George

Our three-week spring birding adventure began with a week in Tucson, Arizona, where we were surrounded by stunning mountains, amazing migrating birds and awesome Mexican restaurants. Drs. Brint and Alice Darlington hosted us in Saddlebrooke, a town just northwest of Tucson. Dr. Darlington practiced in the Augusta area, and they purchased their Arizona home 16 years ago as a winter place and now live there full time. It’s easy to understand why, with the mountain views and warm climate.

We got birding advice from a half-dozen Maine friends before we left and hit all the places they suggested. Don Mairs suggested Melody Kehl as a birding guide, and we spent one day traveling up Mount Lemon in the Santa Catalina Mountains with Melody, having such a good time that we booked a trip with her the next day to Madera Canyon. We saw 100 species of birds in those two days, many for the first time ever.

Another couple joined us in Madera Canyon and told Melody they hoped to see an elegant trogan, truly a magnificent bird. Melody said it was unlikely. Near the end of our day, halfway up the canyon, we spent an hour at Cora’s bird feeders at Kubo B&B and store, seeing lots of hummingbirds and even painted redstarts just 3 feet away (look them up). When we approached the vehicle for our ride out of the canyon, Melody heard the Trogan across the road in a gully and led us right to it — a stunning end to our wonderful two-day adventure.

We spent two days in Catalina State Park, and a third day Linda and I took the shuttle all the way up Sabino Canyon, also in the Santa Catalina Mountains. We walked the 3.5 miles down the canyon, spotting a huge flock of migrating cardinals, and the bird Linda most wanted to see on this trip, the lazuli bunting. At the Desert Museum, where we spent a lot of time in the hummingbird aviary, as well as the animals from bears to bobcats, I was amused to see many people admiring a porcupine. Later, in Ramsey Canyon, Linda saw a whole tree full of lazuli buntings. Amazing.

Linda

This was the trip I’d been dreaming of, and southern Arizona did not disappoint. For a birdwatcher, this is paradise. Two things surprised me. It wasn’t nearly as hot as I thought it would be. The nights were actually chilly. One morning it was only 40 degrees. But days were in the 70s and low 80s with nice breezes.

I also had no idea how mountainous it is. It seemed wherever we went, there were mountain ranges in all directions. The way the light changed the appearance of the Santa Catalina Mountains amazed me every morning and evening.

I indulged in a continuous supply of perfect avocados and fruit. We came here to bird, so we had lots of picnic lunches and easy breakfasts. At night we often sought out a Mexican restaurant.

Our favorite was Macaya’s, in Tucson, with authentic Mexican food that was so good we went back the next night. This was where the first chimichanga was created when they accidentally dropped a burrito into the deep fryer. Although we had never tried tamales before, Tucson Tamale won us over. Masa dough held delectable meat fillings that were steamed in corn husks. Again, this place was so good we went back for lunch a second day.

After a week in the mountains around Tucson, we headed south to Patagonia, a birding hot spot, where some species are found only in this area. Regina Medley, a talented artist who owns the Mesquite Art Gallery, offers four wonderful apartments just a mile north of the town. We loved our apartment as well as all the birds in the yard. She has added her artistic flair to these cottages by hand-painting some of the furniture. The gardens are full of pieces of art — many with a bird theme. So cute. And two suppers at the Wagon Wheel Saloon were great, too.

The whole town had that great artsy feel with brightly painted murals and buildings. We loved The Ovens of Patagonia, a shop where one can find freshly baked bread and pastries, kitchen gadgets, ice cream and sandwiches.

The first full day of birding was spent at Patagonia Lake State Park. I had never heard so many bird calls in one place before, but at the Nature Conservancy’s Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve the next day there were even more — including bright red summer tanagers, vermillion flycatchers and warblers, as well as many birds we’d never seen before. I was in birding heaven. This place is one of the best known U.S. birding hot spots, drawing 300,000 visitors a year. Yes, birds are a great tourist attraction.

We’d never been in the southeast corner of Arizona, but we’ll be back.

You will find much more information about George and Linda’s trip to Arizona on his website, www.georgesmithmaine.com, in the Travelin’ Maine(rs) section.