Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Birding Alabama


Body of water near Florida Short Rd near Guntersville, AL 3-16-10

I birded my way to Alabama counting vultures and hawks along the highway. In a little over three hours we arrive at my friend Ruth's house and are greeted warmly by her family. I have known Ruth and Ron since before we were both married. She and I helped each other through pregnancies and childrearing. Now all these years later we are still friends. Though we may only see each other once a year we always feel comfortable with one another and get very easily back into whatever conversation we choose. She is such a good friend that she does not even mind me leaving first thing the next morning to go birding with Matt Morrow, a young man I met through my blog. Matt will be coming to Arizona soon to see owls and I hope to go birding with him here.

I awaken early on Tuesday, March 16 to another gray and gloomy sky. Still, it does not dampen my sprits as I dress, leaving Gus behind to visit with our friends. I meet Emma in the kitchen. Emma is the granddaughter of Ruth and very bright. I have known her since she was born. She and I have kept up bit of a friendship over the past 10 years of her growing up and I am so happy to have her going birding with me. I remind her to dress warmly and bring dry socks and shoes in case her feet get wet. We leave the house and head south to Guntersville, about an hour away from us.


Pine Warbler near Guntersville, AL 3-16-10

On our way to meet Matt we stop at a parking lot after crossing a causeway. Before us the dark pewter water ripples through the tall green pines. I pause in my trek to the water's edge to photograph a pine warbler down in he grass. It is a small gem amongst all the large water birds we will see today. Then Emma and I draw near the water’s edge where we see hundreds of cormorants and seagulls floating in and flying over the gloomy and tossing waters. The lighting is terrible for photography, so we make a quick count, then get back on the road. I am eager to meet Matt!

DSC_0612 Matt and Emma 3-16-10

We finally meet up with him at Lake Guntersville Boat landing. As soon as we get out of the car Emma announces that she is cold. In spite of my warning, she did not bring an extra jacket. Fortunately for her, I have one she can wear in the car. I greet Matt with a hug. He is taller than I expected. I sense his gentle sprit right away. I start chattering like a magpie and then we turn and start looking for birds.


The first bird we see is a Great Blue Heron wading belly deep in the water. Emma is duly impressed by the bird, but quickly looses interest and starts clambering around the banks and the boat docks. “Don’t tumble into that water,” I admonish her. “I don’t want to have to fish you out of there!” Emma smiles and flits about like a water sprite or a butterfly as if she is not aware that there are gloomy skies above. She is her own little ray of sunshine on this gray day.

While Emma plays, Matt and I count birds. While I only have binoculars, Matt has a spotting scope. I see the flock of Canada geese flying overhead. I can see a few Double–crested Cormorants fly by. Coots are everywhere like fleas on the water but we need Matt’s scope to see the Common Loons far out over the expanse of gray water. We can also see purple martins flying. Then Matt finds Horned Grebes for me! This is my first Life Bird* of the day, number 372! As if to echo my elation a Carolina wren bursts into song from the forest edge. The liquid notes fill the air around us and then a Bufflehead pops up right in front of us! Who cares about the grayness, this is a great day! In the lagoon behind us Matt shows both Emma and I the black-crowned night herons he had scoped out before we arrived. Then, as we return to our cars a Kingfisher makes its appearance at the forest edge. When we focus our bins on it, it flies around the bend and out of sight. With most of the birds counted in this location, we moved on to the south end of Guntersville Dam.

DSC_0619The Guntersville Dam South is where I was suppose to meet Matt originally, but I am glad we changed our plans and met at the boat landing. I could have found my way almost here, but I might have missed the final turn which is a nondescript back road that winds down through forests and fields. I must say that in spite of the gloomy day I am quite surprised by the rolling hills and deep forests of Alabama. I expected it to be all flat swamp land. At least in this part of the state it is not.

