Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Come Visit me at Kathie’s Birds!


Follow this little Semi-palmated Plover over to my new blog

Kathie’s Birds

where you will read about my adventures in birding Plum Island in Massachusetts and other parts of New England and beyond, because, you see, I have moved away from Sycamore Canyon (at least for now).

Monday, October 18, 2010

Chapter 9 continued: Graham County and Lake Cochise


Down, down, down we travel, down out of the mountains, down to the farmland of Safford where fields of crops flow away to mountain edges. Safford is a small but quaint town. Over all of it towers Mount Graham like some benevolent god, his craggy head lost today in the clouds of rain. Our time is growing short. We take a quick drive through Roper Lake State Park. I count 12 species here including a gorgeous male hooded oriole. This is a place I would definitely like to come back to if there were time.

DSC_0158g Birds Seen At Roper lake SP:

Location: Roper Lake SP
Observation date: 8/1/10
Notes: We only had time for a quick drive into the park and out again. All species seen from car.
Number of species: 12
Mallard 12
Gambel's Quail 6
Turkey Vulture 3
White-winged Dove 2
Western Kingbird 1
raven sp. 2
Barn Swallow 2
Verdin 2
Common Yellowthroat 2
Black-throated Sparrow 6
Red-winged Blackbird 8
Hooded Oriole 1
House Sparrow 3
This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(


Other Birds seen in Various parts of Graham County:

  1. Turkey Vulture
  2. Rock pigeon
  3. White-winged dove
  4. Mourning dove
  5. Eurasian collared-dove
  6. Barn Swallow
  7. Northern Mockingbird
  8. Lark bunting
  9. Great-tailed Grackle
  10. House finch
  11. House sparrow

All together I saw 19 species of birds in Graham county on this day.

DSC_0068 In Wilcox we exit the highway to see what birds are hanging to at Lake Cochise near Twin Lakes Golf Course. It is a favorite birding area well known to people far and wide. On the road in I first find a killdeer wading in a puddle alongside the road…


…then I spot a Swainson’s Hawk resting on a utility pole.  It is on Gus’ side of the car, so I hand him the D80 which has the 70-300mm lens on it and he snaps the shots off. The Swainson’s seems unconcerned by our presence.

DSC_0080 Barn swallows 8-1-10


Western Kingbird 8-1-10

DSC_0085 Lesser scaup? 8-1-10

At first we do not see any birds on the water other than what looks like a lone scaup resting on some rocks, but then,

DSC_0191gas we start to travel the road that circles around the lake I find sandpipers and peeps. I am no good at shorebirds and all of these are in transition plumages.

DSC_0093 Wilson’s Phalaropes 8-1-10

I snap shot after shot hoping to figure it all out when I get home.

DSC_0097 DSC_0113 DSC_0122

I start to walk the dirt road while Gus is busy taking photographs.

DSC_0186g Lake Cochise 8-1-10

DSC_0217g Mountains and lake 8-1-10


Black-necked stilt in flight 8-1-10

In a distant pond I spot avocets and black-necked stilts. Then, as I am once again scanning the lake I see some birds with tiny heads spinning in the water across from me.

DSC_0233gNow I am getting excited! I have only seen this species one time before at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Utah. I am hoping these are what I think they are. I call excitedly to Gus, come and get me! We have to drive to the other side! I think I am seeing phalaropes!


Gus drives up and we round the bend to the other side. From this side we are closer and the setting sun is behind us giving me the best light. I see some other birders with cameras, bins and scopes. I am hoping they know more than I do about these birds so I walk over and introduce myself. I meet a woman named Linda Mack. She is from New Jersey and she has brought a birding tour here from there! She is able to enlighten me about the birds we are seeing. She tells me they are Wilson’s Phalaropes. She also had an Eared Grebe in her scope which she graciously lets me see. Then she tells me about the least and western sandpipers we are seeing. She also tells me there are Baird’s sandpipers in the mix. I have never seen a Baird’s so it would be a life bird for me but we keep talking and then some of her clients need her and I never get to see the Baird's. However, I have taken tons of photos. I can tell there are birds that are different from the others so I will upload my pictures and figure it all out later when I am home.


