I’m still catching up after getting back from a lovely trip to Tucson. But I achieved my trip goals by getting lots of sunshine, seeing exotic locales, and I ate the best salsa I have ever had. But lemme just say you can save money on Southwest flying to Tucson, but not time. If you arrive at BWI at like 8:30pm and think yer gonna get back quick via public transport in a reasonable time frame you’re in for a surprise. It was reliable, but a long trip back to DC from BWI. Next time I’ll bite the bullet and fly into DCA. Although I do like Southwest Airlines’ service. Good times.

Anyway, Homer covers much of my visit in his excellent blog entries so I don’t have to write about them. There’s also a full set of photos from the trip here.

The Tucson and Sierra Vista areas are birdwatching hotspots, particularly this time of year during migration. I managed to spot the Harris’ hawk, blue-winged teal, desert thrasher, ruddy duck, cinnamon teal, lesser goldfinch, gila woodpecker, many vermillion flycatchers and plenty of black-chinned hummingbirds at the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area:
Hummingbirds
I don’t keep track of the mammals I’ve seen, but I did spot a round-tailed ground squirrel looking for food in a tree.

Homer and I were able to observe banding of the hummingbirds, but first the naturalists have to catch the quick birds using the clever trap shown below. The trap is activated remotely by a guy with a modified remote control, originally intended for an r/c car. The hummingbirds are very brave (or hapless) and don’t seem to be bothered by the trap. Some birds were caught repeatedly:
Hummingbird Trap
The birds were caught by hand in the larger trap, then put into smaller mesh cages for measuring. The naturalist would measure wingspan, body fat composition, and even pollen coating on the birds’ faces:
Measuring
The hummingbirds have to feed as they fly north, and require a lot of energy to migrate. By the way, you don’t need to dye the sugar water in your hummingbird feeders. Some dyes are actually harmful to the bird.
Black-Chinned Hummingbird
This image is a bit out of focus, but you can see the tiny band that helps biologists track the lifespan and migration patterns of the birds:
Banding
We stayed over at Cobban and Ray’s place, and I was greeted by this vision at about four in the morning:
Huachuca Mountains
I wish I could wake up to something like that every day.

5 Comments

  1. HSimpson says:

    The mountains around/near Tucson are great. Too bad most people only think of Tucson as a hot desert town.

  2. Neil says:

    God they are cute – I want one for a pet!!! 😉

  3. Homer says:

    Mummy liked the San Pedro Riparian area too.

  4. Kevin M says:

    Glad you had a great time – I think you’d love visiting there regularly. I’d love to get you back there during early August when you can see up to 10 species of hummers in one spot (or within a couple of spots, at worst).

    One question: Desert thrasher? Did you mean Curve-billed Thrasher?

    Also – I *think* that Southwest is now flying into Dulles, too – which may expand your options. I know they have a simple shuttle back to the Metro, as opposed to having to take the airport bus to the MARC, MARC to Union Station, and then the Metro back home.

  5. Mike says:

    Inter-blog friendships warm my heart.