Circle Z Ranch

5/1/13 - We spent the last weekend of April at Arizona's oldest continuously-operating dude ranch. We weren't there for horseback riding though; we were on a birding trip with the Desert Botanical Gardens (DBG). The ranch is located in Patagonia, AZ - south of Tucson, north of Nogales. The area is known for serious bird-watching, and is a nesting site & migration route for many rare species.

There were 10 of us on the trip, accompanied by one DBG trip leader (Jack Gilcrest) & one birder/author/educator (Lynn Hassler). The ranch had 7 adobe guest cottages, a comfy lodge, a cantina, an outstanding restaurant & corrals that held 60-70 western horses. They also had 2 resident dogs, one of which loved to accompany us on our morning hikes. The ranch set the tone at happy hour the first evening when they had a cowboy picking his guitar, telling tall tales & singing old cowboy tunes.

Each morning we rose early for a morning walk & bird-watch before breakfast. One morning we got to watch as the ranch hands ran the horses from their night corral to the day one. Beautiful! We went out again in mid-morning & early afternoon, to Patagonia Lake State Park & to Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve. One afternoon the ranch set up a barbecue lunch at a nearby creek under huge cottonwood trees. Floating cottonwood seeds looked like snow flurries in the gently breeze. And in the evenings after dinner the skies were pitch black, but studded with tons of stars.

Now, what birds did we see?... Candy and I saw 50 types of birds, though the trip recorded about 75! Our favorites were: Summer Tanager (brilliant red male & bright yellow female), Vermillion Flycatcher (fiery red head & chest with a black mask & back - male), Lazuli Bunting (sky blue head & cinnamon chest- male) & Lucy's Warbler (where the female is pearl grey with creamy yellow belly & is prettier than the male). We also saw Hummingbirds (Violet-crowned, Broad-billed, Black-chinned, Anna's), Lesser Goldfinches, Hooded Orioles, Cowbirds (Bronzed, Brown-headed), Sparrows (Chipping, Lark, White-throated, White-crowned, Song, Lincoln's), Black-headed Grosbeaks, Bewick's Wrens, Black Phoebes, American Kestrels, American Coots, Willets, Black-crowned Night Herons, Ruddy Ducks, Hawks (Grey, Zone-tailed) & Ospreys.

Though we came home a bit achy & with sore necks (from looking up so much & from Candy carrying her camera with monopod on her shoulder), we had a great time & learned a lot!

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