Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Journeying Home - Paton Center for Hummingbirds

 Guest post by Bonnie Paton Moon

NOTE: Tucson Audubon Society's efforts to preserve the Paton Center, while making necessary upgrades to accommodate tens-of-thousands of visitors annually, prompted the launch of a Capital Campaign in April 2017. A reunion of major donors included a visit from one of Wally and Marion Paton's daughters, Bonnie Paton Moon. Recently, Bonnie shared her reflections on this special spring weekend in Patagonia.

I hadn’t journeyed home to Patagonia in awhile, but this trip was a celebration I would not miss−the three-year reunion of Paton supporters who had been instrumental in “saving” Paton’s Birder Haven. The weekend also marked Tucson Audubon’s Capital Campaign Kick-off to fund improvements to the house. While there, I had the great honor of sharing from my book, Journey Home─How a Simple Act of Kindness Led to the Creation of a Living Legacy ─ the story about my parents, Wally and Marion Paton and the creation of their world-renowned bird watching backyard.

Bonnie Paton Moon Shares from Journey Home-Cady Hall, April 29, 2017

Entering the yard, so familiar, yet different now, I was immediately struck by all the improvements completed by Tucson Audubon Society since my last visit two years ago. What a thrill to see my parents honored for creating this birding mecca that still attracts thousands of visitors each year from all parts of the globe. While reading the sign, a couple from British Columbia approached−their first visit to Paton’s. “Where do we pay?” was their first question to me. “There is no entrance fee” I replied, a tradition my parents established decades ago and continues today. The “sugar fund,” originally an old coffee can hung on the fence, is now a spiffy donation box, and remains strictly voluntary.

Paton Legacy Sign, Tucson Audubon’s Paton Center, April, 2017

After three glorious days during which Paton supporters were treated to some fabulous spring migration birding, tours of the property by various staff involved in improvement projects, talks by Hummingbird expert, Sheri Williamson, from Southern Arizona Bird Observatory (SABO) and Jesus Garcia, Director of the Kino Heritage Fruit Tree Project at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, it was time to say goodbye once again.

As I wandered the property on that last day I spent a few moments in the yard reflecting at some special spots. My Dad’s pecan tree still thrives in the back yard, bigger and more robust that ever and still producing a good amount of pecans each year. I sat a good while on my parents’ memorial bench and reflected on the beauty of this place ─ the land they had nurtured for decades, still loved and nurtured. It had been positioned near to the site of my Dad’s former orchard in the front yard. Plans to re-establish an orchard here are underway. Jonathan Horst, Restoration Ecologist, is heading up this project.

Wally Paton’s Pecan Tree Thrives in the back yard, April 2017

I stopped to remember my Mom’s rose garden in the front yard, ready to pop with bloom−her passion. I sat on a bench in the Richard Grand Memorial Meadow with Carol and Paul Lamberger, Paton supporters. We sat for a good while at this peaceful spot overlooking the newly created pond−all possible because of the kindness and generosity of Marcia Grand and the hard work of Tucson Audubon staff and volunteers.

Bonnie Paton Moon in front yard. Marion Paton’s Roses Bloom in background

Then a very special moment happened. As I was getting in the car to leave, Carol Lamberger inquired if the rose bushes in the front yard were my mothers. “Yes,” I answered, “she loved roses. We would always gift one or several at Mother’s Day.” Carol smiled and promised to take special care of them. And in that moment I was reminded of the special magic that surrounds Paton’s ─ it seems to bring out the very best in people ─ it always did and continues to do so. It is the underlying essence of the place and that spirit of kindness and generosity that my parents exemplified that will continue in perpetuity. In addition, of course, to remaining one of the top birding sites in the world.

Sitting in the Richard Grand Memorial Meadow with Carol & Paul Lamberger

Learn more about Wally and Marion Paton and how Paton's Birder Haven came to be in Bonnie's book, Journey Home─How a Simple Act of Kindness Led to the Creation of a Living Legacy. Pick up a copy at our Nature Shop today!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Desert Hackberry Fruits Attract Birds

Guest post by Dan Weisz

One of the Desert Hackberry plants behind my house is loaded with fruit now and I’ve been watching birds move in and out this week, partaking in the juicy berries.  The timing and quantity of fruit ripening is highly dependent on rainfall.  Fruits can ripen any time between July and December.  The fruits are very bright and sweet, with one hard seed in the middle.  

Want hackberry and all these fun birds in your own yard? Read on to learn about our Habitat at Home program and how you can make your outdoor spaces better for wildlife!

Gila Woodpeckers are enjoying the fruit.  (Gila Woodpeckers eat insects, fruit, seeds, occasional birds’ eggs, and lizards).  Each time this bird would grab a fruit, it would then fly off to another location to eat it.  He was eating snacks “to-go”.

Northern Mockingbirds also enjoyed the berries.  Although I wasn’t able to get a photo of this particular bird with the fruit in his mouth, he had just swallowed a fruit whole and you can see the lump in his throat and a satisfied look in his eyes!  With that long narrow bill, mockingbirds seem to be built to eat insects.  They do eat mainly insects in the summer but switch to eating mostly fruit in the fall and winter.

Gulp!!  And the fruit continues its travel down the mockingbird’s throat!

I saw many House finches going in and out of the plant.  With that beak, house finches would seem to favor diets of seeds, but they do eat all parts of plants including fruit.  This is a “before” photo so you can see the beak size/shape.

And I finally caught a house finch in the act.  The fruit was probably too large to be swallowed whole and the finch seemed to be biting through chunks of the fruits.

A female Pyrrhuloxia enjoyed the fruit as well.  At first, it seemed like she was having trouble getting that entire berry in her mouth.

But she definitely managed just a few moments later, swallowing the entire berry whole.

Here is another Mockingbird with a berry.  This bird seems to have a few feathers sticking up above its eye.

And down the hatch it goes.

Habitat at Home Recognition program – Create a beautiful, water-saving landscape that attracts birds and other wildlife

A Habitat at Home landscaping can lower your water bills, reduce yard maintenance, and beautify your home while providing food and habitat for the birds that enrich our community. Native species allow you to enjoy a cooler, low-maintenance, and beautiful landscape in Tucson’s hot and dry weather. Join the program and we'll show you how to do it!

Registration opens on November 14

For more info on Desert Hackberry plants, here are a few references.