Archive for June, 2013

San Pedro River Bird Watching

June 29th, 2013 by Mike Hug

San Pedro River Bird Watching

San Pedro River  Birding - BT Sparrow picture

Black-Throated Sparrow will nest in places that make you wonder why they picked that place.

San Pedro River Bird Watching can be frustrating when the elusive birds are hiding in the trees but in other cases it is very easy. The element of luck and preparation is needed to make it easy. Case in point, a Black Throated Sparrow has nested in our breezeway before. I photographed the bird on the nest but didn’t follow up to see what the progression was. She used one of the pieces of wicker furniture we have as her nesting site. Black Throated Sparrows aren’t really scared of us and they will let us walk by without taking off. While watering plants outside, we will find sparrow nests in the lower branches of trees. Why they nest there I haven’t a clue. It is just the right height for a coyote to grab the bird. We did have one instance where we saw and record a sparrow family history.

Nest with eggs picture

Four small eggs were found in the Black-Throated Sparrow’s nest

This San Pedro River Bird Watching adventure started on June 9 th while we were watering plants. We have a large pot outside the dining room window that has a Texas Sage planted in it. We really hadn’t been watching for any activity at the sage since all the action that we wanted to see was around the hummingbird feeder. The sage isn’t really thick and a Black Throated Sparrow built a nest in the center of the sage. During the watering of the sage, I spotted the sparrow by accident. She was quiet and didn’t move while I was watering and I really was just interested in finishing up without disturbing the bird as little as I could. We were able to observe the nest from inside the dining area and I decided that I could document what was going on for the next few weeks.

I got my camera and put on my zoom lens so that I could stay back from the nest. I got the picture of the Black Throat on the nest. The next day when I was walking by, I noticed that the sparrow was not in the nest. I had a chance to take a photo of the nest with 4 white eggs. I didn’t want to disturb the bird so I just left as soon as I had my picture. I figured that I would wait and see what happened in

Bird Mouth Open picture

Reflex from rustling the plant set the you to peep for something to eat.

another few days. Checking from the dining room, I would see her on the nest sometimes and gone at other times. On the morning of June 13, after I had come over to the guest side, I was opening up the windows to let in the cool 64 degree air. Yes in Arizona, San Pedro River Bird Watching can be done in the cooler temperatures of our mornings. South of Phoenix doesn’t mean hotter than Phoenix. Of course the elevation of our San Pedro River bird watching B and B helps tremendously.

But back to the story. After opening the window at the dining room, I saw the female return to  the nest and I heard the peeping of the small young. When she took off to find more food, I grabbed my camera and made my way to the nest. Az I rustled the branches to get a little better picture, all 4 heads popped up with mouths wide open. What a picture I thought and what a busy bird that sparrow would be for a while just to keep these 4 fed. The sparrow was always on the move during the next week.

Four BT sparrows in nest picture.

All four sat quiet in the nest after their eyes were opened and they had their feathers.

I would check out the window intermittently so I would know the female was away from the nest. On June 19, I was able to photograph the young birds all quiet in the nest. They no longer were pink skinned but instead they all had feathers on their bodies. On the 21st I was out working in the yard and saw a small bird out on the patio. You could tell that the bird was young and testing his wings. Mom wasn’t too far away. I hurried back to the house to retrieve my camera again. I was able to get a slightly blurred picture of the mom and the youngster as he chased her wanting to be fed.  I was able to get a good picture of the young bird sitting on a planting pot. He watched me but I kept back so that I could see what he would do. I asked myself, what about the other 3? I went back to the nest and two of the 3 birds were still there. I didn’t see the third bird and have no idea of that birds fate. The two in the nest were looking around like they wanted to leave but were a little too scared to take off. I got the picture of the 2 and then left to go inside.

Adult with young picture

The young bird followed mom all over asking for food.

On the 23rd, I checked the nest out and all the birds were gone. It was interesting to watch the of the Black Throated Sparrow family and the activities. One can only marvel at life when you see a small egg turn into a bird with the special ability to fly. Now with a little luck you might also find something of interest when you are San Pedro River Bird Watching. So when you decide to do some San Pedro River Bird Watching, think about where you will stay and check out Down By The River B and B, the Lodging Hub of Cochise County. We are centrally located to all Cochise County activities and birding areas.

Young Black-Throated Sparrow Picture

The first Black-Throated young to leave the nest

Empty nest Picture

After about 3 weeks the nest was empty and all the birds were gone.

