and gift shop. They have a viewing area set up with almost a dozen seed and suet feeders and numerous hummingbird feeders. We stayed for about a half an hour and saw over 30 birds of nine species.

Here’s a female Anna’s hummingbird.


On the left is another Anna’s hummingbird. The large hummingbird on the right is a Rivoli’s hummingbird (previously known as Magnificent hummingbird.)


There were also plenty of Yellow-eyed juncos.


And three Acorn woodpeckers.


A new bird for us was this female Arizona woodpecker.


We were back at our trailer by early afternoon after our successful birding adventure to Madera Canyon. It wasn’t that far away to see some amazing birds. We’re sure to return many times in the months to come.

Getting settled in Tucson

Getting settled in Tucson

We’re getting settled here at our spot for the season. We’re about 20 minutes from shopping and US 10 in one direction and 20 minutes from the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum in the other. Here’s a southeast view from our yard, taken one afternoon after a rain shower.


This is the view to the east, that same afternoon.


Another day, these thunderheads passes us to the north. This view is taken a short walk down the road beside the property. The other houses are mostly hidden by the vegetation.


We went for a short hike from the Signal Hill picnic site in the Saguaro National Park to some petroglyphs. The ridge on the left side in the background is the same one we look at from our patio. (That was also in the previous photos.)


This blooming barrel cactus was close to where the last photo was taken. The mountains in the background are east of the flat Avra Valley.


We visit the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum frequently. We bought an annual pass so we get our exercise walking on the trails in the early morning, before it gets too hot.


Here’s Doug on the Desert Loop, a gravel trail that’s a little under a kilometre long. (The rest of the park is paved.) We’ve worked our way up to briskly walking five “laps” with short pauses to look at coyotes or javelinas that are in enclosures along the trail. (And of course, birds)


One day it was raining hard enough to need an umbrella, but it was still warm enough for shorts.


After our walk, we usually spend some time at one or two of the exhibits. We’ve visited the cactus garden a number of times. These fuzzy cacti are called Woolly Jacket Prickly Pear.


The museum has a large hummingbird aviary. Here’s a photo of a Broad-billed hummingbird. The hummingbirds will nest and raise their family in the aviary. Once the young are independent, the museum will find them another home at a different zoo or botanical garden.


Here’s a male Costa’s hummingbird taken inside the aviary. The hummingbirds are conditioned to having people around and will allow you to get quite close. We also often see “wild” Costa’s hummingbirds in the gardens outside the aviary, but they tend to move quickly from bloom to bloom.


On one visit Doug took his camera with the long lens, and got a good photo of a Cactus wren on an Organ Pipe cactus.


There was a cute sparrow just below the same cactus. When we looked closely at the photo we realized it was a Rufous-winged sparrow. That small patch of red on its shoulder is one of its distinguishing features. The rufous-winged sparrow is only found in the northwest part of Mexico and in a small section of southern Arizona.


We also became members of another botanical garden about a half an hour east of us. Tohono Chul has been reviewed as one of the ten great botanical gardens of the world. Although you can sometimes hear the traffic noise of the busy intersection, it has a peaceful atmosphere.


There are statues throughout the park, as well as an art gallery.


There are large stands of trees and benches everywhere.


Here’s a blooming barrel cactus in one of their gardens.


They also sell plants. Here’s a view of their cactus greenhouse.


Tohono Chul advertises themselves with: Where nature, art and culture connect. We’re looking forward to attending their free Sunday afternoon concerts

This post describes the places that we are going to visit over and over again while we’re here in the Tucson area. Next post will be about our birding trip to Madera Canyon, likely the first of many.


Down to Arizona

Down to Arizona

We took a few days to drive down to our campsite for most of the “cold” season. First to Missoula, MT and then to American Falls, ID and then a couple of days in Ely, NV. From Ely, we took a day trip to Great Basin National Park.

Within an hour we were at the Lehman Caves Visitor Center. We were early for our tour, so we were wandering around and happened to sit down beside a young woman who looked familiar. It was Marysa who we had last seen in August when she was visiting her parents in Cranbrook. We had recommended that she try to see the caves since she would be travelling right by them on her way to Colorado. We had both booked the same tour on-line by coincidence. It was such a surprise to see her there that we asked a nearby tourist to take our photo together.Cave_entrance_Marysa

The cave tour was worthwhile. Our tour guide, although a bit quirky, had interesting stories and facts about the caves. The caves are artificially lit, but still quite dim.


The next day we drove to Kingman, AZ, and in one more day we were in the Tucson area. We booked a site at Picacho Peak State Park for two nights, so we had time to reconnoiter the route to our the site we had leased near Saguaro National Park (West). Here’s a photo of our first night at Picacho Peak S.P.


This is a view towards the Santa Catalina Mountains and Highway 10.


This one is looking towards the ridge of Picacho Peak in the morning.


Both mornings we were there, we got up at sunrise (around 6 am) and went for a birding walk. It would get too hot to be comfortable walking by 8. Here’s a photo of a Say’s phoebe in a Palo verde tree.


Here are some views of our spot for the season. We’ve leased the site from the homeowner who also lives on the property. We’ve enjoyed beautiful sunsets most evenings.


This is the view looking east. The sandy area in front of our unit is surrounded by trees.


Parts of the yard are still wild; here’s a view of a Prickly pear cactus with fruit.


There is also Chainfruit cholla on the property.


We’ve had a chance to see a bit of Tucson. After we stopped in at the Visitors Centre, we went to a park close by for a short walk. There were a number of these beautiful bushes in bloom. We found out they are Red Bird-of-Paradise (caesalpinia pulcherrima), in the legume family.


Our site is about ten minutes from the Red Hills Visitor Center for Saguaro National Park (West). One day we viewed the displays, took the short nature walk and listened to very informative talk about the life cycle of the Saguaro.


Another day, we drove across town and up a winding road to the top of Mount Lemmon. Mount Lemmon actually has a ski hill! It has a limited season but it has a chairlift and about a dozen short runs. There are campgrounds and picnic sites all the way up the road as well as many hiking trailheads. We chose to hike from the upper most parking area. There were sections near the top that were reminiscent of a forest in Canada. It was cool enough to hike with a long-sleeved shirt. (Locals were wearing fleece jackets, however.)


Here’s a view looking west over Tucson and the craggy ridge of Mount Lemmon. We didn’t get a photo, but we were able to see several Yellow-eyed juncos, a bird that has a very limited range in the United States.


We’ve seen plenty of birds already, and Doug has several good photos that we’ll include in our next blog.