For the Birds

20150112_160310Did anyone out there read the book, or see the movie The Big Year?  (book only, for me).  It records the quest of three birders vying for the title Birder of the Year, awarded to the individual who sights the most different species of birds in a single calendar year.  It’s a wonderful, informative, and entertaining book.

Why do I mention this?  Because all three of the contenders in the book traveled to Patagonia to advance their bird counts.  It is Bird Central here – I nearly felt guilty for taking up a spot in Patagonia Lake State Park – but – what the hell?  Maybe John and I can learn something.

Our first day in camp, we decided to take the Senoita Creek birding trail which extends from the east end of the campground.20150113_115907 Shortly after heading down the trail, we came across four birders, speaking in hushed tones and pointing.  We take a silent position behind them, and strain to see what it is that they are so focused on.  After one glance at us, one of the women whispers, “Gray Flycatcher”.  Perhaps she noticed our Boy-Scout issue binoculars or our cellphone cameras, and took pity on us (we stand out in this crowd, who carry thousands of dollars of gear strapped on their bodies). We stare, trying madly to see motion. One of the gents in the group sees our clueless head-snapping motions.  He whips out a green laser pointer, and immediately locates a small bird, flitting up/down, 40 yards away from us.  Ahhhhh… that’s it!  The woman asks “you saw the Ladderback?”  We nod.  (actually, we did, but didn’t know precisely what it was).  We hang back for a few moments, then slink off down the trail.  Figured we would prey on the next unsuspecting group for more help.

Interestingly, this area of the Park is shared with some kind of cow pasture.  We come upon a few disinterested steer.20150113_120954 Waving and stepping past their huge environmental droppings, we wander along the creek.  It’s really muddy.  Like a moron, I’ve worn only my sandals (heavy-duty type), instead of my hiking boots.  I’m desperately trying not to get my socks wet, while John smartly marches ahead, splashing with abandon.  We hear a few birds, but get the feeling that we’ve wandered into NoBirdLand.  But then, I spot a few small active, birds moving quickly from tree to tree.  I take the time to note definite physical characteristics, as I dearly want to be able to ID these guys.  Pointy head (like a cardinal), black and white rings around the eye.  White breast, gray back.  Yippee!  I find that it’s a Bridled Titmouse!  (Thanks to whoever left their Sibley’s on the bench for me to peruse.  Hope you got it back!)This is the way our entire day went – we positively identified the following birds that I know I’ve never seen before:  Great Egret, American Coot, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Gray Flycatcher, Bridled Titmouse, and Pyrrhuloxia.  For us, it was A Good Day – maybe the start of our own Big Year.  I have no photos – my cellphone camera is the wrong tool for the job.  Enjoyable just to see, though.

OK, so what else?  The campground at Patagonia Lake SP is cramped, but exceedingly quiet.20150112_161953 All of us Big Chillers are respectfully silent campers, apparently.  There are lots of quiet nooks in this Park, outfitted with benches for resting or viewing.20150113_10001420150112_16130820150112_16053120150112_155829What was amazing to us was the number of small campers (like us) there.  Casitas were everywhere!  We spent more time chatting with other campers, and giving/getting tours of camping rigs than we have done before.  It was totally enjoyable to share camping stories.  John renewed his lust for an Airstream, and I reaffirmed my love for our Fireball (can you sense a conflict here??)

We cycled into the nearby town of Patagonia, about a 25 mile round trip, up and down.  Delightful, once we actually got out on the main highway.  The 4.5 mile climb from the campground to the highway was lung-busting.  We wandered around, had a taco and a chile relleno with a shared beer at Mercedes, and enjoyed this laidback town.20150114_14210320150114_142152 We’ve cycled through here many times, but this was our first leisurely stroll.  I still don’t understand what this road sign means.  Hobbits live beneath hill?  What?20150114_134755Although we enjoyed our stay here, we’re eager to move on.  The crowded campground is not really our preferred site, and it’s cold, which contributes to the quiet at night.  There are few campfires (except for our own), nobody but us seems to be cooking outside.

Thursday morning, we head off to Roper Lake State Park in East Central AZ.  Hot springs!  Hiking!  Looking forward to another new spot.  (as I post this, we’re here at our new spot).  We were greeted this morning with a Great Blue Heron hanging out right next to our picnic table.  Big Year is ON!wpid-20150116_090324.jpg

21 thoughts on “For the Birds

  1. Your header caught my attention for I recognized it immediately. And it was in Patagonia SP that I got hooked on birds, more so when I spotted the Elegant Trogoon. Since then, I take pictures of birds and ID them later, that is why i call myself a wanna-be birder for I don’t have a life list of birds to see. If you are starting to like birds, Im proud to share my Bird Gallery and the neotropical birds that I saw during spring migration in Alabama.
    Thank you for stopping by and checking us out.

    And oh, if you are still in AZ, be sure to go by Whitewater Draw. Watching the arrival of hundreds of Sandhill Cranes to roost is an amazing sight.


