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Cartoon by Artanuk

Mam and I met each other over 35 years ago and have been great friends ever since.  We may not see each other as often as we did when we lived in the same little Connecticut town, but we’re always able to pick up where we left off, as if we’d seen each other only the day before.

I was delighted when Mam said she could come to Arizona for a week.  It’s been a year and a half since our last meeting, and we had much to catch up on.  Of course I wanted her to have a special time, so we planned many activities.

The thing about Mam is that she’s a birdwatcher.  It’s a hobby I’ve never cottoned too, being both too impatient and too poorly-sighted to make a success of it.  Oh look!  another little brown and yellow bird.  It must be a… God only knows what!

But putting aside fears of my limitations, we boldly charted a course for Sierra Vista, about three and a half hours southeast of where we live.  It’s an odd, meandering kind of town, not quite city, not quite town.  Incorporated only in 1956,we surmised it sprang to life around the big military base there, Fort Huachuca.  It has three main advantages: many places to stay overnight; many places to eat; proximity to many A-1 birding sights, including the two we visited.

First we went to San Pedro Riparian Conservation Area.  Here is what I saw:

But THIS is what Mam saw!

Oh well.

Undaunted we stumped off in the peculiar gait of birdwatchers: step, step, step, pause, cock head and listen, make slight swishing noise between teeth to encourage invisible bird, decide it was the wind we heard, step, step, step.

There was something strange going on with the light and the gray/white trees around the San Pedro River.  I haven’t fiddled with this picture at all, this really is what it looked like that day (better if you click on it to enlarge).

Not too far along in our walk we were both rewarded with a vermilion flycatcher.  Mam had seen one before, but as far as I know I never had, so it was quite exciting.  Well, it was quite interesting.  Well, it was very pretty.

Mam, however, continued to put me to shame.  When I saw this:

She saw this:

and when she continued to see this:

my attention was completely diverted by this:

The most humiliating of all was when we returned to our starting point.  While Mam got to glory in the sight of this:

all I got to see was this:

The next day, fed and rested, we took ourselves off to nearby Ramsay Canyon which is lovingly maintained by the Nature Conservancy.  The docents, Mr. and Mrs. Sandy, were informative and delightful.  It was a chilly, very windy day, and we were a bit early for the birds, both for the day and the season.   The much vaunted hummingbirds were still hanging out in warmer climes.  We also learned from Mr. and Mrs. S that a deadly trifecta of fire, flood and freezing temperatures the year before had reduced the food for the birds, and hence reduced the number of birds themselves.

As we step, step, stepped through the morning we heard more and more twittering in the forest around us.  Alas for us, there were also more and more visitors, which meant more noise and disruption along the trail and less opportunity to see the few birds that were there.  Mam did catch sight of one she’d never seen before, though: an orange crowned warbler.  I didn’t see that one.

Mam also saw the showy  acorn woodpecker:

“Oh look!” I countered:

“Isn’t that a robin??!”

We saw some big birds that look every bit as gorgeous in the woods as they do on the dinner table:

Even I could see this fellow!

As we headed back to the entrance we were entranced to see a pair of deer browsing in the undergrowth.

We might not have seen a great many birds at either birding ‘hot spot,’ but we had a wonderful time being a couple of old friends together enjoying walks in the outdoors in lovely weather.

And I got my revenge on Mam.  When I saw this:

and this:

she didn’t see anything at all, because she doesn’t like lizzards and ran away into the house!