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Southeast Arizona, August 2002

Part 2:  Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge

Boy, what an adventure the next day: my original plan was to bird Ruby Road to Arivaca Cienega, so I made a dry run the previous night from the start of the dirt road to the motel in Nogales just to see how much time I'd need to get there; there was a pretty good little river going across the road at one point that I figured would be calm by morning, but when I got up it was still raining, so I chickened out and drove all the way up to Arivaca Road and went in that way, deciding to do Buenos Aires NWR first and then hit as much of Ruby Road as I could.

Arrived at Arivaca Cienega around six, so I was still in good time to enjoy this two mile loop; while the rain had let up, it was still overcast, and was surprised by the amount of mosquitoes I had to fend off! The birding was great, though: Common Ground Doves zipped around, and the Gray Hawk was still on that big tree out in the middle of noplace, as though he's been glued there year after year! But as I sat and enjoyed him something even more exciting twittered and fluttered on a branch near him: a Tropical Kingbird! A pair of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks flew in at this stop as well.


Left and center:  "Gray Hawk Tree" with a blow-up of the hawk; you can just make out the banding on the tail.  Right:  Fuzzy Yellow-breasted Chat


Scenes along the Arivaca Cienega Nature Trail

Going around the loop I couldn't help but think of all those poor people at Sonoita Creek Preserve beating their heads against the trees trying to see a chat: here they all seemed to want to sit on the very tops of the trees, and in the dead branches yet! (I quit counting at six...) Summer Tanagers called all over, but had a great look at a male Hepatic Tanager after hearing one call like a Hermit Thrush, and yet another pair of Tropical Kingbirds fluttered overhead! A Roadrunner "sang" unseen, but evidently its mate had an unfortunate appointment with a predator, as one was sprawled dead on the boardwalk. They also must have had quite the storm, as the boardwalk was littered with quite a bit of dead grass and other debris. Heard more Tyrannulets and actually got to see a Bell's Vireo this time. The pond was full of reeds and Red-winged Blackbirds; no water that I could see, nor did any rails vocalize while I was there.

Another local birder was there as well, and we kept leap-frogging; at the grasslands he had spotted a (surprise surprise) Grasshopper Sparrow singing, and pointed it out to me. We enjoyed a family of Dusky-capped Flycatchers in the mesquite area as well. Bewick's Wrens were just as friendly as at Sonoita Creek.

Headed over to Arivaca Creek after that, adding a handful of things to the day list, including Hooded Oriole and a couple of noisy Thick-billed Kingbirds. Another Vermilion Flycatcher showed off nicely here. I saw what I'm pretty sure was a Brown-crested Flycatcher (awfully big schnozz), but he didn't vocalize for me (although there were plenty around doing that). A nice Lucy's Warbler came in to pishing on the way back.

Net stop was the refuge proper, and driving in to headquarters had both Botteri's and Cassin's Sparrows singing (had a nice look at the former) and at the headquarters enjoyed the Black-chinned Hummer wars at the feeders. The lady on duty sent me back to Grebe Pond to check out the new blind, but the pond was non-existent, so I just decided to continue on one of their many dirt roads criss-crossing the refuge (it used to be a ranch). Had an adorable family of Gambel's Quail on the way out there, and lots of Mockingbirds singing in the grassland. Another surprise were several sporadic flocks of Lark Buntings bouncing around, giving their soft whit calls! I think of them as more of a winter-time bird here, but they do arrive in August, I guess. The place was also Western Kingbird heaven: scanning the grassland at one point I must have had at least 20 birds at once!


Gambel's Quail family


Some of the many dirt roads that transect the refuge (an old ranch), with the Baboquiveri Mountains in the background.  With all the monsoons, the roads got a little treacherous!

That was the end of the "real" birding for the day, however: the lady warned me that the roads were bad, and for the most part we made it fine, but just a quarter of a mile from Arivaca Road was one muddy stretch wherein I suffered a cocky attack of "This is a Subaru--he can do anything!!" Well. Five hours later the tow truck finally showed up from Green Valley (the lady at the headquarters sounded rather exasperated, as though to say, "I told you it was bad!!"), but I was thankful that a) it was overcast the whole time and pleasantly cool, b) the monsoons were doing their thing on either side of me and not on me, c) my cell phone hung in there through numerous calls to AAA that nearly killed the battery, d) some concerned cowboys put in an alert to the Border Patrol, who made sure I was okay until the truck got there! By the time we got out of there everyone was covered with mud! Boy, did I learn my lesson (although the tow truck guy thinks I coulda gotten out on my own--sunk down to the axles, I don't think so! This mud was so bad there were tadpoles swimming in it!!) Actually, he pointed out that I probably could have just driven around, as there were faint tire marks where others had done just that!


Left:  What happens when you get too cocky (even if it is a Subaru...)!  Right:  After a five-hour wait, the tow-truck finally arrives...


(...having "AWD" does you absolutely no good once you’re stuck, by the way...)  The tow truck kid admonished me to "Hurry and snap the picture before the mud falls off the wheel!"


Monsoon bearing down on the area...

But I knew there had to be a reason for all this: a couple of times I felt kinda weepy, but the Lord seemed to gently say, "It's okay; I'm here! Quit beating yourself up!" But when the kid finally got there and we had a time getting Jip pulled out (I had the camera and at one point he said, "Quick! Get one of all the mud on the tires before it falls off!"), I overheard someone talking on the CB about someone "on oxygen", and it turned out to be the owner's 22 year old grandson who was in a terrible wreck and was hanging on for dear life. So I thought that maybe that was the reason God brought us together, so I could pray for that kid and his family.  (I should have gotten a phone number to follow up on it...)

Driving up highway 286 to Tucson had some nighthawks batting over the freeway; based on the info in the bird-finding guide, I'm assuming Lesser around here unless told otherwise... Stopped at a Chevron out in the middle of noplace where a nice man with minimal teeth hosed Jip down real good and got most of the mud off him!

Continue to Saguaro National Park

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