Our friends, Dick and Gaila, recently stopped by to visit us at Desert Trails RV Park on their way south of Tucson. They were looking for an interesting place to boondock (i.e. parking out in the "boonies" without electric, water, or sewer hook-ups). We made plans to meet up with them in a couple days once they got settled in. They promised to introduce us to Patagonia, Arizona, an historic town filled with ranchers, miners and newcomers such as artists and retirees.
Dick and Gaila were able to find an amazing place to park in the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area. More importantly, they were able to give us directions into the back of of the beyond to find them.
Because of the afternoon light, you really couldn't see the view out the front of their motorhome. So, here is the unobstructed view. As we say in Alaska - nothing but miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles! Needless to say, there was plenty of room to park Great White.
While it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere, we were only about 15 miles from Patagonia. True to their word, Dick and Gaila whisked us off to beautiful downtown Patagonia where we stopped at the Gathering Grounds for a scrumptious breakfast. After breakfast, we proceeded further on down the road to Patagonia Lake State Park. Created by the damming of Sonoita Creek, the lake is habitat for bass, crappie, bluegill and catfish, and is stocked with rainbow trout during the winter. The pedestrian bridge gave us a great view of the lake.
We spent a few minutes in the Visitor's Center checking out the recent bird and mammal sightings. Yes, Virginia, there are mountain lions in southern Arizona. One was recently spotted in the campground parking lot! However, we were more interested in bagging the elusive Elegant Trogon! No, its not a special condom, but a beautiful tropical bird!
Only one species of trogon occurs in North America. Elegant Trogons are a prized sighting for birders who visit southeastern Arizona. We weren't optimistic about our chances after chatting with the host at the Visitor Center who advised us that, while this particular individual bird, who is known to have migrated repeatedly back to Patagonia Lake State Park annually for over 17 years, had been spotted about 3 weeks ago - it had not been seen since. Thus, while Gaila (ever the optimist) led us out with assurance that we would see this gorgeous bird, we must admit that we didn't expect a payoff.
We followed the beautiful Sonoita Creek in hopes of bagging this elusive prey.
As we wound our way through the woods, we ran into another couple of birders. So far, they hadn't had any better luck than we had had. We continued upstream until we couldn't go any further. It looked like the Elegant Trogan would remain aloof.
Just then, one of the birders we saw earlier came jogging down the trail toward us. "Come quick. We spotted him!" We quickly began following down the trail. However, our unusual behavior startled a small herd of deer. There was quite a commotion as the deer scattered, we exclaimed about the deer, and one straggler struggled to join her herd. We thought we ruined our chance, but just as we turned the corner, there he was, sitting loud and proud.
The Elegant Trogan is easily recognized by its metallic-green and rose-red colors, as well as its unusual stout-bodied, square-tailed profile. Yep, that's him. Dick took these gorgeous photos of our little flighty specimen, so we thank Dick for his labors.
Trogons feed largely on insects and spiders, although species of the Americas also eat large quantities of fruits. Some species also eat snails, small lizards, and frogs. Trogons spend much of their time perched in a stiffly erect stance on mid-canopy branches, making occasional sallies to catch insects or pluck fruits, often using a hovering flight. Yep, that's pretty much what he did when we watched him.
Well, I guess he was getting a little annoyed with our voyeurism, so he signaled it was time for us to move on.
We walked further, still chattering about our good fortune in bird-spotting. Much of the area around Sonoita Creek is open range. We had to share the trail with these little ladies while we sang tip-toe through the cow chips.
After being in the desert for months, it was great to walk along a stream and around a lake. We haven't seen waterfowl for months. This lovely great white egret didn't seem to mind as we walked by.
As we continued back around the lake, we also spotted a immature lesser green heron hiding between the base of the reeds and the dark shadows. We were able to point him out to the other birders as they came by. It was the least we could do after they chased us down to alert us to the Elegant Trogan.
After finishing our hike, we retired back to Dick and Gaila's rig, where we got happy and tucked into a wonderful meal of chicken burritos. As with all good things, this exquisite day soon come to an end. With the shadows stretching across the valley, it was time for us to hit the road, but not before promising to get together again.
Merry Christmas Dick and Gaila - see you next year!