Gus and I drive away in the dusky light. We point our car west and follow the highway home for one last time. It has been a full day. Our hearts and minds and cameras are full of memories and photos. It will be hard to leave this place. There are so many places yet to explore but we have run out of time. I console myself with the fact that since I started this blog, almost all of those adventures are document here and I can read it for myself anytime. And perhaps someday when my kids are older and they start to wonder about their mother’s life, they will read this account also and know what their mother did in her “spare” time! Perhaps at least one of them will discover this passion for themselves.

DSC_0184 Avocets 8-1-10

My World Tuesday 

Location: Wilcox--Lake Cochise and Wilcox Golf Course
Observation date: 8/1/10
Notes: Met a woman named Linda Mack from New Jersey who was guiding a tour. She let me look through her scope. She was very nice and helpful.
Number of species: 12
Eared Grebe 1
Swainson's Hawk 1
Killdeer 6
Black-necked Stilt 4
American Avocet 5
Lesser Yellowlegs 1
Western Sandpiper 8
Least Sandpiper 5
Wilson's Phalarope 40
Western Kingbird 2
Barn Swallow 6
Great-tailed Grackle 3
This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(


(all pictures enlarge with a click)

Blogger’s Note: This is a post I tried to publish before I left but I ran out of storage in Picasa Web Albums.  I have now purchased more space and hope that this publishes when I press the button! If you are seeing this post then it worked!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Announcing my new blog: Kathie's Birds!

Hello Everyone!

What a trip it has been and there is still so much to do!  I have now moved over to my new blog,

Come visit me there and read about my further adventures in birding all across the USA!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Skywatch Friday: Windshield Sky

1. side window 2. cloud reflections 3. who's looking at you 4. Clouds 5. Greenlee county sky

Gus had fun with his camera under a Greenlee County Sky 8-1-10

Skywatch Friday

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Good-bye Chronicles: Chapter 10. Letting Go

There is an old story I like to tell myself whenever we have to move again. I told it to myself when we left Utah to move down here. Now I remind myself of it once again. I do not remember where I first heard it but it goes like this.

A man lived in the jungle and wanted to catch a monkey for a pet. So, he put a peanut in the bottom of a narrow necked bottle and tied it to a stake. When the troop of monkeys came by in the afternoon one of the younger monkeys saw the bottle gleaming in the sunlight with the peanut in its depths. The monkey ambled over to the strange object, examined it, and reached inside the bottle. Its leathery hand clasped the peanut tightly excited about his treasure. But, as the monkey tried to extract the peanut form the bottle he could not do it. With its hand clutching the peanut tightly its fist was too large to remove from the bottle. Yet, if the monkey let go, it would not have its treasure. So, the monkey held on and screamed in frustration. The man heard the commotion and came running with a net and captured the monkey. For the rest of its days the monkey lived in confinement because he would not let go.

For me, I see this as a parable for my life. I cannot have the next thing if I do not let go of what I already have. I will be held captive by what is instead of gaining my freedom to reach for what could be. Mentally I had been going through this exercise for days on end interspersed with tears and sweet longing. I looked around my yard at all the plants I planted. I sat in my hot tub and looked at my mesquite tree. It barely reached above the top of the 6 foot wall when we moved here 3 ½ years ago, now it provides towering shade to the yard and shelter for the birds. I can’t help but think of it as “MY” mesquite tree and I wonder if the new owners of my house will love it and cherish it like I do. From a brief moment I feel selfish. I do not want to share my mesquite tree with anyone else! But of course, it does belong here and I must let it go.

So it is Thursday, August 5 that I wake in the morning with an intense feeling of sadness. I wander about the house and yard doing my morning chores of watering and feeding birds and pets. I wander aimlessly from room to room looking at each room, each vista with sadness. I ask myself, why do I feel this way? I am ready to go. I am ready for the next adventure, the next phase of my life. I do feel that this is the right thing to do, so why am I feeling so sad? Then it hits me. I want to go with Gus.

Our original plan was for Gus to leave first while I stay behind to deal with the house. Gus leaves this Saturday morning and I am staying for another 10 days to 2 weeks to get the house ready to show and to transition my son and his family in to live here until the house sells, IF it sells. The housing market here has suffered a severe blow and if we can sell our house at all it will be far below what we paid for it. It has become the most stressful part of this move. Anyway, I planned on flying back east towards the end of August so I could see my brother before he heads back to Florida for the winter and to help Gus search for our new home on the east coast. Then, I would fly back here at the beginning of October and stay until the movers come to pack up our stuff. Then Gus and I would drive across country with our pets and our other car and I would leave for good.

