Thursday, December 31, 2009

Skywatch Friday: New Year's Gold

Sunset over the western mountains in Rio Rico...

...throws a golden promise on the San Cayetano peaks to the east.

Happy New Year!

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad!

Happy Skywatch Friday 2010!

Monday, December 28, 2009

My World: Tumacacori Doors (part 3)

Door to orchard seen through mortuaty chapel door 11-5-09

The shadows of the past fall on the arched doorway of the unfinished morturay chapel.

The shadow of Tumacacori Mission falls on the graveyard.

Doorway to the convento and an ordinary life.

Doorways. They are so symbolic. As 2009 draws to an end with 2010 just a few days away, I can't help but think of it as passing through a doorway to a New Year. What will 2010 hold for me and for all of us? Will I pass through the open doors that present themselves to me in the New Year? Will you? What will happen in MY World next year? I will never find out if I don't go though that door! Click on the link below. It is your door to other worlds!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Colors of Christmas

White-winged Dove Angel 2009 by Kathie

The colors of Christmas
Are midnight blue,
And star shine gold,
And stable brown,
And flaxen straw,
and Miracles.

The Colors of Christmas
Are Santa Claus red,
Belt-buckle black,
Snowy-beard white,
Christmas tree green,
and Magic.

The Colors of Christmas
Are apple cheek roses,
Pastel pink-puckered lips,
Eye-shine blue, or brown, or green,
Sunny smiles,
and Love.

~Kathiesbirds (October 20, 2009)

To all my family, friends and faithful readers, may your holidays be filled with miracles, magic, and most of all,


Merry Christmas

from Kathiesbirds!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Birds in Sycamore Canyon

Bewick's Wren climbs the block wall searching for insects 12-5-09

Ever since discovering Sycamore Canyon almost 3 years ago I have been counting birds. Even before we moved in I started my Sycamore Canyon Bird List, which you can see in the side bar. Since that time I have kept constant track of all the bird species seen in this area. In 2 1/2 years I have seen 90 species of birds right here in Sycamore Canyon. Many of them I have seen right from my own yard! Our yard was nothing but bare dirt in the back while small scrubby trees and bushes grew in the front. In less than a month after we moved in we bought and planted a native velvet mesquite tree in the backyard. By the following spring we added a Desert Museum Palo Verde and a patio with sitting walls. This year we added more plants and an irrigation system to the backyard. Meanwhile, the front yard trees have grown taller, the bushes have filled out, and the manmade wash beside my house has filled in with pioneering species like creosote bush and brittle bush. And, as mine and other neighbor's landscaping matures I have recently noticed an increase in the bird population in my yard!

A verdin at my window hummingbird feeder 12-5-09

Suddenly I am getting Bewick's Wrens and verdins. The verdins even come to my nectar feeders, something I have never observed before, but I have this sweet pair hanging out in my yard on an almost daily basis. While typically insect eaters, I guess these little gray birds know a sweet thing when they find it! I have no complaints. I love their merry chatter and cute little faces. Though hardly much bigger than the hummingbirds, they are quite gregarious. Still, the hummingbirds have no trouble taunting them or chasing them away. With cactus wrens and Gila woodpeckers all vying for nectar, it is all out war in my backyard right now!

Here is a list of MY 2009 December Yard Birds:
  1. Gambel's Quail
  2. Sharp-shinned hawk
  3. Cooper's hawk
  4. White-winged dove
  5. Mourning dove
  6. Greater Roadrunner
  7. Anna's Hummingbird
  8. Costa's Hummingbird
  9. Gila woodpecker
  10. Gilded Flicker
  11. Say's Phoebe
  12. Loggerhead shrike
  13. Common raven
  14. Verdin
  15. Cactus Wren
  16. Bewick's Wren
  17. Rock Wren
  18. Curve-billed thrasher
  19. Canyon towhee
  20. Black-throated sparrow
  21. White-crowned sparrow
  22. Northern Cardinal
  23. Pyrrhuloxia
  24. House finch
  25. Lesser-goldfinch
  26. House sparrow
Have a Very Birdy Christmas!

and that's...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Winter Birds at Rio Rico Pond