  2. Hey Judy …… Glad you’re enjoying your “Big Year”
    Having read the book, you would probably enjoy the movie a lot. It was very entertaining with Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson. I’m curious about how cold the lows are where you are. We’re down at the Gulf of Mexico and it’s warm and sunny (in the low 60s) but still going down to the low 40s at night.

    I’m casting my vote with John on the Airstream issue :-) Having gone from a 15 foot T@B to an 18 foot single axle to a 24 foot dual axle trailer in 14 months, Both Yoly and I can vouch for the pleasure and comfort of being able to kick back and relax on a rainy day and move about freely. This is especially true for someone who spends as much time in the Fireball as you do. The logistics of dealing with the larger size is just a matter of adapting (something humans are supposed to be good at) :-)

    Looking forward to your next installment :-)


    • We were right at freezing in Patagonia. Brisk winds made things uncomfortable to be outside, but we never worried about freezing pipes and all that fun stuff.

      I know bigger would be more comfy.. But, I want to Camp! The whole point if being out here, for me, is to be outside. Doesn’t matter if it’s cold or wet. I can be warm and cozy ten years from now when I’m done with this life. The conversation continues…..


  3. Not being able to identify the birds I see is so frustrating. I’m thrilled you are starting to learn some of their names.

    I enjoyed reading about all the small campers, too. Lots of people with good taste. :)

    And hot springs on your agenda! That’s like icing on the cake after a hike!

    And I bet John will end up with an Airstream — but only after you have worn the wheels off the Fireball. Which might not be long at the rate you are going! :D


    • I don’t really mind so much not being able to id the birds I see, but it is frustrating not to be able to see them well. Seems like I’m always staring into the sun, or the waterfowl are swimming away from me. I don’t have much patience, as you may have figured out by now.

      You’ll laugh when you see the hot springs photo.

      Perhaps John and his NEXT wife will enjoy their Airstream, as I remind him darkly from time to time……

      Thanks for checking in, Sharon.


  4. I’m not a serious birders, as you are probably beginning to figure out, I just play one on the Internet. ;)

    Those hardcore birders freak me out a little, I like to just stroll around and see what I can find. I don’t have the patience to stand in one spot for hours looking through a spotting scope hoping for a glimpse of a bird. I can also imagine how quiet a campground full of series birders must be!

    Your Big Year is off to a good start with the species that you saw there, congratulations!

    I just love the photo of the bridge, and all the landscapes were very good. I’m looking forward to more of them from the desert, it looks so exotic in your photos.


    • I’ve got plenty of non-exotic photos for you to view. I try to filter out anything that makes my life look less than totally glamorous!

      Don’t tell me you’re not a ‘serious’ birder. Every bird I see, every shot I publish gets run thru the internal WWJS screen. (what would Jerry see?). Don’t take that away from me! ;-)

      Big Year? You would laugh if you overheard John and I wondering if a dark flock swooping overhead this evening was birds or bats! A little education perhaps is in order.

      Thanks for reading, Jerry. I really appreciate you.


  5. Judy, John says you should write a book! So John, you want an Airstream? Come and see us again! We need to camp again together! Keep ’em comin’! We love reading your blogs!


  6. The pic with the BLUE reflections….you aced it! WOW!!!! WHILE we dug through the sand on a day of gentle surf….I’m sure envious of that picturious desert.l!!! Glad we are both sharing sunshine and again, I get to giggle yet again for another fun post from you!!


  7. I keep a bird book (of North America) next to me on my end table – just in case. I could have lent it to you for your trip if I had known your interest. Not much bird watching here during the winter, at least for those I don’t already recognize. Birds fascinate me. The Great Blue Heron is usually very shy of people. You had a rare sighting so close to you. Linda Doran and I went to see the cranes gather in the reserve near Marshall. They were amazingly noisy and hundreds of them landed while we were there. Quite a sight to behold. Enjoy your search. It’s a very popular hobby.


  8. Hehe…. I can soooo relate to your birding venture. Last year, my first time to this part of Rockport as I went exploring I spotted these huge white birds that made loud sounds. I took dozens of photos of them and later in the week ventured over to the Aransas NWR where folks on the trails were discussing, the whoopers “have you seen the whoopers?” Several times I said no then finally asked, “What are whoopers?” Come to find out all week I’d been photographing the rare whooping crane with abundance while other folks were on a desperate search to lay eyes on these beauties. Ah, I’m learning as are you. Great tale :-)


    • We have a Sandhill migration area not too far from our home. Although I’ve never been there during the season, I understand it’s a raucus affair! Live you not knowing that you were shooting Whooping Cranes. It must be a real treat to see THAT gathering.

      I’m enjoying your teaveks., too


    • Ellalou, when we stepped into this 25ft Safari, our jaws both dropped. John stood tall, and we could both take a few steps in opposite directions and turn around! A big bed! Bedroom! Real bathroom! It was hard to resist. But, I think of the hassle of navagating a bigger beast around, and it makes me re-love the Fireball. I just can’t resign myself to being an Airstreamer (for now, anyway….). But, it sure is fun to shop around!

      On Fri, Jan 16, 2015 at 12:41 PM, campshaws wrote:



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