Sunday, May 25, 2014

May 24 (Day 144) - Patagonia arrival, Violet-crowned hummingbird!

Today I moved west from the Huachucas to the more riparian confines of Patagonia. The day actually started out at Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista where Ron Beck and I chased an apparently absent Sinaloa wren. Ron originally found this bird in September of 2013 on his Cochise County Green Big Year, and at the time it represented only the third North American record of this Mexican species. The bird has remained in the same, relatively small area until recently. How recently you might ask? Well, as far as we can ascertain, the last confirmed sighting of the wren was on May 18 (about a week ago). Unfortunately, it looks as though I was about a week late for this bird. This is how birding goes; You get lucky sometimes, and at other times you spend hours searching for birds that have since moved on. It like a treasure hunt where the X can move around. That's what makes it fun! As a consolation prize, I was able to add Harris's hawk (#443) en route to Fort Huachuca. The wren would have been an incredible bird to add to the year list, but it was certainly not one on which I was banking.

Me, Janet (Ron's wife), Ron before we pedaled off 
to the fort this morning

Harris's hawk on nest

Sulfur-bellied flycatcher at Fort Huachuca

After Fort Huachuca, I resumed my ride to Patagonia. Patagonia is a tiny town that lies on Sonoita Creek to the west of the Huachucas and to the southeast of the Santa Rita mountains. This riparian creek attracts all sorts of birds, including and most notably for my purposes Thick-billed kingbird, Northern beardless-tyrannulet, and Abert's towhee. I will spend a day or two in this area searching for these and other species.

72 miles today - legs felt good!

Santa Rita Mountains from the road. I saw my 
first Grasshopper sparrow of 2014 along this road today. 
I heard several in central Texas about 3 weeks ago.

Among the many attractions in the Patagonia region, few rival the popularity of the Paton's Hummingbird Haven. Originally the home of Wally and Marion Paton, the property was acquired in 2014 by the Tucson Audubon Society (TAS) after the death of the couple. Since the 1970's this has been the absolute best spot in North America to see the very beautiful Violet-crowned hummingbird. For nearly 40 years, the Patons kept the hummingbird feeders full and welcomed visitors from around the world to their yard to share the local birds. Since TAS acquired the property, caretakers Larry and Annita have continued the bird feeding tradition. I arrived around 2pm and immediately grabbed a chair under the tent to relax and wait for the much anticipated arrival of a Violet-crowned hummingbird (they are seen here daily). While waiting, I tacked on Abert's towhee for year bird #444. After about 30 minutes, a Violet-crowned hummingbird (#445) appeared and posed nicely for some photos. It returned many times over the course of the late afternoon to the great pleasure of the assembled crowd! There were all sorts of other birds in the yard, and I have included a few additional photos of some of them.

Paton's backyard feeders

Viewing tent after everyone had cleared out

TA-DA! Violet-crowned hummingbird (#445)

Summer tanager

Gila Woodpecker

Gambel's quail in nice light!

I will spend tomorrow birding the Patagonia area as well. I will head towards the Santa Rita mountains on Monday after the the long holiday weekend quiets down. Just a few more Southern Arizona species to collect!


  1. The Arizona Office of Tourism should support your adventure with all the nice advertising (pictures, observations) you're doing. Seriously, because of your blog, I am planning a birding trip there for next year probably! ;)

  2. FWIW, we saw the Kingbird at the rest stop just north? of the state park about a week ago.