Abert's Towhee at the Rio Rico Pond 12-12-09

After stopping at the flooded fields to count birds we drove the short distance over the train tracks to the Rio Rico Pond. Before I even got out of the car I could see ducks peppering the pond surface. As usual, as soon as I opened the car door they all paddled off to the south end of the pond but I could still see them and count them. And while I was standing on the outside of the barbed wire fence this Abert's towhee flew right over next to me and the tree I was trying to hide behind! The Abert's towhee is distinguished by that bit of a black mask around its eyes and bill. They are usually spotted in the vicinity of water. Though I have seen them numerous times in Sabino Canyon, I have never seen on in Sycamore Canyon where I live and this is my first time seeing one in Rio Rico or Santa Cruz County!

Great Blue Heron and Great Egret @ Rio Rico Pond 12-12-09

Location: Rio Rico Pond
Observation date: 12/12/09
Notes: Watched from behind the fence. Gus stayed in car.
Number of species: 15
*birds new to my Santa Cruz County Life List

Gadwall 16
American Wigeon 2
Mallard 20
Northern Pintail 4
Green-winged Teal 2
*Canvasback 2
Great Blue Heron 1
Great Egret 1
American Coot 1
Killdeer 1
Wilson's Snipe 1
Ladder-backed Woodpecker 1
*Abert's Towhee 1
Song Sparrow 1
Eastern Meadowlark (Lilian's) 6

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Canvasbacks on Rio Rico Pond 12-12-09

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Skywatch Friday: December Blue

December Blue sky looking south from Rio Rico Dr.

(please click to enlarge, you'll be so glad you did!)

Gus and I took a drive to Rio Rico on Saturday to enjoy the good weather and do a bit of bird watching right along Rio Rico drive, between the Santa Cruz River and the Rio Rico pond. Gus pulled off onto the shoulder so I could check out this flooded field for birds. I never left the car but simply watched birds from the open window, using my vehicle as a blind. It paid off as I soon added 3 new species to my Santa Cruz County Life List!

These are the birds I saw in this spot. Birds new to the Santa Cruz County List are in blue. Besides the listed birds were many "peeps" I could not identify, partly because I am still learning my sandpipers and plovers, partly because I don't have a spotting scope and they were too far away, and partly because they are in winter plumage which makes it even more difficult!

Location: Rio Rico Ag. Field South
Observation date: 12/12/09
Notes: Seen in flooded ag. fields between Santa Cruz river and Rio Rico pond. Pulled off of the road but never left vehicle. Used it as a blind. There were more peeps but I could not I.D. them all.
Number of species: 18

Gadwall 2
American Wigeon 2
Mallard 10
Northern Pintail 2
Green-winged Teal 2
Great Egret 1
Turkey Vulture 1 See far to the south soaring.
Prairie Falcon 1 This is my best guess. Fast flight, pointed wings, brownish. Came out of nowhere pursuing peeps.
Killdeer 3
Least Sandpiper 4
Long-billed Dowitcher 8
Wilson's Snipe 3
Gila Woodpecker 1
Say's Phoebe 1
Vermilion Flycatcher 1
Red-winged Blackbird 26
Eastern Meadowlark (Lilian's) 3
Brewer's Blackbird 8

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My World: Tumacacori NHP part 2

Tumacacori Mortuary chapel and Mission 11-5-09

In November I visited Tumacacori National Historic Park for the very first time with my friend Sherri. You can read part one by clicking here. I found this place satisfying on so many levels. Not only is it beautiful and peaceful but it also has excellent birding, hiking and photography opportunities. Located along the Anza Trail, one can hike along the Santa Cruz River through mesquite bosques and desert scrub. The original De Anza Trail went from Mexico to California. Parts of the trail have been restored but currently it is still fragmented. Last week I showed you some of the exterior of the mission. Today we have a tour of the interior and the convento.

Mission Interior looking towards main entrance and former choir loft.

Adobe walls and carved wooden door.

Alter Area 11-5-09

(click here to see what it used to look like.)

Sanctuary Dome 11-5-09

Detail of pillar (click to enlarge)

Sanctuary dome seen against a brilliant November sky
from the convento area.

The convento was not a convent in the traditional sense but rather a collection of buildings attached to the Mission used for various purposes.

