In pursuit of my Big January Count Gus and I headed to Arivaca Cienega on Saturday morning. Our route takes us south on I-19 to the Amado exit south of Green Valley. As we exit the highway we take a left and cross beneath the underpass to the frontage road and the Amado Sewage Pond. I have never stopped here before but I have been seeing the pond full of winter ducks when w pass by on the highway. It’s early morning and the sun is still low in the sky as we pull up on the western edge of the pond. We pull off on the frontage road, which I assume will have little traffic, and try to see the birds. The pond is fenced all around with “No Trespassing” signs attached, but you are allowed to view the duck from beyond the fence. I count 6 species of duck here before we head on our way.
We continue our way west-southwest on Arivaca Rd. Here the terrain is hilly and the road winding. We greet the border patrol as we pass by, telling them to look for us on the way back, we are going birding! Soon the pinnacle of Baboquivari Peak looms ahead before disappearing beyond the horizon as the road dips once again. Finally we pull into the parking lot of Arivaca Cienega at 10 a.m. MST. Arivaca Cienega is part of the Buenos Aries National Wildlife Refuge and an Audubon Important Bird Area.
As soon as I open the car door a huge white and brown raptor flies low overhead. It looks just like a photo I saw on someone else’s blog of a Rough- legged Hawk, but I see the dark leading edge to the wings that indicates a red-tail. This puts me off and I am unsure of which bird I am seeing. Gus hasn’t gotten the camera out yet, so we don’t get a photo. Soon the bird disappears beyond the tree line and I don’t add it to my count.
I have surrendered. I give up. There will not be a large bird list for me here today. As I emerge from the sunflower jungle I meet a wonderful older couple on the path. Their names are Hank and Dot, short for Dorothy and Harold. I am pleasantly surprised as I tell them those were my grandparents’ names. Hank and Dot are from Green Valley and they are newlyweds of 4 years. They tell me that they dated in high school, then married other people. When their respective spouses passed away, they reconnected after all these years, fell in love and married each other. Together the three of us walk back towards the parking lot.
We decide to leave, but before we do, I hit the restroom once again, since it is an hour’s drive through a rural landscape to get back home. By now I assume my birding is over, but as we draw near the car I finally spot a chipping sparrow in the ticket. First one, and then another, then a small flock. Gus takes some photos for me. Then, when I emerge from the restroom I hear the chipping of wood in the nearby mesquite trees.
There in another tree is a vireo. When I turn to focus on it, it disappears in the thick tangle of branches but I find a Verdin, then a Bewick’s Wren and more chipping sparrows, all in the same tree! In my last five minutes at Arivaca Cienega I find five more species of birds!
In the end I counted 23 species of birds at Arivaca Cienega. A little over a year ago, on December 30, 2007, I counted 26 species of birds. We didn’t have the D80 at the time, and though it was ordered, it hadn’t arrived in the mail yet. It was our Christmas present to ourselves last year, and now we are putting it to good use this year. Arivaca Cienega continues to be one of my favorite birding areas in Arizona and today’s visit goes to show that you just never know what you are going to see. This is part of the charm of birding, or bird watching. It is an adventure. It is full of surprise and delight. It gets you outdoors and into nature, and for me, it renews my spirit. As an added bonus, you never know when you are going to meet some really interesting and kind people. I can only hope I will bump into Dot and Hank again someday. Since they are bird watchers like me, this is entirely possible! (Dang! I wish I had taken their photograph!)
25. Northern shoveler: Amado Sewege Pond
26. Canvasback: Amado
27. Lesser Scaup: Amado
28. Bufflehead: Amado
29. Ring-necked duck: Amado
30. Ruddy duck: Amado
31. Black Vulture: Arivaca Cienega
32. Red-winged blackbird
34. Chipping sparrow
35. Yellow-rumped warbler
36. European Starling
37. Bewick’s wren
39. Plumbeous Vireo
40. Black Phoebe
41. Gray Flycatcher
42. Northern Flicker
43. Ladder-backed woodpecker
44. Wilson’s Snipe
45. American kestrel
46. Northern Harrier; Arivaca Cienega
47. Rock Pigeon; Arivaca Junction