Wednesday, February 29, 2012


We began our bird walk on a marked trail, climbing a rocky point and then descending to a flat marshy area.  It was 9 a.m. and chilly.  We found ducks immediately enjoying the water.

I named this spot “golden pond”.  These ducks are common in Arizona but do not show up in many bird identifying websites I looked into. 
A family of  mallards off in the distance.

The birding area  follows the marsh and Sonoita creek. The trees look dead.  Tangled brush and leaves cover the ground. Paths run off in every  direction. We found the woods full of birders. We knew to be quiet and only spoke to people in a whisper. If we met people ahead of us, we would change directions and choose another path to allow each couple quiet space of their own.
And, we did see birds. Lots of them. We don’t know their names but found their voices filling the woods enjoyable. We would stop often and listen, then try and locate the bird from the sound.

I’m better at identifying plants and enjoyed a taste of watercress. It grew prolifically along Sonoita Creek.

Whether we saw birds or didn’t, we enjoy walking in the woods and always find something of interest.  Someone built a cairn.

Is this a natural rock formation?  Or man-made, we wondered.

We happened upon this old, gnarled giant growing horizontally from the bank.  Sonito Creek once poured through here and this tree hung over the water.

The bark was beautiful and shaggy.

From that angle, it is hard to believe  the main  trunk can  hold up several heavy trunks and it’s  crown.

Mushrooms slowly eating away at dead wood.

Sonito Creek winds like a snake through this preserve and I crossed it several times on make-shift bridges.

The most colorful bird we saw was the vermillion flycatcher. I was surprised the picture turned out as good as it did considering our equipment and how fast this little guy moved from place to place.  We saw warblers and flickers and a small flock of silver winged, green and yellow breasted birds so exquisitely tiny, flitting about in the trees as though purposely putting on a show.

With my camera, if I can get close enough, the result is decent as this little crested fellow, one out of probably seven or eight tries.

And I got two credible pictures of this noisy fellow.

We could see he was calling to a mate, or prospective mate. While in the woods we met a birder with a camera mounted on a heavy mono pod with multiple lenses three feet long. The end lens was about 10 inches in diameter. Now, that is birding equipment. Fascinating stuff. I asked if I could take his picture and he turned his back on me an walked off. I guess some birders are as illusive as their quarry.

Bet he didn’t get a picture of this cowbird!!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Before leaving Nogales yesterday morning, we stopped at a truck stop for a lube and oil change on the motor home. Jim measured the pit before pulling in to make sure the Bronco on the back could be pulled over the pit. The width of the Bronco was fine.

But, as we tried to pull out, the Bronco’s oil pan would not pass one piece of equipment in the pit and had to be removed anyway. It was a good try, anyway.

I’d heard everyone talk of Patagonia Lake as a beautiful State Park. It was a cold, windy gray day. The mesquite trees don’t have their leaves yet and the scenery looks like the aftermath of a forest fire. Beautiful was not the adjective I’d have chosen for this area. It has a reputation as a birding paradise and there were plenty of crows hanging around.

We took a walk to look the park over.  The lake has a designated swimming area cordoned off. Every campsite  and a generous group picnic area is roofed over from the sizzling Arizona summer sun.  Water is scarce here. I began to get a feel for what this lake must mean to people who live in the surrounding areas.

The campgrounds weren’t full but there were a number of rigs and two tent campers, but not a boat on the lake. We spotted a single fisherman casting his line.

In shallow spots, cat tails grew in abundance and rock lined the opposite shore.

We came to a steep wooden walk-over bridge. Delightful. It was meant to allow sailboats under it.

From the top of the bridge, you can see the lake has a lot of character. On the other side of the bridge is a point with a telescope mount to view the area mountains or boaters below.

Huge layered boulders provide a great place to catch some sun or dive into the water below, although a sign says “No Diving”.

I circled around and discovered this nice marina with rental paddle-boats, kayaks, canoes and fishing boats. Not available just then because the visitors center is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays during the “off” season.

Then I saw this sign and got a new respect for the “beauty” of  Patagonia Lake. No jet-skis, personal watercraft or water exhausted boats, jet-boats at anytime on this lake nor ski boats on weekends or holidays. Oh, what a treat to enjoy a weekend away on this lake without the motors and noise intruding.  Beauty isn’t always beheld by the eyes alone. This lake is a lovely jewel in the desert.

Then I met Eileen and Bob, both avid birders and volunteers at this park every year. Another couple work here as volunteers for six months staying in their 5th wheel and then spend the other six months on their boat. Eileen told me there was a bass tournament with 70 boats in the water over the weekend. They  assist with these events.  Eileen and Bob  take people on bird walks every Wednesday, too late for us. They told me where to go to see birds and showed me a picture of an elegant trogon. They had seen the elegant trogon nearly every day on their own walks.
I looked up the trogon and found wonderful information on-line including the sound they make at this site:
So, today we walk and hope to see Arizona’s most famous and sought after bird.
I took 25 pictures if you’d like to see more:

Monday, February 27, 2012


Yesterday was a chores day, the washing, shopping, getting ready to move to a new location. Nogales has been a nice stay and I went over some of my pictures, thinking how much I’ve enjoyed Southern Arizona. The old 1914 Courthouse (above) where we happened upon the Arizona Rangers. I took this picture of their beautiful chandelier.