Our B and B on the San Pedro River Lends Support To The Tucson Audubon

June 23rd, 2013 by Mike Hug

Our B and B on the San Pedro River Supports The Tucson Audubon’s Big Day for Birders

American Avocet picture

American Avocet walking in the Twin Lakes birding area.

Birders have all heard of the “Big Year” and our B and B on the San Pedro River has had some birders from New Jersey who stayed atDown By The River while working on their Big Year. For those of you that don’t know what “The Big Year” is, rent the movie by the same name with Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson. This shows you what real avid birders will do to find birds. The Tucson Audubon’s “Big Day” is a scaled down version of the Big Year. The Big Day, named the Sky Islands Birding Cup, begins at the start of the Tucson Bird and Wildlife Festival which is held from Aug 14 th through the 18th. The money raised from the Festival goes to the conservation efforts of the Tucson Audubon.

On August 14 th, from 12 AM for a 24 hour period there is team competition to find the most birds within a prescribed geographic area. The record for the most birds seen during this particular event is 199. Last year the winners spotted 174. That total is almost a quarter of the over 700 species spotted during a Big Year. If you are doing a big year this area is one you would want to make sure you hit. One of the requirements is that the birders only are allowed in Pima County and any abutting counties with the exception of Yuma County. This rule allows Cochise County to become a part of the search area. Our B and B on the San Pedro River is located in Cochise County at the Northern End of The San Pedro National Riparian Area. That is just south of Saint David, Arizona and is perfect for finding resident birds and those that may be migrating through the area at that time. There are an estimated 200 plus birds that can be found during the days search and the lists from the last 2 years can be found at this link.

Vermillion flycatcher picture

Vermillion Flycatchers are found in the San Pedro River area and on the property of Down By The River B and B in St.. David.

Now there are rules that must be followed and there is a required sign up that needs to be done to compete in the Audubon’s Big Day. The link here will give you all the important information that you need for the competition. There is no requirement that states where you start your competition but there is one for turning in your list. It can be done at the official station or it can be emailed in to the Audubon official email address. There is an official clock and you need to be synchronized to the clock. There are 6 different categories of teams and I am sure there is one just for you. So if you are inclined to participate, then start scouting areas for those birds. The scouting prior to the event is allowed. And if you decide to take time scouting and don’t want to spend time driving from Tucson or other locations to get where you are going Then consider our B and B on the San Pedro River for your lodging. We did a blog about our central location to many birding areas throughout Cochise County. We have a list of over 50 birds that have been spotted on the property or in the adjacent San Pedro River. Good luck if you decide to try this fun filled event out.

Spend Some Time At A Cochise County Stargazing B and B

June 16th, 2013 by Mike Hug

Enjoy the dark skies in Cochise County at a stargazing b and b

Cochise County is known for the dark skies we enjoy at night and our stargazing b and b is in one of the better parts of the County with easy highway access. We are away from the light sources in Sierra Vista, Douglas and Tucson. Part of the reason that Cochise County is so dark is the strict light ordinance that has been enacted to prevent light pollution, thus enhancing the efficiency of the large observatories in the area. It also benefits stargazing b and b inns and allows us to offer another attraction for our guests. When we first opened Down By The River B and B, another stargazing b and b was located not far away in Benson. The world famous Skywatchers Inn was started and run by the Vegas for many years. It was finally sold around 2007 when Mrs. Vega finally retired. We still have guests ask about this inn. The b and b then became the Astronomers Inn and when that stargazing b and b finally closed in 2008 it sat unused for over a year. In 2010, the San Pedro Valley Observatory began business strictly as an astronomical observatory,  research and teaching center. I wrote a blog about this in October of 2010. Down By The River has partnered with the owners of SPVO and if you make a reservation with them for star viewing, we offer a 10% discount of off the room rate when you stay at our San Pedro River B and B. Because stargazers have late hours, we work around their schedule for breakfast.

Dobsonian Telescope picture

Our Stargazing B and B has a 13″ mirror Dobsonian Telescope

As a stargazing b and b, Down By The River is set up more for the novice astronomer who wishes to view the stars and planets but not for the serious astronomer into astrophotography. We can see deep space objects but with the higher magnification your viewing time is diminished because of the smaller field of view. A Dobsonian telescope isn’t motorized and there is no computer to do the sighting for you although we do have a finder on the scope. A Dobsonian telescope is manual in all respects and you have to aim it at what you are going to view. That doesn’t mean at our stargazing b and b you won’t see neat things but you can’t spend a long time looking at an object without readjusting the location of the telescope to view the object. It also depends on the area of the sky that you are viewing. Closer to the equator the view changes faster than when you view toward the pole star.

