Archive for April, 2014

San Pedro House Birding

April 22nd, 2014 by Mike Hug

The San Pedro House Birding Attraction Is Being A Globally Important Birding Area.

San Pedro House birding area sign

The signage at the entrance to the San Pedro House birding area is easily seen from the road.

The San Pedro House birding facility is just a short drive away from Down By The River B and B. This birding hotspot is located in the center of the nearly 57,000 acre San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. This Globally Important Birding Area attracts visitors from all over the world. It is a jewel that is prized in Cochise County. With almost 400 species of birds that make their home here along this flyway as either residents or migrants, the San Pedro River birding can be fantastic for someone that wants to spend time in one location. The BLM has a birding check list for the area that you can download here.

The San Pedro House can be reached from the b and b driving on Arizona Highway 80 south to the Highway 90 junction and going west to the San Pedro River. There is a large parking lot at the San Pedro House. The visitor’s center is a gift shop and book store which offers light refreshments and information about the area. There are picnic areas and restrooms on the property. Fee camping is permitted at specific locations.

San Pedro House Birding Area Visitor's Center

San Pedro House Birding Area Visitor’s Center is the old farm house.

The property was once a historic cattle ranch with alfalfa fields that is slowly returning to the natural vegetation. The visitor’s center was the original ranch house and is run by volunteers. There are trails that lead from the visitor’s center to the river and then north and south along the river. When completed the trails will interconnect and will cover about 30 miles with access to many areas of interest from the San Pedro House birding location. There is a lot to tell about this area and what can be seen as you enjoy the facilities. I will write about the trails later but for now I am going to focus just on what is around the visitor’s center.

Cottonwood tree picture

A large Cottonwood Tree estimated to be about 130 years old is located at the San Pedro House birding area

At the visitor’s center there are many things to see and do. The San Pedro House birding has many feeders that attract many hummingbirds. Other seed feeders attract other birds and flycatchers can be found chasing flying insects. Foraging birds can be found around the native vegetation. One of the more impressive things to view are the large Cottonwood trees that are near the old ranch house. One tree has a trunk that I estimate to be twelve feet in diameter. The tree is massive and there are many birds that can be spotted in the branches. The large tree is estimated to be up to 130 years old. The Cottonwood behind the house is almost 60 years old and may be half the size of the bigger one shown here.

Curved bill Thrasher picture

The Curved Bill Thrasher was foraging on the grounds at the San Pedro House Birding area

Female Black Chinned Hummingbird picture

The Black-chinned Hummingbirds frequent the feeders at the San Pedro House Birding area.

While Angie was looking in the gift shop, I spent time wandering around the old ranch house and took pictures of 10 different birds in 30 minutes. I saw others but didn’t have time to identify them before they flew off. It was an amazing experience to see so much activity in a short period of time. We do have a lot of birds at Down By The River but we have been watching those birds for almost 10 years and some are almost old friends now but many are easily scared off. We don’t have the large San Pedro House birding enthusiasts being at the location on a daily basis. These birds were different and appeared to accept people being near the feeders.  That made photographing them much easier.

Common Ground Dove Picture

The Common Ground Dove can be confused with the Mourning Dove. The spots and the tail are the give away.

After Angie had made her purchases, we got our water and were ready to set out on the trail to the river to find more adventure and to explore the trails and the river. It had been more than 8 years since I have been down to the San Pedro House birding and I was interested to see what we could find. My next blog will tell you what we found down on the river. But if you are interested in seeing the areas, check out Down By The River B and B,  The Lodging Hub of Cochise County.

black chinned hummingbirds at San Pedro House birding area feeders picture

Two male Black-chinned Hummingbirds were at the feeder together.

