My interest in birds started in January 2013, when we first camped at Patagonia Lake State Park. During that visit, I joined a guided bird walk and soon became a bird enthusiast. Now I search for new birds on my own, an activity I find very relaxing. It’s often a challenge to identify them, but I enjoy trying after photographing them in their environment.
The small town of Patagonia is home to the Sonoita Creek State Natural Area and Paton Center for Hummingbirds, and just a few miles from Patagonia Lake State Park. The area is known for its diversity of birds and other wildlife, so I was full of anticipation when we decided to revisit the area.
Birding is a major draw for visitors at Patagonia Lake, which also attracts lovers of water sports, fishing, hiking and more. We had reserved a site for a week and a half, but we cut it short due to noise and dust coming from a construction project directly across the street from our site. Also, the place is just too crowded and noisy these days, nothing like we remember it being on our first visit.
But before we bailed out we explored the area, hiked at the Sonoita Creek National Preserve and of course I enjoyed some birding time. I was hoping to see the elusive Elegant Trogon, but was disappointed to learn that the last sighting of it was over a year ago. Seeing the bird would have been the highlight of our stay. I was initially bummed, but happy that I was fortunate enough to see it during our first visit (here is a photo).
During a stop at the visitor center I heard a twittering outside and hurried out to see two Rufous Hummingbirds chasing each other around. This tiny brilliant orange bird is extremely territorial, attacking any other hummingbirds approaching “his” feeder. He makes one of the longest migratory journeys known for a bird his size, from Alaska to Mexico!
After that excitement and getting our permit to hike at Sonoita Creek Preserve, we drove to the trailhead. The highlight of our hike was a 360º view of the surrounding mountains during a 2-mile trek along the permanent flow of Sonoita Creek and the floodplains adjacent to the stream. It was a quiet and scenic hike interspersed with many chirping birds – our kind of outing!
Betsy’s site was near the park’s birding trail, and every day we saw dozens of birders with their binoculars and photographers with their long and huge cameras walking by. I had easy access to the trail and went during quiet times.
One of the things I love about birding is the surprise factor – I never know what’s around the next bend or hiding in nearby bushes. I always get excited and grab my camera when I hear a tweet, a chirp, a whistle or a song. And correctly identifying my “target” is an added bonus. Although I don’t keep a “bird list”, I do have a collection of photos from all of the states we’ve visited. This post contains just a few of the small birds I sighted in this area; my complete bird photo collection is here.
Another place in this area to enjoy a wonderland of birds is the Paton Center for Hummingbirds. A camera, binoculars and patience are all you need to experience many birds unique to southern Arizona, both locals and migrants. It was here that I sighted several new and beautiful hummers.
After a week of enjoying all of these beautiful little birds, we moved on to De Anza RV Park in Amado. That made it easy to revisit Madera Canyon and the artsy town of Tubac (here is my post on our previous visit).
Madera Canyon is another well-known birding spot, and the Elegant Trogon had been sighted here recently. Once again my hopes were high as we headed out early one morning for a good 6+ mile hike and the chance to see this beautiful birdie.
Steve and I kept our ears and eyes open as we hiked, but although we saw several birds we did not spot the Elegant Trogon. After the hike we stopped at Santa Rita Lodge, another birding hotspot in the canyon. There were many birds entertaining the crowd there, but not the one we were hoping to see. Instead, another hummer zoomed up to me and stopped for a quick pose before zipping away.
Overall I was a happy photographer, with lots of treasured shots of native and migrating species of birds in Patagonia and Madera Canyon!
As we prepared to head back to Tucson, a brief winter storm dumped snow in the nearby mountains, and also some sleet and snow flurries at our campground. It was beautiful to see, but not no safe to drive in so we requested and got permission to stay a couple of extra hours until it moved on.
Driving along Hwy 19 we could see surrounding mountains covered in snow, what a beautiful morning it was!