DSC_0625 Matt brought me here to see if we could find a Red-headed woodpecker. When I first left on this trip, that was my one target bird. I think I may have seen one when I was a teenager in Connecticut, but I am not sure and I do not have the species on my Life List. However, the next bird I add to my Alabama list is this Bonaparte’s gull. I have only seen it one other time in 2006 at the Bear River Bird Refuge near Brigham City, UT. It is a lovely little bird with delicate wings. Matt says you can tell it by its tern-like quality and the triangular white patches on its wingtips. I watch the exquisite bird fly by, a graceful note in this gray day. All around us the birds are wheeling and calling. A cold wind blows over the water. I pull on my knit gloves and keep on watching. After awhile we move away from the water’s edge towards the wooded part of this location. As we are walking down the paved roadway towards a trail I see a bird at the base of a large tree. As Matt and I get our bins on it, Matt exclaims, “There it is! There is the Red-headed Woodpecker!”

DSC_0648And sure enough, there is my Red-headed Woodpecker, Life Bird* number 373! I am amazed by the bold blocks of color. In true woodpecker fashion, it clings to the bark of the tree and works its way up the trunk to the branches, searching the bark for a meal. When we draw near the woodpecker uses the tree as a shield and keeps the tree between us and it working its way around the circumference.

DSC_0652 We continue down the road fully aware of the time crunch. I promised my friends I would be back by noontime for lunch. Already the morning is getting way from us. Around us the sky and the forest is full of vultures. If you love vultures, then you need to come here, because I counted at least 30 black vultures and 12 turkey vultures, and those are conservative numbers.

DSC_0653 They eye us hungrily as we walked by. It is decided that we do not have time to go for a hike down the trail and so we work our way back to the waters edge where we find killdeer, an eastern bluebird, a junco, an American goldfinch, and a Tufted Titmouse.

DSC_0666A downy woodpecker clings to the bark of this tree. I smile to see this “common” bird, for I have not seen one in a long time. Then, just as we are about to get in our cars to leave matt spots a pair of juvenile Bald Eagles over the water. I try to get a shot of them and I do, but they are so far down the river and the light is so poor that the photos are not worth showing. Still, I come away with two life birds for the day.

DSC_0692 But I am not done yet. We follow Matt to the Rt. 431 Pilings along the Tennessee River Bridge where he points out a Lesser Black-back Gull asleep on one of them. Life Bird* number 374! Three Lifers for the day!

DSC_0693Before we leave, I hand Emma my Nikon D80 and let her take a picture of Matt and I. Matt is a gentle soul and a gentleman. I so enjoyed his company. He is very knowledgeable of the birds in his area and was a tremendous help in showing them to Emma and I. He was immensely patient with both of us, and I look forward to birding with him again.


We drive home tired but happy and just barely in time for lunch. The rest of the day is spent with Ruth and Ron. We go out to dinner that evening, then come home and chat before going off to bed. Of course, I counted birds in Ruth's yard all three days I was there. It was at her house that I saw Cardinals, Cowbirds, House Finches, White –throated and Song Sparrows, Mockingbirds and Mourning doves.

The next morning it is time to say good-bye. As we stand on the front porch with all our stuff in the car I throw my arms around Ruth's neck and suddenly the dam breaks. I am sobbing on her shoulder and she and I both know that it isn’t just because I am saying good-bye to her. Ruth knows she is getting all the tears I had held back in Kentucky. Now I am in a safe place. Now they flow freely on the shoulder of my good friend. Now I WILL cry. DSC_0740

Ruth and Kathie 3-17-10

And Ruth pats my back and tells me she loves me and understands. Then Gus takes this picture of us and we get in our car and start driving and once again I start to count the birds.

