SE Arizona

Patagonia and the surrounding area were simply incredible: Varied Buntings, Rose-throated Becards, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulets, Lucy's Warblers, Yellow-breasted Chats...  After I met up with Tom and we checked out of the motel, though, I felt I should limit my birding to mornings and do something more mainstream in the afternoon, that we could both enjoy.  I had noticed a brochure on Tombstone, and asked Tom if he wanted to go there.  He said, "Sure."

Tom with Morgan Earp, Tombstone We spent a few hours with the Earp brothers, had some ice cream, and we both had a pretty good time.  Afterwards, Tom seemed in a good enough mood that I coaxed him on a hike in the Huacachua Mountains.  We briefly hiked around that area and sighted a Magnificent Hummingbird, but little else.  It was too late in the afternoon for most birds, and too early for owls.  (Not that I was about to try and introduce Tom to the concept of "owling"..)

It almost was dark by the time we reached Bisbee, and all the motels and B&Bs were booked.  We were forced to continue on toward New Mexico, and the nearest town we found there had no accommodations at all.  The next town after that was 40 miles away, and had one motel that was opposite a truckstop.  We were not choosy by that point.

The next day was going to be my final last-ditch attempt to locate an Elegant Trogon, and possibly a Red-faced Warbler, in the Chiracahua Mountains.  After some discussion, Tom relented, and agreed to get up at 7am for the sole purpose of finding these two birds, after which we could go home.

I, of course, was already awake by 6am.  I lay there, obsessing over the time, when suddenly Tom rose.  He was heading for the bathroom!

In fact, he was merely going to the bathroom, but at the time, that detail was irrelevant.  I got up and started getting dressed.  I was alarmed to see Tom actually trying to return to bed.

"C'mon, let's go!  You're up!", I told him.

He looked puzzled.  "It's only 6 o'clock.  We agreed on 8."

"We agreed on 7, but so what?  You're already up!"

I couldn't win.  We did leave at 7, and after spotting a few neat things along the way, including Scaled Quail, we didn't get to the trogon spot until well past eight.  We were already being passed by busloads of people leaving, all birders.  I thought we might be too late.

When we got to the famous trail, we found it mobbed with people: some with cameras on tripods, some carrying cameras with huge lenses, all with binoculars.  Nobody had seen a trogon that day, although one guy said someone had seen a female the day before, and they're usually seen pretty close to the spot where he was standing. 

Knowing Tom would quickly grow tired of standing there, I suggested we just keep walking and look for other birds.  The riparian habitat was gorgeous, and all the other birders dissipated after the first 1/2 mile of the trail.  I spotted and photographed a Hepatic Tanager in the shrubbery, and there were lots of warblers in the bushes all around the creek.

I was pretty discouraged by this time.  This was the third potential trogon habitat we'd been to, and we hadn't even heard one.  We turned back to look for the Red-faced Warbler instead.  Returning, it seemed that no one had seen a trogon yet, and it had been around one or two hours since we had passed them the first time.

Red-faced Warbler The Red-faced Warbler was found at higher elevations.  Up there, the parking lot was deluged by blue lupines, and surrounded by huge pine trees.  I spotted some more familiar birds right away: a Dark-eyed Junco, a Stellar's Jay, a Western Tanager.  And sure enough: we hadn't hiked more than a few miles when a Red-faced Warbler popped out at us!

We started heading back to Tucson along an unpaved backroad.  That was a neat drive.  As we dropped in elevation, and the landscape transitioned from pine forest to scrub, animals kept running out in front of the car, including Coyotes, jackrabbits, and even a Ringtail. 

We made it back to Tucson and checked in to a chain motel near the town.  We walked into the lobby, and the girl behind the counter frowned and said, "What?!"

Tom hesitated, and replied, "We'd like a room?"

"Weren't you two just in here?"


"Oh."  She exhaled.  "You two look just like a couple who was just in here.  They were yelling at me about something, and I was thinking, 'What do they want now?'"

That was not a promising sign, but we were too tired to notice.

Gila Woodpecker We got a room, went up, and sat down to rest for a while.  I tried to have our flight changed to the morning, but there were no earlier flights. We would have to return on a 5:00pm flight, and would have many hours to kill.  I suggested we sleep in and then go to the Desert Museum.  This was another destination in the book, noteworthy because wild birds are attracted to the watering holes in the exhibits.

Moments later, we heard someone at our door.  And they were putting a key in our lock!  Huh? 

Tom got up and opened the door.  There was a couple standing there, and the man was holding a key with our room number on it!!

The clerk had checked another family into our room.  Just as we were thinking how lucky it was that we had been present at the time (and had not just gone to dinner and left all our stuff in the room), we heard them again.  This time, they were bringing their bags into the room immediately next to ours.

And then they plugged in their boombox.  And turned it up.  Way up.

We looked at the parking lot, and noticed exactly two cars in it.  Out of a hundred stalls. 

Tom went to the front desk and asked for another room.  It took some argument, but we got one.  I have to say, that clerk was a prophetess.  Somehow she knew we would have a complaint with her.  Hmm...

We spent the next day at the Sonora Desert Museum, and as predicted, there were Black-throated Sparrows, White-winged Doves, Gila Woodpeckers and Canyon Wrens hopping around among the many exhibits.  It was a fascinating place, and I especially enjoyed a walk-in aviary filled with hummingbirds. 

Afterwards, we headed out into the desert to look for birds - a pointless activity in the desert at midday, but we were killing time.  As the radio started playing Stravinsky, and as I leapt out of the car for the third or fourth time (this time to pursue a Ladder-backed Woodpecker), I turned back to see a look of abject pain on Tom's face as he waited for me, and realized we should just go to the airport.  Now would be a great time!

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