And the museum had so much to see.

Indian artifacts were very prominent here. Basket making is always done with materials at hand. The docent told us that devils claw is used to make the contrasting dark color in the baskets. When someone asked how they used such prickly materials for weaving, she said the people pull the strands through there teeth to remove the stickers. Kind of makes you appreciate those baskets a bit more.

The Indians originally had cotton. They didn’t get wool until the Spanish came with sheep. But, they had colorful clothing and beautiful blankets either way.

Into Nogales, Sonora, the fun goods and some practical goods as well. These tiles are beautiful.

There is a story I once heard about the popularity and meaning of the skeleton figure in hispanic cultures, but I’ve forgotten it.

Then those exciting bucking broncos of a few days back.

It gives your heart a tumble if the rider goes flying off that bronc.

All the riders get tossed off the bulls. Bigger, bulkier, more muscles.  More danger. They now wear helmets for bull riding.

We are parked on top of a hill at a VFW.

We had a lovely breeze every day and a view of the city lights each night.

Jim fixed my bike’s flat tire. I picked up a thorn my last day in San Xaviar. I couldn’t ride here, anyway. The hill is super steep.

Standing at the edge of the driveway, you are unable to see the bottom of the hill. If was an interesting pull up with the motor home and Bronco. We never get our fill of Mexican food, but we try.  Yesterday, after the laundry, we ate at a small  family owned restaurant called El Zarape right across the main drag from us. I ordered a combination plate, something I rarely do, but the enchilada sauce was unique. Obviously home made. The chicken taco had an unusual spice I couldn’t identify. Hey, I like it that way. Surprise me.
Today, we’ll move to Patagonia State Park.  Everyone says it is beautiful.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Thanks to Arizona Ranger, Ed Suckley, I had my fifth border crossing. We had heard horrible tales about how dangerous this crossing was and Jim was reluctant to go there with  the recent drug wars and problems. Ed put him at ease and assured us that a tourist  crossing into Nogales, Sonora, Mexico for an afternoon was as safe  as in Nogales, AZ, US. He even recommended a nice restaurant. Ed had a Boston accent and I got a kick out of listening to he and Jim reminisce about familiar experiences back in Massachusetts. And Ed's story of how he came to be an Arizona Ranger after living pretty much all of his life on the East Coast? He was still kind of stunned it seemed that he and his wife had made an enormous change in their lives, were warned about living in an "awful" place like Nogales, and they both love it.

Ed's partner, Ernesto, explained to me how the Rangers work and how much they enjoy this volunteer job.  The rangers were formed in 1901 to combat cattle rustling and wild lawlessness. They did such a good job, they were abolished in 1909. This small museum in the Old County Courthouse is where they preside.

The rangers, reformed into a volunteer group in 1957, still carry colts like those the old-timers used. Between 1901 and 1909, the official rangers only numbered 26 men,  a grizzly bunch who preferred to go about their business operating as cowpokes. Here is a description of them from a newspaper article in 1942:

A colorful part of the old west is now a colorful part of the new west. The current rangers are a legal law enforcement assistant organization. Ernesto explained that their volunteer services probably save the State of Arizona a million dollars a year. When they are not called upon to help the Border Patrol, the Sheriff's Department or other law agencies, they hold two major fund-raisers that raise money for charities that benefit children.  They are deputized and legal law enforcement assistance. There is a lot of history in this little room. They have a website with several short links at :

We left the Courthouse and stopped in to the Pimeria Alta Historical Society Museum. The building is chock full of good stuff. A large collection of wonderful old black and white photos. All volunteer run, no charge, they ask for (and need) a donation. The highlight here was the docent who explained how the local Indian lands stretch across the border but she now has to have a passport to enter her native lands on the other side of a fence. It was quite an education to learn that the names applied to Indian peoples, such as Pima, Yaqui, and others I didn't retain, all mean nothing or nothingness. When invaders arrive in your land, you tell them nothing. Eventually, they are working on getting their true Indian tribal names changed.

Herman "Ace" Lawson, a Nogales resident, was a Tuskegee Airman and wrote a book about his experiences. He was scheduled to speak at the Museum but we left before he arrived, headed for the border.

This is the only crossing I've made where you can actually see Mexico and the fence that divides residents that used to move freely between cities as neighbors. It serves its purpose of keeping aliens from crossing but also keeps animals that one time used territory in both countries from crossing. It seems offensive to me, like the Berlin wall.  I haven't read the link about this fence but Jim has a link to it in his blog.

We walked through the gates. I've crossed at Tijuana, San Luis, Algodones, Las Palomas and now Nogales.

Normally,  we eat at a hole in the wall "joint" when we've visited Mexico, so this was quite a change.  The beautiful lobby of the Hotel Fray Marcos De Niza.

The food was good and economical, and the comfort was more like home. But, we kind of missed the charm of  the hole in the wall "joints".

Nogales, Sonora is a much more "westernized"  city; obviously more affluent. The town is huge and is the major port for truck shipping into the U.S.

We stopped and looked into this 122 year old church.

A beautiful stained glass window.

And yes, the boulevards were modern, but we still found those junky alleys with all that fascinating "stuff" I like to see.  I love doing it, but never buy since we have so little room to carry anything in the motor home.

A fun day.