The night before, we had seen a Starbucks near our motel and headed there early the next morning, but it had disappeared. Weird, since we had both seen it; however, we never did find it. We asked and were told there were no "freestanding" Starbucks in Sierra Vista. Hmmm.....
But there were three in either a Safeway or Target. The line at the nearest was long, and we were on a mission, so left and headed for Huachuca Canyon only to be stopped by the local police for not "coming to a complete stop when turning out of a commercial establishment." Yeah...It was a friendly lady cop who gave me a warning and then talked to us at least 10 minutes about using the "east entrance" to the base, about hummingbirds in her yard, about this and that, while we were itching to move on, but really what could we do but listen politely since she had the power here. And it was probably worth it as we buzzed right through the east gate, although while waiting for the few cars ahead of us, we wondered why extremely loud rap music was allowed at the checkpoint. It surely didn't seem proper and military. As we drove up to the soldier who was checking cars through, he shook his head at us, and I asked "What???" wondering what now? (as I was in the misdemeanor mode) and he motioned to the motorcyclist just ahead of me who had been playing the music. It made sense since it was palpably loud and not something the Army would sanction, I'm sure.
We got coffee on the base and went up to the trailhead in Huachuca Canyon. My helpful birder friend had told us to be there by 8:00, and we were, along with another small vehicle with an older couple, the guy carrying a tripod and long lens. They were from Alaska, had seen trogons every time they came to this spot and were now headed farther up the canyon to see and hopefully photograph other uncommon birds. He said we had a 99% chance for the trogon and showed us a tree branch where they nest. He then quickly disappeared up the trail, and his wife (with a cane), moved more slowly. We first had to cross a small creek and then look for a sycamore.
|The Trogon Road in Huachuca Canyon - AZ|
These mountain canyons with Arizona sycamores (Plantanis wrightii) are some of the most beautiful places I've seen out west. The trees are whitish and huge with grand gnarled branches; trogons nest in this habitat. I had the urge to keep hiking up the canyon to see what I could see, but the texts from Deborah kept coming and, really, what choice did I have? keep walking or see an Elegant Trogon? or two? or three?
|Elegant Trogon painting in emporium in|
Bisbee. DHC has real-time photos. My
camera had dead batteries.
We returned to the base of the canyon where we had birded the night before and found a dozen people with binoculars. I immediately saw a Painted Redstart across the creek. (DHC had seen this gorgeous bird at San Pedro yesterday, but not a very satisfactory sighting.) This one was in the shadows of the creek bank, a bright red, black and white bird that was a stunning contrast to the leaf duff where it flitted and foraged.
I met a woman from Pentwater, Michigan, a serious birder in search of a couple of lifers up canyon, but also interested in the trogons, although she had seen them. She was a serious lister and had an Alaskan birding trip scheduled in the near future. We found a Dusky-capped Flycatcher (life bird x2 for us), and the Hepatic Tanager from the night before showed again, whereupon DNC alerted the group, who all immediately came en masse to see it as it moved through the canopy.
Two birders were on a Sinoloa Wren stake-out right here and, with patience (involving hours of sitting in camp chairs), it is often seen, but we moved on, leaving this wonderful place.
|Birding Huachuca Canyon - AZ|
We ate lunch (again OG leftovers) in the parking lot under trees with noisy Great-tailed Grackles. I called the kind gentleman who had helped us, and he told me that my call telling of our success and thanking him "made my day." His wife, who answered the phone, told me he had been "wondering" about us.
Sierra Vista is also the town that has a Blue Horizon Motel...photos were sent to FB for the cousins.
Finally we were ready to leave this town and drive the hour to Patagonia. The thing here is the yard of a house lately owned by people named Paton. For 35 years, they fed birds and their home became a destination for birders:
It all started with a bird at a feeder in Patagonia.The elder Patons have both died but left this legacy, delighting travelers from all over the world.
When Wally and Marion Paton looked out and saw a violet-crowned hummingbird in their backyard some time in the 1970s, they probably didn’t realize that this little bird was going to make the couple famous, at least in the birdwatching world. And they probably didn’t think that this encounter would ultimately lead to ownership of their modest ranch house and five acres being turned over to the Tucson Audubon Society.
We did see the Violet-crowned Hummingbird, along with 20-30 other species in the couple of hours we were there. It's interesting at these places, as birders of all abilities congregate. The more knowledgeable quietly call out: "Zone-tailed Hawk at 2:00" or "Abert's Towhee in the brush pile under the window" or "Lazuli on feeder #22" or "Lesser Goldfinch at the water feature." There were tables and chairs in the shade and a box of birding guides available. Larry, the gentleman who is now the caretaker of the property and lives in the Paton home was there also (as he had been on the three consecutive days I visited earlier this year) and often spotted birds we would have missed. He seemed a gentle man with his native Mississippi accent and modest demeanor. Part of the property is getting spruced up with trails and delineated parking spaces but mostly it's just a back yard in a tiny southern Arizona town.
On the way to Nogales, we made a short stop at the Patagonia rest area, a half-mile pull-through along the main route.
|Patagonia Rest Stop - Patagonia, AZ|
Nogales is a border town and not particularly lovely. Careful not to inadvertently get on the road to Mexico, we navigated the busy streets trying to find a place to eat...which we eventually found in a restaurant adjacent to a newly renovated motel and only two blocks from where I had made a Priceline reservation. Or so I thought.
We both noticed and commented on how nice the motel was as we left after good Mexican food and margaritas. When I checked into our motel, and after much consternation on my part when it appeared we had no reservation (and which I could not prove on my phone because it was totally dead and which did not want to charge even though I tried in the motel office), the nice Hispanic man at the desk gave me a discount. However, an hour later, after we were well settled in a marginal room and my phone was charged, I took it to the office to show I was right, except I wasn't. I had the motel name wrong; we were supposed to be in the less expensive, nicer-by-far motel where we had eaten dinner. Damn!
DHC joked that we could just walk there in our pajamas and sleep....which we almost seriously considered when a family was checking in and their every move heard through the thin walls and cracks in the door. Of course, I was chagrined and pissed.