In April of this year, we did see the PanStarr comet just after sunset and we set the telescope for our guests and let them view it. We also showed them Jupiter with 3 moons on one night and 4 the next, open star clusters, globular clusters, some nebulae and the Andromeda Galaxy. The moon is another object to look at when it is a crescent. Full moons do not have the details of the craters visible because of the brightness. Viewing of the heavens is also dependent upon the phase of the moon. When the moon is approaching full phase the sky gets washed out with light and only some of the planets that are up and some stars will be available for viewing. Uranus, Neptune and Pluto can be seen only with dark skies.

Stargazing on back patio picture

This is the first attempt with filming on a digital camera and done at the B and B on the back patio using starstax program.

But I have talked enough of the telescopes, so on with a different part of the story. You can see many things with binoculars because of the dark skies. We had a gentleman here from Hamilton, Ontario Canada who is an amateur astronomer and a camera buff.  He was here at a conference and then took time to vacation in Arizona. He originally was looking for the Astronomers Inn stargazing b and b but as I said they no longer exists, He found SPVO and found that they weren’t a b and b anymore but they did refer him to us. Our guest David Galbraith introduced Angie and myself to night star photography using a tripod. David did a short star track photograph with his digital camera that included about 30 different pictures at the rear patio area. Each picture was exposed for a few seconds with a 30 second delay and then another shot. After repeatedly doing this he ended up with a collection of photos where each shot was at the same focal point but the stars moved slightly. He had a software program that would stack each photo and make it into a single photo. The program would then connect the star streaks and fill in the blackness with the appropriate starlight color. The result was a sweeping star track across the sky with the b and b in the background. You can also see some other streaks in the pictures and those are airplanes that are flying through the picture. This gives some interesting things to look at. You will also see an instance where a satellite is seen in one of the pictures.

Star Tracks picture

Over 100 pictures ere taken in over an hour and put together to produce this image. Not that the B and B lights do not wash out the picture.

The old 35 mm film cameras would not be able to do this is such a spectacular fashion if you had some external light sources in view. Film cameras would open the shutter continuously and stationary light sources, such as inside lighting from the b and b, would have increased over time and would have become very bright. The program averages the light at fixed sources between each frame. This keeps the picture from over exposing the brighter lights in that area. After he showed me the beginning shots and the final product, I was hooked on trying it myself. He showed me the program and how it worked. He told me it was a free program that you can download from the internet. It is called Starstax. I think it could be used for other things also, such as street scenes with cars driving through the city, lightning storms or on a whimsy tracking fireflies. While he was here he gave me copies of 3 pictures that he took around the B and B. I have included them on this blog and we thank David for his generosity for sharing them with us.

Planet alignment picture

This picture is of the three planets in alignment – Mercury, Jupiter and Venus

We also spent some time to take some pictures of Mercury, Venus and Jupiter just after sunset. For future reference, I played with the aperture, exposure time and speed to see which was better with my camera and these conditions. Some pictures came out brighter and some darker than others so I was pleased with the experiment.  The planets were all aligned at this time and you could get the picture in a single frame. Venus became visible first and then Jupiter closely followed by Mercury. Venus was very bright and you could not really notice with the naked eye that it was waning. When I enlarged the photo on the computer, it did show the shadow side of the planet Venus. We are glad we have the opportunity to be a stargazing b and b, it adds one more dimension to all the activities that guest can enjoy here along the San Pedro River at our B and B, the Lodging Hub of Cochise County. Consider joining us to see what we have to offer with the quiet solitude of our b and bs location.




North Star tracking picture

The picture is focused on the north star and shows that Polaris, the bright streak near the center, is not really due north but is offset slightly.

Our San Pedro River B and B Pinterest Project

June 11th, 2013 by Mike Hug

Our San Pedro River B and B Pinterest Project is going strong.

