Linda

We spent only three days in Patagonia, Arizona last year and immediately decided to remedy that this year. So we booked an 11-day stay at Cross Creek Cottages before we left last year. What a great decision that was.

There were three cottages that adjoin into one building, which was artistically designed by owner and artist Regina Medley.

Our cottage was both roomy and comfortable — a great home base for a whole lot of birding adventures. The big kitchen made cooking meals a pleasure. Regina was available for anything we needed, and even arranged a get-together one evening so we could visit with the tenants in a separate building who stay here seven months out of the year.

The thing with birding is that a quick breakfast is all you have time for because the birds are already calling. There is nothing quite like being outside early and having birds chirping all around you. With a fanny pack for snacks and water, and a small cooler for picnics, we were all set.

We explored all sorts of new spots this trip. Ladies staying in the next cottage urged us to drive out to Harshaw Creek Road first thing in the morning, and even drew us a map. This dirt road was close by, and follows a stream bed lined with cottonwood trees and mesquite grasslands. Western, Hepatic and Summer Tanagers are really something to see. But the Canyon Wren, singing from a branch right beside the road, was incredible. I’d forgotten to bring the little notebook to record the birds, so it took quite a stretch of my memory to come up with the 19 species we saw that first morning.

Our copy of “Finding Birds of Southeast Arizona,” published by the Tucson Audubon Society, really helped us determine where we wanted to go and what types of birds we might see there. We birded the Huachuca Mountains with trips to Carr Canyon, Miller Canyon and Ramsay Canyon. By getting up in the higher elevations, we were able to add several new species to our life’s list.

The dirt road up Carr Canyon may have taken a few years off my life, but we were rewarded with Cordilleran, Buff Breasted and Gray Flycatchers. The loop hike along the canyon was beautiful. A three-quarter-mile hike up Miller Canyon brought us to a pair of spotted owls right next to the trail. Apparently this is where they hang out regularly. Wow.

I talked George into a “first-thing-in-the-morning hike” which connects Audubon’s Patton Center to the Nature Conservancy’s Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve, both only minutes from our cottage. The Audubon trail is newly constructed, a short one-mile walk with stunning views and, of course, lots of birds.

George

After a day and a half in Tucson, we headed to Patagonia for a very relaxing birding adventure. There are many reasons we love Patagonia and southeast Arizona.

One of them is Cross Creek Cottages. The cottage had a lot of amenities and art, with mountains right behind us and a great porch overlooking trees loaded with birds. This is a former ranch where Regina has friendly rescue burros.

The small town of Patagonia has everything you need, including the Wagon Wheel Saloon where Tami and Amy take great care of us. My favorite meal there was the red chili burrito, along with a cold local beer. It was fantastic. Linda loved the chicken wings and fried mushrooms, both with tasty sauces.

We really didn’t need to leave Patagonia to bird, because the Nature Conservancy’s preserve, the Audubon’s Patton Center, and the nearby Patagonia State Park, all draw lots of birders and lots of birds. And the scenery is stunning.

But we do love the canyons just an hour east of Patagonia, so we made three trips out there, focusing on the canyons that got us high into the mountains to see different bird species. Linda’s right — the drive up the narrow, winding, rocky Carr Canyon road is nerve wracking, but we made it, and all the bird calls we heard as we exited the vehicle put that scary drive quickly behind us.

Aside from the birds, I enjoyed seeing the other wild critters: deer, wild turkeys, a group of 10 javelinas and a Gila Monster. In Miller Canyon, I spotted a fellow coming down the mountain with a rifle and dogs, and had a great conversation with him about his mountain lion hunt.

The afternoons were very hot, so we birded all morning and relaxed in our comfortable and cool cottage in the afternoons, going out birding again in the early evening while also enjoying the stunning sunsets.

One thing I really love about birders is their eagerness to share information. All along the trail we’d visit with them, sharing info about the birds we’d seen and other places to enjoy. And boy, did we ever enjoy this trip.

If you’d like to experience a birding adventure in southeast Arizona, let us know. We’d love to help you plan your trip.

Visit George’s website — georgesmithmaine.com — for book reviews, outdoor news and all Travelin’ Maine(rs) columns, found listed by town in the “Best of Maine” section.