At first I liked this idea and I thought about all the birding I could do and all the adventures I could have while Gus was gone and I was free to do as I pleased. But this morning it finally occurred to me that I just want to go with him. We have always made these transitions together. We have had so many adventures with all the moves we have made. I no longer want to stay here and wait. I want to go now! So, I formulate new plan and spring it on Gus when he calls. What if, I say, instead of waiting for me to move out there in November I can get one of our sons to drive with me across the country with our car and out pets and I came now and stay there now and we both just fly back here when it’s time to pack up the house? Gus says, wow! I like that idea. And so we have a new plan.

The rest of the day I while I am cleaning house and doing laundry I am also planning. I pose the idea to two of my three sons to see which one might be able to go on this adventure with me. I am full of excitement now and as I look out the windows at the birds peacefully feeding I realize that I am finally ready to take down my bird feeders and say good-bye to the birds of Sycamore Canyon.


Update 8-23-10: I had another post to publish before this one with lots of bird photos and I wanted to add bird photos to this post but I keep getting a 403 error message saying “forbidden.” I think this means I have exceeded my limit to photos on Picasa Web Albums.  I went to their site this morning but there is so much data to read through that I do not have time to figure all of this out right now.  I am getting ready to drive across the country with my vehicle and my pets this week.  My son, Chris, is flying in from Maine to make the drive with me. My son, G and his wife and my grandson Xavier are moving into our house to rent it until it sells.  If it sells.  We have not had one person come to look at the house yet.  To add to the stress, my youngest son, Alex, left for the war in Afghanistan last week. I need to get an oil change done on the car today.  So, I am posting this as my last post unless and until I can figure things out.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Good-bye Chronicles: Chapter 9. Carpe Diem/Greenlee County sparrowBlack-throated sparrow in Greenlee county 8-1-10 

Now, here is one of the hazards of my personality. As we blow past Wilcox and head north on route 191 I am starting to see so many birds along the roadway. I am so tempted to stop and when I discover that there are two state parks just south of Safford I want Gus to pull into them so we can count birds. But here is where he saves the day for he insists that we press on to Greenlee County first and then if we have time we can stop on our way back, so, on we go.

2. rest area

Route 191 takes a sharp turn east as we enter the town of Safford before turning north once again to Greenlee County. There are not a lot of towns on the map and this is the only road in this direction. Rolling hills covered in brush give way to distant mountains. I can still see ocotillo and prickly pear cactus scattered among the mountain grasses. The hills are getting steeper and closer together. We come to a junction of three highways. On eBird it is called Three Way. I see a rest area with signs for the Clifton Ranger Station. This looks like a promising place to count birds. As Gus turns the car around to head back to the spot I see my first birds in Greenlee County, a pair of mourning doves perched in a low tree.

3. clifton ranger district 58gThe road winds up past the rest area to the ranger station, which is closed. We get out and each of us starts looking for the thing that excites us.

4. gus taking pictures Gus is in pursuit of photos.

5.. Kathie watching birds 59g I am looking for birds.

7. Abandoned drive-in theater He spots an abandoned drive-in theater below and snaps away. I hear birds but where are they? I walk slowly towards the sound and find a black-throated sparrow singing from the top of a bush.

6. turkey Vulture In the distance I see turkey vultures, then a few more mourning doves fly by. That’s it. These are all the birds I see. We are here for half an hour, but this is all I see. As I am walking to the car finally a lone barn swallow flies by. I now have 4 species of birds counted in Greenlee County.

8. Canyons We could have turned back at this point but we press on. I want to count more birds and we both want to see what lies ahead. We follow route 191 north as it winds its way upwards. The road is getting ever steeper, the hills are closing in. We cross deep canyons on high bridges with names like Cougar Canyon and Rattlesnake Canyon. I gaze far below me as we cross the low edged bridges. Suddenly we are climbing a steep hill and as we reach its crest and start down the small “town” of Clifton is revealed in the crevice of the earth.

8. clifton 0075g Low gray houses like blocks sit on perched on the edges of steps or terraces carved into the mountainside. I realize that we are entering a mining town and these must be the company houses. Each one sits check to jowl with the other and under the currently cloudy skies all looks bleak and gloomy. How does anyone live like this? This place is so remote. It is hours from anywhere and crammed in this narrow canyon. Each house looks exactly like the other. There is no variety, no creativity. All is about function and making money.