Mike asked me if I would do a blog for Our San Pedro River B and B on the Pinterest Project that I have undertaken. “Who Me?” I protested. Since I am the one that has developed it and since I am taking time and effort to keep it updated, I guess I am the best one to talk about it. So I will share my pinning experience with you. To see our San Pedro River B and B Pinterest website, click on the picture or here. If you do go to the Pinterest site to see what is there you will be able follow me, if you wish.

Our San Pedro River B and B Pinterest Screen Capture

This is a view of the Down By The River Pinterest Project that Angie has started.

As many of you know social media is becoming another way to market your business. Facebook, twitter, MySpace, linked in and now Pinterest all are ways to let potential guests know what you are doing and what you have to offer. Mike has been working on the Facebook website for about a year with some contributions from me, but Pinterest has been my project. I wanted this to be something different and when we got our website to link to Pinterest, the tech at our web hosting company, Inside Out, said that my concept was interesting and appealing. So far so good.

Initially it was fun to create the boards that reflect my likes; boards for food that we create, serve  and food we would like to try; more boards to display the interior and exterior of our San Pedro River B and B; other boards to show the reasons to visit the area and the attractions that are near to us. I like to believe that I am a creative thinker. Board titles came to mind such as “ Starry , starry nights”, “Sights for sore eyes” and “ Make your tongue dance.”  “Let us take you to your chamber” was another name I liked. Each board has a theme and purpose but the Chamber board main purpose is to show off the b and b with pictures of our rooms. Then it hit me – Pictures! Now what do I do? Where do I get the pictures and how do I upload them.

I did some uploading from the website and other locations but then I decided I could use the photos Mike had already taken. Oh but even better, another idea hit me. I have the ability to take pictures with my Kindle. (Handy item that Kindle!) After Mike emailed me pictures, I found I could upload them to my various Pinterest boards or in “Pinterest Speak” I could pin them! Since I could also pin my own pictures in the same way, I felt good and knew that I was on a roll! I found that I could also add a web link to Down By The River, our San Pedro River B and B. I am hoping that potential guests will see my pins and go to our website to see more about us and what we have to offer.

I am always open to ways to improve my pinning process and make the time I spend on the Pinterest Project easier. If you have some tips to make this more efficient and easier, let me know by commenting here on the blog or email us by clicking on the “Contact us” button. If you would prefer you can always go and reserve a room so that we can have the face to face contact and we can exchange ideas over the fine breakfast that we serve after your great nights sleep in our comfortable beds. It is so much nicer to share in person don’t you think? Just call Angie at the b and b to make that reservation.

Wild West Car and Truck Show Near Our Tombstone B and B

June 6th, 2013 by Mike Hug

Our Tombstone B and B is the lodging choice

Although we are located in St. David on the San Pedro River, we still let our guests know that we are a Tombstone B and B. On the weekend of June 15th Tombstone will feature the 2nd Annual Wild West Car and Truck Show in Tombstone. The show also allows motorcycles to be entered. The show starts at 9 AM on Saturday the 15th and goes until 3:45 PM when trophies will be given out. It is a free sign up to enter and that is a real deal. The event is sponsored by the Dragoon Saloon and the registration sign up is at the Saloon on 5th and Toughnut Streets.

Wild West Car Show Poster

2nd Annual Wild West Car Show will be held on June 15, 2013

The entrants will receive a free barbeque lunch with their entry. Besides touring Tombstone, there are other things things to do during the show; including a 50/50 drawing, raffle prizes and door prizes. It should be a fun time to look at the old cars and trucks and how they are tricked out. During the show there will be live music by the group Song of Songs. Last year there were 65 entrants and the first prize went to a 1947 Buick Super, owned by Russ Oesterling from Safford, Arizona. All the benefits for the show go to the Cancer Society. This is a cause close to my heart because my wife Barb, who established this Tombstone B and B with me, died of cancer almost 4 years ago.

During the year, there are other events in the area that also provide proceeds to cancer charities. The Knights of Columbus have a fund raising golf tournament in late February.  Down By The River B and B helps with the tournament and is a sponsor. In October, Tombstone also hosts the Corvette and Ghost Riders car show. This event has drawn up to 250 entrants over the two day show. The proceeds there also go to a charity, in this case the Phoenix Children’s Hospital and Cancer Center. Mark your calendar for that event and watch our events page on the website for upcoming things to do in Cochise County.

When you decide to come to one of these events, look up Down By The River, our San Pedro River B and B, as a lodging alternative to other Tombstone B and B s. You will find us to be a memory making experience.

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