Interior of convento 11-5-09

Kiva fireplace in convento 11-5-09

Tumacacori Questions

Whose feet have walked on these floors?
What meals have been cooked in this place?
How many prayers have risen like smoke
in blue Arizona skies
or stormy gray Monsoons?
How much death has happened here,
and how much life?
I pass by today
I walk with ease over this sacred ground
without fear of attack
or hunger
but I wonder
with each dusty step I take,
who was here before me?

and that's...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Art Show At Eckstrom-Columbus Library

Kathie with my friend, Sherri standing by my paintings 12-10-09

Table by the entrance where you sign in and read Artist Statements

Staff member Mohamed Warsame watches
Mark Holdaway
demonstrate his music.
Mark plays and records music played on traditional
African instruments.

Art on display

The show runs from Now until January 31st, 2010.

If you are around, come on down!

Gus and I both really liked this painting.

Click here to read the library hours and location.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Skywatch Friday: Tumacacori Convent Window

A blue November sky shines through this ancient window from the Tumacacori Mission convent. Green trees and utility wires are framed by the adobe and plaster walls of the past.

Photo taken 11-5-09 by Kathie Brown with the Nikon D80 70-300mm lens.

(Please click on the photo to enlarge for the very best view!)

See more Sky views at

Skywatch Friday...

...your window on the world!

Announcement: Local Art Show Opening
at the Eckstrom-Columbus Library
tonight from 4-6:00 P.M.
and guess who has 3 painting on display?
Yes, I plan on being there!
The Eckstrom-Columbus Library is located
at the corner of 22nd St. and Columbus Blvd in Tucson, AZ
The Art Show runs from Now through January 31

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Weather and the Hawk

Cooper's hawk in my backyard 12-8-09

All night long the wind howled rushing down the mountains like a flood. Hearing a tumbling grating sound I switch on the back light only to discover one of my bistro chairs has tumbled off the raised patio. I stand it upright in the raging wind and brace it between the gas grill and block wall. After locking all the doors I snuggle in next to Gus and tried to sleep while the restless wind calls to me in the night.

Santa Rita foothills 12-8-09

I awake on Tuesday morning to find the wind whipping the trees into a frenzy. Dark clouds gather over the mountains shrouding the peaks in gloom. At 7:15 a.m. with the sky barely starting to lighten I glance at the thermometer and read a temp of 48F degrees. By 8:00 a.m. the rain starts falling and with it the temperature drops. Over the next 3 hours I watch if fall until it bottoms out at 38F degrees. The storm has driven birds into my feeders in hordes. Costa’s humming birds swarm the nectar feeders, house finches and house sparrows mob the seed feeders. Gambel’s’ Quail clamber over the quail block and scurry around beneath the feeders gobbling any dropped seed they can find. The flickers take over the peanut and suet feeders. Gila woodpeckers vie with flickers for suet and easily muscle away hummingbirds for drinks of nectar. Everyone is puffed up from the cold, feathered pompoms bedraggled and forlorn.

Wind Damage 12-8-09

With all these hungry beaks to feed my seed supply has gotten low. As the rain tapers off I head to the store to purchase more seed for hungry birds. As I drive down the street I pass an uprooted weeping acacia tree in my neighbor’s front yard. It took the Christmas decorations with it and crushed them beneath its weight.

Cooper's hawk 12-8-09

Back home again I fill the feeders and sit at the computer entering data into eBird. The sun has started to break through now even as it is sinking in the west. Suddenly I hear a thump against the window in the living area. I know what that thump means, so I get up and turn the corner to see which bird has hit my window, hoping I can save it. Hoping it is not dead. It has been a long time since I have had a bird die from a window strike. As I turn the corner and the back yard comes into view I see that all the birds have fled. The reason why is easily apparent as I see a Cooper’s hawk perched on my block wall. She is standing there on one leg, her other foot tucked up into her thick down for warmth. I glance out the patio door. NO bird. I look out the picture window. NO bird. Then, I grab my camera and creep closer to get a shot of the hawk.

Dead female Gambels' Quail 12-8-09

It is then that I discover the dead quail on my patio table. The back of the couch hid its corpse until I was in the correct position to see it. I gaze at the bird looking for signs of life, but there are none. No foot twitches. No chest rises with breath. No eyelids flutter. She is truly dead.

