|Patagonia Lake State Park - Birding Tra, AZ|
|Patagonia Lake State Park - Birding Tra, AZ|| |
Patagonia Lake State Park - Birding Tra, AZ
|Birding||1.77 Miles|| 2 Hrs 9 Mns ||1.05 mph|
|31 ft AEG|
|My only previous visit to PALA had been for work, helping out with their annual Mariachi Festival. I kept wanting to come back to hike and bird - it is the state's #1 hotspot on ebird, after all ... 318 species! - but had only spent time at Paton's and the Sonoita Creek Preserve on my trips to the area.|
My main target for this day was to get my first Green Kingfisher (GRKI), to complete the trifecta of North American Kingfishers - a feat that up until my RIKI showed up in October, would have only been possible in South Texas. The GRKI is the smallest (only 7-8 inches), and hardest to find since they are easily overlooked - perching on roots and small branches very low to the water. The fish they eat are only 1-2 inces long, so they have to be close to the water to even see them. The only place in the US they can be seen regularly is South Texas (like the RIKI),and the Arizona population is considered to be accidental, or "rare stragglers" - though they seem to be increasing.
Spotted a White-tailed Kite swooping low over the road and on down a wash just before I reached the town of Patagonia ... nice start to the day. I'm pretty sure I've seen them a couple times before, but this was my first good enough look to count, so it was Lifer number one for the day.
Once I arrived at the Park I went straight to the Birding Trail - it starts with an informational kiosk which has a list of the most recent sightings, among other things. Next is a very nice little seating area with several nectar and seed feeders and a view of the lake - I am immediately envious of this and wish I had one at Roper. Very soon the trail goes down a hill and through a gate and then you are at lake level. It doesn't take long to see why this is such a favorite place of so many birds - it's an amazing habitat! The trail meanders through bosques, along marshes, and across washes, and there are often several paths to choose from if you are trying to stay close to the lake ... the choices get more numerous and indistinct the farther you go. Many cow patties to dodge, and occasional cows. Not sure why they are allowed to be here - would be much nicer if they weren't!
The GRKI has been seen regularly near the mouth of Sonoita Creek, so as I got closer to that I tried to check the shoreline more often. I was stooped under a low tree, scanning, when a lady in a kayak spotted me and called out (loudly, three times ) "Is that you, Bill? Hello?" I finally turned and as I said "I'm not Bill", I saw a small Kingfisher fly past silently! My only impression was "small" - couldn't discern color or anything. I was really hoping that wouldn't be my only glimpse as I proceeded on towards the creek after the bird.
Reached the creek, took a quick look around, and then a break amid the mooing sounds coming from just upstream. When I resumed hiking I started upstream, but only went about 20 feet before I stopped to scan the likely perches upstream and spotted my GRKI right away! She was perched in the shade so I couldn't get great pics, but good enough, and I watched her dive for fish several times. After a few minutes she flew back downstream right past me and perched a little closer to allow for slightly better pics, saw her actually catch and eat something this time. She is so freaking cute - like the descriptions say "like a sparrow with a heron's bill" ... adorable. Eventually she flew back along the shore and out of sight, but this time she was calling so I got to hear her too - sounding more like an insect than a bird. Lifer number two for the day.
Super happy about this success, I started heading back when it occurred to me that since I had been lucky enough to see RIKI and a BEKI the day before, that I had just now scored all three US Kingfishers in less than 24 hours! Certainly the first time that's been done in Arizona, and not even possible anywhere else except S. Texas - cool!
I was strolling along happily watching the Yellow-rumped Warblers, Bridled Titmouse, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, etc when I approached the wash/creek that I had crossed earlier on a small wobbly log and kept my feet dry. However this time there were 10-12 cows spread out around the area blocking my route. I tried to get around, but it was way too bushwacky ... tried to get around another way - more cows. Dang I may be here a while! Two birders showed up on the other side and we waved and shrugged at each other. Eventually I got bold and slipped past the gentlest-looking cow and quickly waded straight across the water - no longer trapped, but stuck with wet feet for the rest of the day.
Chatted with the birders - I had met Babs before when she came to Roper to try for the RIKI - and gave her directions to the GRKI ... we parted ways as she and her friend were preparing to get wet feet and cross through the cows.
After I finished the hike I went exploring around the rest of the Park - checked out the campgrounds, marina, climbed the bridge, visited the Visitor's Center (more envy on my part - their VC is fanatstic, inside and out!). A very nice day here, and a great Park to visit when it's not too busy ... if it weren't for the (rather rowdy) crowds that this large lake attracts in the summer, it would be an ideal place for me to work.
Very happy with my day, I decided to forgo any further stops on the way home - but still scored another White-tailed Kite as I drove past Las Cienegas on Hwy 82. 33 species all together - which I believe is my best day by the numbers.
|Arguing with idiots is like playing chess with pigeons.|