Alabama Birding List:

  1. American Robin
  2. Turkey vulture
  3. European Starling
  4. Blue Jay
  5. Northern Mockingbird
  6. Northern Cardinal
  7. Dark-eyed Junco (slate-colored)
  8. Mourning dove
  9. Carolina chickadee
  10. Red-winged Blackbird
  11. Song-sparrow
  12. Ring-billed gull
  13. Pine Warbler
  14. Double-crested cormorant
  15. American Coot
  16. Carolina Wren
  17. Bufflehead
  18. Canada goose
  19. Tufted Titmouse
  20. Horned Grebe*
  21. Herring gull
  22. Great blue heron
  23. Black-crowned Night heron
  24. Belted Kingfisher
  25. Purple martin
  26. common Loon
  27. Red-bellied woodpecker
  28. Cedar Waxwing
  29. Bonaparte’s gull
  30. American goldfinch
  31. Killdeer
  32. Red-headed woodpecker*
  33. Northern flicker
  34. American kestrel
  35. Eastern bluebird
  36. Downy woodpecker
  37. Bald Eagle
  38. Black vulture
  39. White-breasted Nuthatch
  40. Lesser Black-backed gull*
  41. Pied-billed Grebe
  42. House finch
  43. Chipping sparrow
  44. Brown-headed cowbird
  45. American Crow
  46. White-throated sparrow
  47. Eastern meadowlark

*Life Birds-the first time I have seen this particular species in my life.

For More information on birding in Alabama and the Guntersville area click on the following links:

North Alabama Birding Trail

Guntersville State Park

Guntersville Peninsula

Monday, March 29, 2010

Bird Counting in Kentucky


Trees near the hotel in Oak Grove, KY 3-15-10

The sun shone brightly as we left the hotel in Texarkana, AR and headed east to Oak Grove, KY. I watch for birds out the windows as Gus drives. The landscape before me amazes me. I had expected to hate Arkansas and instead I am delighted! This place is beautiful! I watch as creeks flow through woodlands, and green fields roll to the horizon. So much of what I see reminds me of New England where I grew up. Even as the clouds gather and the light dims, I enjoy the drive across Arkansas.

DSC_0465 We get off the interstate highway in Tennessee and travel the back roads through small towns to Oak Grove. The hotel we booked is a dive with holes in the walls and the sheets and dusty old pillows. It is late at night when I finally see the place and I am so tired that I just fell into bed. I was thinking of asking Gus to switch hotels in the morning no matter how much it cost. However, I awaken early this to the sounds of birds outside my window. Dressing quickly and warmly I exit my room on the second floor to a vacant lot before me and agricultural fields rolling away towards the road.


DSC_0462 The vacant lot and the agricultural field are separated by a hedgerow with tall trees and brush. In the vacant lot the weeds and grasses have grown wild and untamed, the fields are mowed short and turning green. A large puddle has formed at the edge of the dirt in the vacant lot, and all the trees and bushes and grass are full of birds. At that monument I decide I will stay in this room. I want to see the birds!

DSC_0466 Of course, my primary reason for being here is to see Alex, Diane and the new baby, but I did my research on eBird before arriving here and I know that NO ONE has counted birds in Christian county KY so far this year. Every bird I count matters. It may be the only data that eBird gets for this county this year! I already have my bins on with my pen and notebook in hand. Though the day is gray and drippy and cold, I stand on the second floor balcony and count birds. I quickly discover that this set-up is perfect. The balcony acts as a blind. The birds are used to people walking by under the rooftop, and so do not flee when they see me.

DSC_0467 I hear field sparrows calling from the weeded field. I see cardinals, robins, starlings and house sparrows. I count a song sparrow, a killdeer and an eastern meadowlark. Then, in the midst of all the other sounds I think I hear a bob white call! I scan the agricultural fields looking for movement. I listen to hear it call again, but it never does. Was it my imagination? I do not have Bob White on my life list, though I grew up hearing and seeing that species as a child in Connecticut. How I would love to see that bird. But though I wait and wait, I do not see that bird today, or any other day while I am here.

DSC_0341 When Gus gets up we drive onto Main Street looking for someplace to eat breakfast. Gus notices a large flock of turkeys in the field. He turns the car around for me and parks on the side of the road and I count birds.

