Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Winter in Arizona

Trying to escape a little of the Central Oregon winter Marjie and I left on January 19th and headed south. Our destination was Green Valley, Arizona, where we had rented a house for the month of February. We got out of Sisters and over the Siskiyous just as a winter storm was rolling in off the Pacific. It was snowing hard in Weed, California, as we poured on the gas heading south for sunshine. Shortly after we crossed the summit, I-5 was closed to all traffic in both directions. We stopped at the Sacramento and Kern National Wildlife Refuges as we passed through northern California, stopped and visited many friends and family (free room and board) and arrived in Tucson on the 31st and then on to Green Valley the next day. (Click on any picture for a larger view)

Our rental in Green Valley was a very spacious 2 bedroom home and it backed up onto a marvelous arroyo (draw) just off the patio. We went to the Ace Hardware store and bought a couple bird feeders and by the end of the month we had quite a variety of birds coming to our patio.

Snow Birds (like us) weren't the only birds in southern Arizona. Many of our northern birds migrate south and spend the winter here and in March and April many birds migrate north out of Mexico and nest in the "sky islands".

The "sky islands" are the mountains which rise up out of the desert, some to the elevation of over 7000 feet. This photo is of the Santa Rita Mountains about 10 miles east of Green Valley. There was a little snow on the peaks when we arrived and it was still there when we left. We visited many world class birding areas such as Madera Canyon, Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, Patagonia Lake, Sulphur Springs Valley, Chiricahua Mountains and Whitewater Draw near Bisbee.

It is the mountains which attract the birds and make Southern Arizona a world class birding area. This Gala Woodpecker had a nest in the Saguaro Cactus just off our patio. Every morning a first light he/she would start the day with some very loud calls. Not a bad alarm clock!!

Marjie had a little covey of Gamble Quail visit her feeder and water dish several times a day.

We found a couple Burrowing Owls right off a very busy street almost in down town Tucson. Didn't seem to be bothered by the noise. Maybe they hit the shopping centers for a little shopping after dark. They spend the winter in the sunshine living in squirrel holes then head north to nest.

Bridled Titmouse

Harris Hawk

The little town of Tubac, south of Green Valley and about 15 miles north of the Mexican border, is a tourist trap for sure. Lots of little galleries, shops, stores etc. many with a southwest flavor. Marjie grows some pretty nice flowers in her garden at home but not like these. They had their annual Craft Fair while we were there. A major event with crafters from all over the country. Must have been 500 - 600 booths.

Nothing here we wanted but it was fun to just look around.

At the Whitewater Draw near Bisbee there were 25,000 wintering Sandhill Cranes. Some of these birds will migrate all the way to Siberia to nest each year.

We often packed our lunch and found a spot somewhere to eat. One day there were a couple Acorn Woodpeckers in the trees near where we were eating our lunch. As I got my camera and was trying to get a picture of them one flew down and helped himself to my sandwich.

This is the one I was photographing while the other was eating with Marjie. I think they had seen birders before!!!

Arizona Woodpecker

Just at dusk at Whitewater Draw a large flock of Yellow-headed blackbirds flew in to roost. Must have been a couple thousand of them and they were all males. Male and female blackbirds migrate in separate flocks. Maybe that way the guys don't have to listen to the girls telling them which way to go, where to turn, not to go too fast, etc. Maybe not a bad plan.

In the town of Bisbee we visited an old copper mine. Had to put on all the safety duds and then down into the mine we went. Not a place to go if you are a little claustrophobic. The mine hasn't operated for many years and it is pretty much the way they left it in the 50s. Our guide had actually worked in the mine so it was a very interesting tour. Now they are mining the tourists!!

Marjie needed a little wine after we got back up the mine shaft. Bisbee is an old mining town that time has passed by. Lots of little shops to check out. They mined us for a little.

We found some very interesting rock formations in the Chiricahua Mountains. Also saw the Mexican Chickadee here but no picture. This is the only place in the U.S. that it is found.

We really had a great time and are already planning to spend March and April there next year. The weather wasn't all that warm in February (note the snow in the shade of the rocks) and the birding will be a little better later in the year.


Eastbay Sarah said...

I love the photo of the gamble quail!

Anonymous said...

just a minor correction - the woodpecker you have a picture of is called a "Gila Woodpecker" not "Gala Woodpecker" - otherwise I enjoyed your pics!