Sunday, November 16, 2014

Volunteering at the Paton Center - a guest post by Alice Cave

For many Tucson birders, visiting the wonderful Paton House is a treat, and I am no exception.  The Paton house is located in Patagonia, near the border with Mexico. The house was owned for years by the Paton family, who made it a birding haven with their many feeders and their unique location.  Now through the efforts of many, the house is being transformed and managed as the the Paton Center for Hummingbirds by Tucson Audubon.  My husband, Rick Fletcher, and I have been following this process with interest, and so when we came to Tucson for the winter, we looked for opportunities to help out.

Terry, Andy, and Dan installing the new information kiosk.
Early on the morning of November 12, we drove down to Patagonia to join a work group in progress and see where we could help out.  There is a lot going on there: construction is in progress for a multi-faceted information kiosk; areas are being smoothed out to create more parking; the fence around the house is being strengthened and weatherproofed and a gate added, to name a few items.    Rick and I talked to Jonathan Horst about how we could jump in and help, and determined that staining the fence would be a great use of our time and energy.  I definitely wanted to stay away from all power tools!   So we set to work staining the fence itself as well as some loose boards that would be used in other ways.  Rick and I worked methodically to cover the area needed, until we ran out of stain. In one day we made a tangible difference in the appearance and condition of the Paton House grounds and it was very satisfying.
Alice staining and sealing the front fence.
Photo Credit: Rick Fletcher
Rick staining the fence.
An obvious difference!
Photo credit:Rick Fletcher
Rick gets close and friendly with the plants to stain
the inside of the fenceline.

Alex and Larry and the newly installed Puerto Colibri.
During the day we got to know other volunteers, such as Alex from Patagonia who was working on installing a javalina-proof gate.  Plus  it was great to visit with some TAS staff members we have gotten to know on other projects, including Andy Bennett and Keith Ashley. It was a dedicated, hard-working group that got right down to business.  And all through the day, birders were coming to the site to see the hummingbirds and other birds the house is famous for.

Why volunteer? What makes this project a good volunteer gig? 

For me, volunteering has a long family history. My parents and many adults I knew as a child, were very active volunteers in all kinds of projects. So I adopted the point of view early on that it is important to make a contribution to society, and I have participated in many diverse activities over the years. Rick and I recently became home owners in the Tucson area, and will be here until spring, and so we looked at volunteering as a way to meet new people, as well as to help with projects that help birds.  Of course, we quickly found TAS. 

Why is the Paton House project a good volunteer gig?  First of all, we made a tangible difference with what we did. Second, the project is very well organized, and there was no time spent wondering what to do. We got there and got started.  Third, it provides a way to meet people while helping birds.  And there was lunch provided as a thank you, sitting outside on one of the new picnic tables with the other volunteers on a beautiful day. What's not to like?


  1. A big thank you to TAS and all the great volunteers! We are looking forward to visiting Paton's in mid-February.

  2. Patton house was a wonderful place to visit in 2012. Hope to be back in a few years .

  3. My favorite for a day trip from Tucson. Thank you to everyone who helped.

  4. Thanks to all the volunteers who are generously giving of their time to the Tucson Audubon Paton Center. I wish I lived closer. I would love to be there helping out as well.


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