11. San Franciso river_0081g The road levels out at the bottom of the town where the San Francisco River flows through the town. I do not know if it flows all the time but today it is brimming its banks. Railroad tracks cut though the town running parallel with the main street.

9. Road to park We find a little park tucked into the cleft of the mountain and pull in to park. 10. Park_0082g The river flows by along the street and an iron railroad bridge crosses the river. Once again Gus is out taking photos while I count birds.

The river’s edge is lined thickly with willows and brush. I can hear a few birds but they are difficult to see in all the greenery. A white-winged dove flies into a branch overhead but takes off when it spots me. I think I can hear some kind of flycatcher but I do not see it and I am unsure of its call. I think I hear the “cheer, cheer, cheer” of a cardinal but I want to see it first to count it and it never appears. The sky overhead has grown black with thick clouds, a light shower is starting to fall.

12. Railroad bridge_0086g Gus has crossed the bridge on the road to photograph the railroad bridge from the other side. 13. Clifton bridge 0083g 14. Bridge n river_0087g 15. two bridges_0094g

Suddenly the light shower turns into a downpour and I bolt for the car! Gus has no protection for his camera and I know he will not be able to get back here fast enough.

16. old building_0103g I can only hope he is seeking shelter near one of the abandoned buildings as I jump in and start the engine and head across the bridge as fast as I can. I see him hunched and walking swiftly towards an old building as I round the bend and beep my horn at him. I pull into the gravel parking lot nearby and he jumps into the car. He grabs some napkins to dry off his camera and then he holds it in front of the blowers.

17. Morenci_0115g From here we continue upwards to the town of Morenci. The sun has emerged once again as we park the car in this small town. This town must be older and newer. Homes are carved in to the cliffs. They are of varying styles and in various locations. We find a grocery store, a medical clinic, schools, gas stations and shopping centers. Little parks are tucked in everywhere and we even find a town pool. It feels a bit different here than in Clifton but looming over everything is the ever present copper mine. There are not a lot of birds here, but I find another black-throated sparrow. It seems they are everywhere along with mourning doves, white-winged doves and Eurasian collared doves. These species along with turkey vultures and barn swallows are all the species I find in Greenlee country except for a lone Cassin’s Kingbird. That is it. Oh, and a few house sparrows here at this corner where we have stopped.

Once again we get back in the car and head upwards. Now the road runs straight through the heart of the mine. It climbs numerous steep switchbacks through terraces of ochre, red, green and silver streaked earth. The colors of the rocks are amazing, but all is barren desolation around me. I see a turkey vulture searching the steep cliff sides and wonder what he could possible find to eat. This is certainly a place to die but you have to be able to live here first! We reach the crest of the mountain and we are both stuck by a stark contrast. On one side of the road the huge Coppermine drops into a multi- colored and multi-layered pit where trucks larger than a house haul chunks of rock away to be processed and dumped.

21. Mine _0125g  23. Mine_0131g  25. Mine_0134g 26. Mountains_0135g The mine is on the right side of us as we are heading north, but on our left is a spot with unspoiled landscape, rolling hills, mountain peaks, and rocky crags. It all tumbles away into a gorgeous vista.

22. Mountains_0128g

24. Mountains_0129g

I cannot help but think to myself, who saw all this beauty and said, let’s dig this up! I know I know, I am not a business man or a miner but really, is this worth it? How long will it take for this land to heal when and if they ever stop extracting these minerals? As if to emphasize the difference in our opinions and what we value we drove just a mile or two farther up the road where a sign is posted for a “Scenic view”.

27. Scenic view_0147g We drive into the Scenic View parking lot where there is a Ramada for shade and gaze down into the depths of the mine. Behind us the unscathed landscape tumbles away to the horizon.

After leaving the Scenic View we drive a few miles more to the edge of the mine. It is now almost 3 p.m. and we realize we have to turn back. Out of curiosity I reset the car’s trip meter to see how many miles of road are within the boundaries of the mine. It takes us 20 minutes to cover the 12 miles of road from border to border. I have no idea just how wide this mine is, but it sure does take up a big chunk of the landscape.

Birds Seen In Greenlee County 8-1-10

  1. Turkey Vulture
  2. Eurasian Collared-dove
  3. Mourning Dove
  4. White-winged dove
  5. Cassin’s Kingbird
  6. Barn Swallow
  7. Black-throated sparrow
  8. House sparrow