DSC_0345 We find a local restaurant called G’s Pancake house. We decide to eat there because we call our oldest son “G.” I count the birds in the parking lot on our way into and out of the diner. Since we sit near a window, I count the birds from there. I see mourning doves, a mockingbird, a blue jay, 2 crows, 4 starlings, 10 common crackles and 3 house sparrows.

DSC_0349 We stop at Wal-mart on the way to Alex’s house. I count 1 ring-billed gull, 2 killdeer, 1 robin, 1 mockingbird, 3 red-winged blackbirds, 5 starlings, 10 house sparrows and 30 rock pigeons there. All day long, where ever I am, I count birds in Oak Grove, Kentucky. Over the course of our 3 days I see blue birds, turkey and black vultures. I see mourning doves and blackbirds everywhere. Monday is our last morning here. Alex had to go back to work this morning but he will be home for 1 ½ hours at lunchtime. So, while he is at work and Gus is sleeping in, I finally decide to get down off the balcony and take a walk in the fields.

DSC_0469 The sky is gray as it has been every day that we have been here. Though my pictures won’t be great, I take my camera with me anyways and walk quietly along the hedgerow. Cardinals and sparrows fill the foliage. Blackbirds line the utility wires or feed in the field. I still hope to find a Bob White, but no luck. The earth is damp and soft beneath my feet. The misty air makes me feels as if I am moving in a dream. All my senses are on alert and I watch and listen for birds. I find white-crowned sparrows and song sparrows. I see and hear field sparrows. A killdeer calls and then flies by. Eastern meadowlarks sing from a weed and an eastern towhee appears briefly in the brush before me. I find Carolina wrens singing in the trees, and then a hawk flies over my head and lands in the tall trees near the hotel.




DSC_0483 DSC_0487

At first I think it is a Cooper’s Hawk with its long and banded tail, but after I see the photographs I am doubtful. Is it a red-shouldered hawk? I haven’t decided yet. If you think you know, please tell me! Whichever species it is, I believe it is a juvenile due to the vertical streaking on the breast. At the far end of the field I near a marshy area I find a fox sparrow, and then a swamp sparrow! I have been gone quite awhile and I sense it is time to head back. My journey across the field was slow, but now I walk briskly back to our room. I know it is time to go and say good-bye.

We savor the last hours with our son and his wife and our new little grand-daughter. I carry her outside with my bins hoping to infuse her with this love of nature and birds. Then we gather on the front porch for family photos and hug and say good-bye. I will not cry. Not now. Alex will be going to war soon. I do not know when I will see him again. But for his sake, I do not cry. I choke, but I do not cry.

Gus stops at the gas station near the highway to fill the tank for our trip to Alabama. It will only take us 3 hours to get there. While he gets gas, I count birds. I will not cry. 1 turkey vulture, 2 killdeer, 1 red-winged blackbird, 2 starlings, 2 rock pigeons, 2 house sparrows, my last count in Kentucky. I will not cry.

In the end I added counted 29 species in several locations in Oak Grove Kentucky.  For the moment they are the only birds counted in Christian county, KY.  I do hope that some one out there will add to this information.  You may not think your one little birding list will matter, but it does!

Birds seen in Christian County, KY March 12-15, 2010:

  1. Killdeer
  2. American Robin
  3. Mourning dove
  4. European Starling
  5. Field sparrow
  6. Song sparrow
  7. Northern Cardinal
  8. red-winged blackbird
  9. Eastern meadowlark
  10. House sparrow
  11. Wild turkey
  12. Turkey vulture
  13. Blue Jay
  14. American Crow
  15. Northern Mockingbird
  16. common Grackle
  17. Ring-billed gull
  18. rock Pigeon
  19. Eastern bluebird
  20. House finch
  21. Red-tailed hawk
  22. Black vulture
  23. Cooper’s hawk*
  24. tufted titmouse
  25. Carolina Wren
  26. Eastern Towhee
  27. Fox Sparrow
  28. Swamp Sparrow
  29. White-crowned sparrow

*This data will change if it is determined this is a red-shouldered hawk or some other species.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Reason for the Trip: Natalie!

