It is always hard for me when someone comes to visit Tucson for the first time to decide where to take them to bird. There are so many great places, and Sweetwater Wetlands is at the top of the list, but since Mr. Celestial is not quite as into birds as Celeste and I are we decide on Agua Caliente Park, which I believe will provide enough entertainment for all. Celeste and I can bird, and her husband can enjoy this wonderful desert oasis and the historic aspects of the park.
Now, anyone who knows me knows that I can get excited about birds. When I am alone, that is one thing, but when I am with others my excitement expresses itself in a LOUD VOICE. In my attempt to share this experience with Celeste my LOUD VOICE scares the hawk away before I can raise my camera to snap off a shot. I am sorry for this, mostly for Celeste, since this is her first sighting of a Merlin in her life! For me, it is my first sighting here in Arizona, so it is an Arizona Life Bird for me! What a way to start the day.
We continue along the palm tree-lined stream that flows from the spring into the pond. Gila woodpeckers and verdins are everywhere. The woodpeckers are after the fruit of the palm trees while the tiny yellow-headed Verdin glean insects from the fronds. We cross the small bridge towards the entrance of the park where one can usually get a very nice view of the tree-lined pond and the Catalina Mountains beyond. Mr. Celestial likes photography, so this should be a good opportunity for him, but to my dismay there is crime scene yellow tape and neon orange fencing along the banks at this end of the pond. I do not know why it is here, but it sure is messing up the view!
Still, we are delighted to see the great egret wading in the water and overhead a flock of 15 or more Cedar waxwings clinging to the tree tops! Yellow-rumped warblers flit about flashing their butter-butts at us while in the pond the resident mallards paddle around with a few widgeons. In the distance we can see two pairs of ring-necked ducks floating peacefully in the warming sun.
We wander back along the pond’s edge always looking for birds. We find more yellow-rumps and one lone ruby-crowned kinglet in the trees near the north end of the pond. Here we also see the one lone coot as it comes ashore walking like a chicken. However, Celeste points out the lobed feet that are particular to the coot. Usually the coots form large flocks, but this lone bird is hanging out with the ducks. Who knows why it is here alone, but it doesn’t seem too distressed.
We wander on through the mesquite bosque (pronounced bas KAY’) to the open desert beyond. A bosque is the Apache wood for “woodland” and here the densely pack mesquite trees certainly fit the bill. Sometimes I see hermit thrushes back here, and usually a few sparrows. It is in this area that I saw my first Brown Creeper in Arizona, but today the bosque is quiet until we reach the edge. There ahead of us another surprise awaits in one of the mesquite trees.
I actually think it was Mr. Celestial who first pointed out the birds in the tree. Celeste and I both raise our bins to see what is there and I am surprised to see a flash of blue. But these are not the sky blue of mountain bluebirds; these are deeper and richer with orange breasts. And once again I find myself exclaiming with surprise, “Oh my goodness, these are western bluebirds!” However, this time I contain myself a little bit better and the birds don’t seem to mind our elation. They sit quietly in the trees, flying out now and them to snatch an insect off a bush or the ground, then returning to the flock once again. Mr. Celestial and I both snap off several pictures. I am smiling with delight. This is a life bird for Celeste and another Arizona life bird for me. It has been over 15 years since I have seen this species of bird.
We wander around the open desert following path around the retention basins now dry from lack of rain. Still, the thick and tawny cattails stand as silent witness to the presence of water at other times. In a creosote bush we find a pair of blue-gray gnatcatchers scolding. The noontime sun has warmed us and we head back to the main part of the park.
Before we say goodbye, we sit at a picnic table and drink Irish Breakfast tea and talk. I had made a thermos of tea before I left the house this morning, hoping that Celeste would like it as most Brits do. I was correct. And though I like to drink my tea black, I brought along milk and sugar for Celeste, which she used, while Mr. Celestial drank what was left of his now cold coffee. As we parted ways we hugged good-bye. I so enjoyed meeting Celeste who works with Doug Taron at the Museum in Chicago, and her husband, Mr. Celestial. They were both the nicest people and so easy to be with. Celeste gave me the best compliment when she told me that she and her husband came to Tucson because of reading my blog! I am so glad they did and I can only hope that one day I can visit them in Chicago where they can show me the museum and the fen.
Observation date: 11/15/09
Notes: Birding with Celeste and hubbie from Chicago. Cool and sunny, it eventually warmed up nicely.
Number of species: 23
American Wigeon 12
Ring-necked Duck 4
Gambel's Quail 3
Great Egret 1
Merlin 1 Sitting on branch overhanging the spring (the source). Small, dark, streaked breast, pale eyebrow.
American Coot 1
Greater Roadrunner 2
Gila Woodpecker 20
Red-naped Sapsucker 1
Common Raven 1
Cactus Wren 5
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 2
Western Bluebird 6 hanging out in trees just as you emerge from the trail through the mesquite bosque heading west towrds the dry area/retention ponds.
Cedar Waxwing 15 Hanging out in tree at south end of lake near entrance to park.
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's) 13
Rufous-winged Sparrow 1 double whiskers
White-crowned Sparrow 3 buffy-striped heads on all 3
House Finch 1
This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org/)