Then, I start to wonder. Why doesn’t the hawk take the quail? It is still sitting there calmly on my block wall looking around as if it expects some other bird to suddenly present itself for a meal. It looks this way and that. It scrutinizes me with an intense gaze, but it doesn’t move.

I back off hoping it will fly over and take the quail. What a sight that would be! Is the hawk bold enough to fly underneath my covered patio and claim its prize? I don’t know. The hawk doesn’t move and I am beginning to think it is stupid. I put my camera down on the ledge and go back into the den to check on the status of my bird lists. The computer screen tells me my session has expired, so I try to get it back. I am only sitting there for about 5 minutes and then I decide to check on the hawk again. I creep slowly around the corner, hoping to spot it still, but the hawk is gone. I walk over to the window expecting to have to clean dead quail off the table but… the quail is also gone! The hawk did take it! And I missed it! I should have stayed there in the corner. Maybe I could have gotten the shot of The Hawk That Came to Dinner!

Male Costa's Hummingbird in my Palo Verde Tree 12-8-09

Knowing that hawks often will fly to a nearby perch to eat their kill I grab the camera and tip toe out the back door cautiously glancing up at the neighboring rooftops, hoping against hope that I will find the feasting bird, but alas, the rooftops are empty. I am so mad at myself for not waiting to see. I’m so mad because it wasn’t the hawk but me that was stupid. My only consolation is a cute male Costa’s Hummingbird fluffed up in my Palo Verde tree soaking up the last rays of the setting sun.

I go to bed on Tuesday night under silent starry skies. No wind calls to me in the night and so I sleep peacefully. This morning the sun burst forth from behind Mt. Fagan briefly flooding my kitchen with light before the shadow of the patio roof cast my world into gloom again. I crank the temperature higher on my furnace, brew a cup of tea, and sit down to finish painting my Christmas card. (No, you can’t see it yet!)

Monday, December 7, 2009

My World: Tumacacori National Historic Park

Tumacacori Mission 11-5-09 photo by Kathie Brown w/Nikon D80

(all photos click to enlarge)

The Tumacacori Mission is part of Tumacacori National Historic Park. Located approximately 35 miles south of Tucson, AZ, it is the location of the 1800 Mission of San Jose de Tumacacori. The current ruin is all that remains of a 150 year attempt to establish a permanent Mission in the area. First started by Father Kino and the Jesuits in 1691 on the east bank of the Santa Cruz River, the mission was later moved to the west bank. When the Jesuits priest were expelled from New Spain as it was called in 1767 the Franciscans took over and in 1800 start to build the current church. Its overall designed was scaled back twice and in the end it was never completed. In 1848 the war with Mexico, Apache raids and the hard winter all delt fatal blows to the mission. In December of that year the solders finally abandoned the fort and the final residents left.

Entrance from the visitor center to the patio garden.

Patio Garden

My friend, Sherri 11-5-09

Looking back from inside the church towards the visitor's center.

Exit from the Sacristy

Mortuary chapel and graveyard behind the church.

The unfinished mortuary chapel.

In the walled area around the Mortuary chapel many locals were buried. When the mission was abandoned this area was used to corral cattle and horses. The graves were trampled or destroyed by weather, grave robbers and treasure hunters. In the 20th century some local families started to use the graveyard once again. According to the Tumacacori Interpretive Guide, 593 burials were recorded between 1755-1825. People who moved into the area around 1900 came to know the area as "Campo Santo" or "Holy Ground."

The last person ever buried at the mission...

...a little girl, Juanita T Alegria.

Her grave is maintained to this day and it is the only one that has been identified.

A view of the Mission and the convent from the east looking west.

It is a view which inspires art.

Yes, there are birds at Tumacacori. I saw many species as soon as I entered the patio garden. I counted broad-billed hummingbirds, vermilion flycatchers, all sorts of sparrows and others.

An Audubon's yellow-rumped warbler on a picnic table...

A.K.A. a butter butt!

...and that's MY World Tuesday

To see more photos from the Tumacacori Mission come back for the next posts:
  • Inside the Mission
  • Inside the Convent
  • Windows and doors of Tumacacori