Sabino Canyon and Agua Caliente 

Kate and Jim's 2003 Vacation - Day 7 - Feb 28

DSC00866.JPG (38508 bytes) We started out the day with a visit to Sabino Canyon Recreation Area and a check-in at the visitor center to find out about the tram and recommended hiking trails.   The woman at the counter looked at my bins and said, "Well, if you're birders, you just want to walk along the road.  That's closest to the river and has more birds.  However, if you want birds, we were just at Agua Caliente County Park and it's much better there."  

OK, so we had our day planned.  

We hopped on the tram for the approximately four mile ride up the canyon, where we would get off and then walk down.  

DSC00867.jpg (48444 bytes) Kate showing off her new hat.  I have even better pictures, but they're not for publication if I know what's good for me.
DSC00901.jpg (52824 bytes) And here are some scenes of the canyon.  VERY pretty, and this is in winter.
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DSC00905.jpg (81584 bytes) And here are some artsy-craftsy shots of plants.  It's a great spot to get close to wild desert plants.  The Desert Museum...well, it's a museum after all.  These plants are the REAL thing...maybe.

Kate and I really enjoy desert plants.  We were discussing this, and I offered three reasons: 

1.  There are fewer of them, so they're a little easier to remember.  

2.  There are fewer invasive, European weeds.  The habitat is not as friendly. 

 3.  The evolutionary adaptations are much more interesting, or at least more obvious.

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DSC00919.jpg (39131 bytes) And of course, the stately Saguaro Cactus.
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DSC00917.jpg (64025 bytes) Interesting observation about these two scenes:  The Saguaro Cacti don't grow on both sides of the Canyon here because the one side gets much less sunlight than the other, therefore it gets too cold.  See, this is what happens when you dawdle and read the roadside plaques.  
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DSC00910.jpg (96747 bytes) VERY artsy-craftsy...but I really like this picture.  The shot is looking down into the water from the bridge.  No enhancements have been made.  
DSC00923a.jpg (75977 bytes) OK, Cardinals are kinda boring, particularly posed in snow-covered pines on Christmas cards.  But in a Mesquite that's creative.

Other birds found in the canyon were Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Bewick's Wren, and Phainopepla by the basketful.

After Sabino Canyon, we stopped for a late lunch at a nearby deli.  We got to Sabino reasonably early, but we took a LONG time to walk down.  There were hikers who passed us going up the canyon, and then passed us going down the canyon.  Taking pictures and birding is NOT aerobic exercise.

DSC00969.jpg (40975 bytes) Then, we headed off for Agua Caliente County Park.  This is a pretty little spot that has some VERY tame ducks.  
DSC00948a.JPG (46203 bytes) I always expect Mallards and Canada Geese to come looking for food whenever people walk up to the side of a lake or river.  But I was not expecting that sort of trashy behavior from American Wigeons and Ring-necked Ducks.  They ought to have a little more self respect.

There were also Gadwall and Cinnamon Teal there, but they had a little more class.  We also had our first swallows of the trip, Violet-green and Rough-winged, and our third Vermillion Flycatcher.

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There needs to be some law enforcement at this park.  There was a crime wave while we were there.  One guy had his dogs off the leash (with a sign clearly saying that was not allowed) and a family was using metal detectors (also clearly prohibited).  I must say I can't see the point of that hobby.  It's not like these people were the only ones in Tucson who thought of going to parks looking for pocket change.  And obviously it's done often enough that the county went to the trouble of putting the signs up.  But hey, it's a family outing.  Sort of.  

And they probably wonder about those people walking around with binoculars hanging around their necks, so I can't mock too much.  Well maybe just a little.  Do they actually make enough money to pay off those detectors?  And do they really enjoy waving those things around staring at the ground?  It's not like you can even look up and enjoy the scenery.

We finished up the week with dinner at an entirely appropriate restaurant, The Kingfisher (we saw one at Agua Caliente).  Very nice.  Tomorrow morning, 3/1, we fly back to Chicago. 

This concludes the pictures and commentary on Kate and Jim's 2003 Arizona Trip.  I hope you enjoyed it.



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