Leaving Green Valley was not easy. Breathtaking scenery, perfect temps, and posh accommodations are hard to leave behind. On the other hand, leaving Green Valley was necessary in order to tour new (to us) parts of beautiful, southern Arizona and visit more hotspots of birding fame. Our route for the morning would basically circle the Santa Rita Mountains taking us all the way down to the border at Nogales and back up north via Patagonia and Sonoita. Then it would be back to Maricopa.
Sitting outside on the patio that morning, I was not focused on birding. I was having a slow morning after the epic Huachuca madness from the day before, a birding hangover if you will. Sure, visions of Violet-crowned Hummingbirds and Barn Owls danced through my head, but it was the thought of breakfast that was winning the war for my mind as I waited for my family to pack, assemble, powder, puff, etc. Not even an unfamiliar bird song was getting me to move. Meh, I’ve seen it all around here, I thought. But then, the bird song that sounds like a motor that won’t start actually got my birding motor started for the day. Thank you, Honorable Cactus Wren. This ability to coax even the most reluctant into birding and into beautiful Arizona deserts must be how you got your title of State Bird.
It didn’t take me long to realize the desert scrub around the hotel was quite birdy. It was simply hopping with birds. I could hardly believe it when I pulled up the binoculars on one of the first birds–Rock Wren a.k.a. the day’s first lifer. And I almost didn’t even bird here.
I really, really like the pot-bellied appearance of this bird. This may be my favorite photo from the trip. And is it just me, or does ROWR bear an uncanny resemblance to our 27th President?
Turns out the Taft Wren wasn’t the only delightful surprise of this little foray beyond the parking lot. A pair of Cassin’s Kingbirds gave a second lifer of the morning. And yes, I did peek under their undergarments to look for white tail edges to make sure they weren’t Western Kingbirds, though once you see them in real life, they are obviously different.
High on two completely unexpected lifers, I continued to scope out the fun birds around the hotel, not the least of which were numerous Lark Sparrows. I have not seen enough Lark Sparrows yet.
What I have seen plenty of in recent years are Say’s Phoebes, and I already have plenty of photos to prove it. But these birds just know how to pose…
It was also fun to see a prickly-looking Curve-billed Thrasher. I’m glad they didn’t choose him for state bird.
Eventually the family was assembled and ready for breakfast, and the parking lot birding was over. But what a gem of a spot. Last spring I had Hooded Orioles, Great Horned Owls, and Black-throated Sparrows here too. I’ve got a nice little patch list going.
I know I promised Patagonia in this post, but we’ll pick up this story in the next one and get it started off right with a BARN OWL search. But first, breakfast.