DSC_0445Introducing Natalie Brown, my newest grandchild! 3-14-10


DSC_0357 Our first day with Natalie.  Her Papa can sure make her smile!

DSC_0360 Welcome to the world, Natalie! 3-13-10

DSC_0384 Natalie and her Momma, Diane.

DSC_0519 Gus and Alex play one last game of Cribbage before we get on the road. (It’s a Maine thing.)

 DSC_0555  Three generations of Browns!


Grandpa having fun.

DSC_0548 Natalie, Alex and Diane.  It is so hard to say good-bye.

 DSC_0570 My son and my soldier.  I am so proud of him.

DSC_0355 Perhaps this Eastern Bluebird in his backyard is a sign, a symbol of hope, the Bluebird of Happiness. I miss them already. I want to go back!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Trip Begins

DSC_0306 Sunrise over the Chiricahuas 3-11-10 as seen from the Burger King in Wilcox, AZ. (Photo by Kathie)

These photos belong to the story On the Road to Kentucky posted a few days ago. 

DSC_0299 I filled all the feeders the day before we left. 3-10-10

DSC_0309 Vacant lot next to the Hotel in Texarkana. This was my first view of Arkansas. I counted birds here on Friday morning. I was delighted by the flowering trees. 3-12-10

DSC_0310 I saw plenty of mockingbirds on this trip, but this was my first one of the trip and my first in Arkansas. 3-12-10

DSC_0312 A brown thrasher sat on the same fence.



The view down the side street.

 DSC_0315 A lone dead tree silhouetted against a brilliant blue sky in the same vacant lot.  Little did I know this would be the last blue sky I would see for a long time. 3-12-10

I like the sculptural quality of dead trees.  I like them in general.  I think they tell a story.  Perhaps I admire their long lives.  Even in death this tree is useful as a food source and a dwelling.  Perhaps it is the Velveteen Rabbit Syndrome, admiring the scarred body for the life it has lived.  Who knows what stories this tree could tell.  That is the charm and the mystery of it all.

Birds Seen in this Location:

Location: Texarkana La Quinta Inn
Observation date: 3/12/10
Number of species: 10

Black Vulture 6
Turkey Vulture 1
Blue Jay 1
crow sp. 2
Northern Mockingbird 4
Brown Thrasher 2
European Starling 5
Field Sparrow 1
White-throated Sparrow 2
Northern Cardinal 6
House Sparrow 14

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Skywatch Friday: Pomegranate Sky


The new leaves on my pomegranate tree open like the promise of spring with all the colors of the fruit contained within. 3-4-10

Skywatch Friday

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

On the Road to Kentucky 3-11-10

It is Thursday morning and I am going crazy packing suitcases and doing laundry and filling bird feeders. I am so excited because tonight Gus and I will sleep for a couple of hours before getting on the road and driving west to Kentucky to see our new grand daughter and her Mommy and Daddy. On our way we will travel through several states, some of which we have never been in before. I am hoping to count birds wherever I can and try to enter new birds lists on eBird as I go.  I already know from checking the eBird Top 100 link that absolutely no one is counting birds in Christian County, KY so far this year.  Perhaps I will be the first to provide that valuable data to eBird. It is late by the time we get to bed but we get about 4 hours of sleep before we rise and hit the road.

The sky is barely gray when we head east on I-10.  We make our first stop in Wilcox, AZ and as I walk shivering and cold back to the car after getting some hot coffee I am amazed at the snow-covered Chiricahua Mountains blushing blue and pink in the early dawn light.  I snap a few quick pictures, but Gus is eager to get on down the road.  He is always eager to get on down the road, so I squeeze in birding and photography wherever I can. But I am not complaining.  I am glad to be on this trip. It has been a long time since he and I have done a road trip together.

