Monday, June 29, 2015

Paton on the Fly

My name is Sandy Marin and I am the summer 2015 intern for the Tucson Audubon Society. I have been working here for about a month, and I am delighted to feel so welcome. Everyone here is so enthusiastic about my participation and is trying to ensure that I get the best experience out of my internship. I can already say that I am well on my way to a summer full of valuable experiences that enrich not only my professional career, but my personal health as well. One of my favorite things about working with Tucson Audubon is being able to work in such amazing atmospheres. From the conservation and education focused Mason Center, to the restoration efforts at Atturbury Wash and more, Tucson Audubon is working to conserve and rehabilitate valuable bird habitat in Tucson. The added bonus of conserving and restoring beautiful landscapes is being able to spend time in these relaxing and restorative areas.

I had the opportunity to visit the Paton Center for Hummingbirds in Patagonia this past week and it's definitely one of my new favorite places. The property is quaint, charming, and teeming with life. During the visit with the restoration crew, our goal was to landscape, remove invasive species, and conduct general repairs. I couldn't say that I minded doing yard work when the context of the work entailed spending time in a hotspot for bird diversity. I'll be sharing some of my experiences and photos of the two day trip below.

 My first sighting was one of the most exciting and glorious, a Western-Yellow Billed Cuckoo! I was distracted by the construction of bird feeder trays at the time, but was lucky enough to rush over in time to catch a glimpse of this threatened beauty. I managed to snap a blurry photo to share, but nothing beats being able to see this guy in person.

One of my favorite things about going down to the Paton Center, was that, despite the hard work everyone was putting in, no one was ever too busy to stop and appreciate the beauty surrounding us. I was cooling off in the dusk shade after a hot day and appreciating the bed time feeding frenzy when I saw a Violet-crowned Hummingbird whiz by my head and start feasting at one of the many feeders around the property.

The sun set shortly after this photo, and we set foot for the only open restaurant in quirky downtown Patagonia. We enjoyed a bite to eat and headed back to Patons, tired and ready to roll out our sleeping bags. My last view before I drifted to sleep was the inky black sky dotted with twinkling stars. I woke up to the birds chirping and I welcomed the morning with a short walk around the property. While I was walking, I kept hearing the call of a Gambel's Quail searching for her partner. I was looking along the ground expecting to see her running across the yard, but I couldn't spot her. I finally looked up to see a curious looking mom staring back at me. She was standing protectively in front of her young, but she couldn't help looking back at me with the same inquisitive eyes I had on her. Too bad her babies ran off before I could take a photo.

I was so lucky that I had the camera in my hand when I went back to work, because a Gila Woodpecker landed right in the grassy area right beside the sign I was creating! 

My favorite project I worked on over my two day stay at Patons was painting the backyard feeders. The birds took well to the new stain, the feeders were full within minutes of me resetting them. 

We took a lunch break, and watched the clouds roll in while we ate at the neighborhood cafe. By the time we finished our chores, the rain was pouring and we were drenched. Our final task of the visit was weeding Johnson grass, and I pulled that grass with a fervor fueled primarily by my desire to put on a dry shirt. Needless to say, the rain smelled amazing and our newly manicured landscape drank in the first summer rain. We outraced the clouds on our way back to Tucson, and the view on the way out of town was breathtaking.

I can't wait for my next visit, when we will be working with students from the University of Arizona to design a new shade structure to keep visitors cool! If you find yourself with a free day, a trip through Patagonia to the Paton property is well worth the trek. Make sure to bring binoculars for the full experience!

If you want to find out more about the Paton Center or visit the facility, follow the link: Tucson Audubon's Paton Center for Hummingbirds

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Life With a Cooper's Hawk Family

Guest post by Michael Ehrhardt

I have been following a Cooper's Hawk for 18 months now. I have been able to watch the nest last spring and this year. The hawk got used to my presence and I was able to get quite close.

I also saw her offspring in the Sabino wash.

This May, five eggs were reported by a crane operator who was pruning mesquites. Two siblings appeared 15 days ago, and this June 2nd, flew for the first time.

This morning I got up at 5 am again and walked to the nest after toast and coffee. I arrived at the nest at 7:05 am. As the day before, a parent flew out of the nest and headed east up the Sabino wash. Soon the two youngsters got out of the nest and perched on the limb in front.

They were both eager to flex their wings.

His sibling did a "I can do that, too" --

One soon moved up the limb and into a maze of small branches. He kept moving into the tangle and it became very difficult to see him. The other remained on the limb and began exercising her wings. Finally. at 7:54 am, spreading them and taking her first flight, to a nearby mesquite.

She seems to have that "Did I do that?" look. She then flew again and headed into the mesquite bosque on a neighbor' estate. That is fenced, of course, so we can't follow the hawks there.

Almost an hour late the boy started moving toward more open branches and began doing wing exercises. His then moved to another branch and stretched out again.

And he then, at 8:52 am took his first flight, going west into the bosque.

I did not see the youngsters again. They are somewhere nearby, in the neighbor's property. The mom became agitated as I moved around and gave me a serious warning.

But the mom I have followed now for 18 months has almost finished her parenting job for this year.