While we are standing at the picnic area trying to identify some sparrows (which turn out to be vesper sparrows) another couple comes walking up the path from the Cienega. They tell us the green Kingfisher is hanging around, so we hurry down the path to investigate for ourselves. It’s just after noon time and it is so warm that I have shed my long-sleeved shirt in favor of a sleeveless one. A slight breeze ruffles my hair and at times I have to grasp the strings of my birding hat to keep it from flying off my head, but I am comfortable and the warm sun feels so good on my skin.
We take the left-hand fork and come to the pond under a huge cottonwood tree. A wooden platform here allows us to get a good view over the water’s edge. I scan the bank for a bird as small as a sparrow with a beak half the length of its body and then I see it! Gus hurries closer and snaps off some pictures. The kingfisher is initially in the sunlight but it quickly flies into the shadow of the bank opposite from us where it perches on a tangle of branches and virtually disappears. Though the bird is green in color, the white speckles of its plumage imitate the dappled light proving to be an effective camouflage. We continue our trip around the loop and this time venture even farther out past the marsh where we see a few meadowlarks and a snipe. On our way back we detour to the pond once again and this time Gus is able to get even better photos of the kingfisher with a fish in its beak!
By now it is late afternoon but we decide to check out Arivaca Lake which is only 7 miles from our current location. The road leading into the lake is 2.3 miles long and dirt. Fortunately our new Hyundai Santa Fe is high enough clearance that we can make it. We are far from any human habitation out here. I scan the horizon looking for bandelaros, Mexican bandits who try to steal drugs and illegal human cargo from the coyotes who guide them over the border. Last year some bandelaros shot up a truck they thought was full of drugs, but proved to be full of human beings. Four people died as a result. Birding can be a dangerous business out here!
Arivaca Lake is nestled in a deep canyon with rocky cliffs and forested banks. The dark water is ruffled with small waves blown up by the persistent wind. Coots, Ruddy ducks and widgeons dot the surface. A lone pied-billed grebe swims away from us and our camera, and then dives beneath the surface. Two fishermen round a corner of the lake which is long and narrow with twists and turns. We can only see a small portion of it from our vantage point. While Gus is snapping duck pictures, I walk toward the far end where the creek runs out of the Bosque. Here the water is a little shallower and I find a spotted sandpiper teetering along the sandbar. Over the water’s edge a black phoebe darts out for an insect and alights on its perch again. I hear a twittering in the trees behind me and go searching for the maker of that sound. I find a small flock of chipping sparrows. I am surprised to find them here.
The cold and coming darkness drives us to our vehicle. It is an hour’s ride home and darkness hits before we make it back to the interstate. On Arivaca road we have to pass through a temporary check point set up by the border patrol. It wasn’t here last time we came to the Cienega, so I assume it is the extra security in place for the Superbowl that takes place tomorrow in Tempe, AZ. The young guard is friendly and we chat about birds and birding. He foolishily asks why people go birding and before you know it I’m off on a tangent rhapsodizing the virtues of birding and birder’s obsessions with listing. Gus rolls up the window and we drive home.