The drive across eastern Arizona soon becomes a drive across New Mexico. I have never been east of Deming, so once we cross this town we are driving new roads for us.  Much of the land seems so barren but as we come over the hill on I-10 near Las Cruces I am astonished by the sight before me.  Saw-toothed peaks rake the eastern horizon in such glorious majesty. The road descends to the valley floor where flowering trees line grassy fields.  This is a beautiful place! I watch slack-jawed as we drive through. I make a mental note of this as a place I want to come back to.  A place I want to explore. El Paso is interesting to me because my son, Alex did his basic training here. I have never seen this place so I look at it with eyes examining it for traces of my son’s life.  I thought of El Paso as a flat dusty town so I am quite surprised by the rolling hills and curves.  As we drive through I am looking for birds along the highway, but it is windy and I am not seeing much. For most of Texas it is this way.  As we leave El Paso behind the land does flatten out until we are in oil fields.  For most of the trip I see no birds until we reach the eastern edge of the state. We stop at a rest area at the edge of darkness where I marvel at green grass and tall trees.  It has been a very long time since I have seen any place like this.

We press on through the darkness. Our time is so precious to us.  Alex only has the weekend off and we are trying to get there as soon as possible. I drive for a while to give Gus a rest but soon I can go no further. I pull off the road somewhere and we switch places once again. By now we have been driving for 18 hours or more, but Gus does not want to stop. Finally we pull off the road in eastern Texas for gas.  We are in some back road truck stop with men dressed in camouflage and smoking cigarettes in the store. Do they still do that here?  The walls are dingy, the floors dirty.  I walk down a long dark hall to find the ladies’ room. The broken and dirty tiled floor is exposed by a door propped open with a trash can.  I have no trouble finding a stall to use; they are all empty.  I wash my hands in a sink next to a condom dispenser padlocked at the corners with industrial padlocks. Are people that desperate here?

This place is giving me the creeps and I leave as quickly as possible. I take the dog for a walk while Gus takes his turn inside. All along the roadway the semis idle in the cold, dark night. I pull my coat tighter around me, praying that Gus will hurry.  It is 1:30 a.m. by now and I am exhausted.

Gus returns to the car and we get back inside. A discussion arises about whether we should stop for the night or press on.  By now we have been driving for almost 20 hours.  I make my case for stopping; Gus wants to press on.  He says he is so wound up he cannot sleep. I say he will be asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow. I tell him that I am too tired to relieve him if he gets tired. We get back on the highway and go one more exit where Gus pulls off the road and we get a hotel.  We drag our suitcases and our tired bodies inside. Gus lays down on the bed, pulls the covers up around him, and falls asleep.  He does not even move again until the morning when he hears me going out the door, binoculars in hand. 

I walk outside the hotel in Texarkana to discover a vacant lot on two sides of the hotel that are birder’s heaven for they are teeming with birds. While house sparrow woke me with their harsh and raucous calls I am now delighted to find mocking birds, cardinals and white-throated sparrows.  Soon I spot one brown thrasher and then another. Overhead I see some large dark birds soaring. I spot a turkey vulture, then black vultures! My first bird count for Arkansas is very good and I am satisfied. Soon we are in the car and headed east with the sunshine in our eyes.  We are on the road again.  Kentucky, here we come!

Blogger’s note: Gus and I are still on the road. We go birding with TR Ryan tomorrow!  More stories and photos to follow.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Birding from Sunrise to Sunset: Kino Springs and Beyond


Kino Springs Golf Course 3-5-10

My birding day had started with a sunrise drive to Patagonia where I met Jeff and Dawn Fine.  After six hours of birding at Patagonia Lake SP we decided to finish our birding day at Kino Springs. Kino Springs is a golf resort near Rio Rico, Arizona.  It is a birding hotspot that I have never been to, so when Jeff and Dawn said they knew where it was I asked if they would take me there. I had no idea what we would find, but I was very happy to try someplace new. Driving west on highway 82 we turn onto the road just after the bridge over the Santa Cruz River. It isn’t long before we are seeing birds. Sparrows pop up out of the grass, Say’s Phoebes flit through the sky. Mourning Doves hang on the wires and robins flutter in the trees. Jeff parks the car and goes into the club house to ask permission for us to bird.  It is readily granted and we are off. Dawn and I find Audubon's yellow-rumped warblers in the trees near the sewage treatment pond, then we walk over to another pond across the street from the country club. In spite of recent rain, this one is drying up, yet there is still enough water in it to attract the birds.  A pair of Gadwall and several green-winged teals fly or swim to the farthest edge away from us as we drew near the pond.


Great-blue Heron 3-5-10

While we are watching them a Great Blue Heron lands and starts hunting along the edge. A black phoebe flits near the water along with a Says’ phoebe and several Vermillion flycatchers. Most are brilliant red males but we find one female in the bunch. A Loggerhead shrike watches us from some nearby utility wires while across the pond some starlings feed on he ground with a few killdeer.

DSC_0237 We can hear the calls of red-winged blackbirds trilling to the sky from across the pond.

DSC_0240 A vesper sparrow hops up on a branch and takes a look at me.

DSC_0248Then Dawn spots these Lawrence’s Goldfinches in the willows along the bank.  I couldn’t quite believe her at first but after a closer look I discover she is right.  I have never seen more than one Lawrence’s goldfinch at once while Dawn says that whenever she has seen them they have always been in a flock. These are backlit by the setting sun and well hidden in the tree but finally I see the black foreheads and gray backs with a yellow wash on the wings and breast.

DSC_0278Crissal Thrasher 3-5-10 

We are busy looking at a flock of Brewer’s Sparrows in the hedgerow along the fence line when Dawn cries out excitedly, “Crissal thrasher, Crissal thrasher! I spin around with my bins and my camera while Jeff gets it focused in the scope.  I have never seen a Crissal Thrasher in the three years that I have lived here, so, while this is not the trogon, it is a *Life Bird for me and I am very excited. The Crissal sits atop what looks like a dead bush singing a tremulous song.  The notes float over the greening meadow below while Dawn and I stand mesmerized. I alternate between looks through the scope and taking pictures with the camera.  Still, even with the 70-300mm zoom we are quite far away, so Dawn and I start to creep slowly closer.  Step!  Snap!  Step!  Snap!  Until the bird decides that we have gotten too close.  It ceases its song abruptly and flies to the ground for cover.

DSC_0291 We end the day in Rio Rico at the Rio Rico Pond where we see a dowitcher, several ducks, and tree swallows.  The swallows were everywhere today and they are headed north.  Migration has begun.  Get ready.

Our final bird of the day is a Great-horned owl we see on the side of the San Cayentano Mountains where I take Jeff and Dawn to see the lights of Rio Rico and Nogales.  It is twilight as we head down the mountainside and there on the same utility pole where I saw the owls mating last year sits this large bird.  We all get so excited that I think the bird heard us from inside the car for it flies off into the night as we roll down our windows for a better look.

It is a half-hour or more ride back to Patagonia and the RV where I  say good-bye to Jeff and Dawn Fine. On the ride there I chatted like a magpie from the back seat.  It’s something I do when I am really tired.  Jeff and Dawn were so kind. We hug good-bye and I get in my car wondering when or where I will see them again. I feel like we have been friends for a long time already.  I will never forget the birding adventures that we have had together. Now, I still have an hour’s ride home in the dark on the back roads of Arizona. And though I am alone, I am not lonely. I can hear the sound of the road beneath my tires and the songs of birds in my head.  I feel Orion guarding me in the starry sky above. As I approach the border patrol checkpoint on Highway 83 I chat with the young man who is the guard.  I suddenly realize how dark and lonely it must be out here in the night on this back road. He has to stay at his post, while I am heading home with a tired but contented smile on my face to a good husband and a warm bed and a HUGE checklist to compile!

And that’s…

My World Tuesday!

In the end we saw 72 species of birds on this day with 47 species at Patagonia Lake, 28 species at Kino springs, and 11 species in Rio Rico.

*Kathie’s Life Bird Number 371: Crissal Thrasher