San Pedro River Raptors

April 16th, 2014 by Mike Hug

San Pedro River Raptors Fly Over Down By The River B and B at St David

Northern Harrier Picture

The Northern Harrier was the first Hawk that we photographed of the many San Pedro River Raptors

Our birding guests will find that many San Pedro River raptors can be seen flying over the back of the property at Down By The River B and B. There are a variety of raptors in the area to see and photograph; however, we haven’t been able to photograph all of them. The Northern Harrier was one of the first hawks that we were able to photograph flying over the field along the San Pedro River. Red-tailed hawks are plentiful along the river. There are two types that we see with some frequency. One is the normal Red-tailed and the other one is the Fuertes Morph which is common in this part of Southeastern Arizona.

The difference between the two hawks is best observed when they are in flight and you can see the underside of the bird. The Fuertes Morph is almost pure white underneath with small brown areas on the forward edge of the wing and on the tips of the flight feathers. The Red-Tailed Hawk has browning banding on the tail feathers and the underwings. Once you see the difference each is easy to identify.

Red tail hawk comparison picture

The Red-Tailed Hawk has more underwing color than the Fuertes Morph Red-Tail Hawk.

Sharp shinned hawk picture

Sharp shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawks are another San Pedro River Raptor we were able to photograph. We had one that hung around the back near the feeders for an hour or two one afternoon. Because he was so accommodating we were able to get a few photographs before he flew off in pursuit of other interests. Needless to say the quail, dove and other small birds found shelter in the brush or trees while he was in the area.

Other San Pedro River raptors we have seen include the Gray Hawks, Mississippi Kites and the Great Horned Owl, in the cottonwoods along the river, The American Kestrel has been seen hovering over the brush looking for prey and then darts down to make the catch before flying back to a tree to feed. Zone Tail, Swainson’s, Coopers and Ferruginous Hawks along with peregrine falcons have all been seen gliding along the tree lined river.

Great Horned Owls Picture

Great Horned Owls Can Be Found In The Barn At White Water Draw.

All this can be seen at a world class B and B in St. David, Arizona. Where else can you have a gourmet breakfast at a relaxing b and b and watch San Pedro River raptors glide over the fields. If you wish to enhance your birding experience check into the birding guides that we have linked on our website at the bottom of our bird  page.

All this is yours as you watch from the patio or when you take your short walk to the river. Down By The River B and B is the perfect spot to have a chance to watch hawks, owls and falcons in a secluded peaceful environment. See you there.

Southeast Arizona Stargazing

April 10th, 2014 by Mike Hug

Southeast Arizona Stargazing – The amazing dark skies will enthrall you.

Sagittarius Constellation Picture

The bright stars of Sagittarius contains nebula and the Milky Way is a back drop.

Southeast Arizona stargazing is magnificent because of the dark night skies. There are many large telescopes in Pima, Cochise and Gila Counties. Because of the limited light pollution, amateur astronomers come to Southeast Arizona just to take advantage of the stargazing. There are astronomy clubs that have viewings during the darker nights of the month around the time of the new moon.

Down By The River B and B is located in Saint David, an area that is away from city lights. There are few neighbors in the country setting that provide back lighting from their homes. Little traffic is on the roads to add glare to the surrounding area. We also have a telescope that can be used to view the night sky. We have also had guests that bring their own equipment to use at the b and b during the time they spend here doing Southeast Arizona stargazing.

Dobsonian Telescope for stargazing in Benson, Arizona picture

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

We have had some guests that have stayed here for a longer period of time and have showed us some tricks to use when viewing the dark skies. We have also had a couple of guests that were into astral photography but both used a different device and techniques to take their pictures. Interestingly both were from Canada.

David set his camera up on a tripod and programmed the camera to take pictures at set intervals and had the lens open for specific exposure lengths. He would take up to 100 photographs this way and then use a program that he has to layer each photo on top of each other. The software would then fill in the lines and give a star track view of the sky. Sometimes he would also have a meteor show up on the film.

North Star tracking picture

The picture is focused on the north star and shows that Polaris is not really due north but is offset slightly. Taken By David

Our other guest John had an electronic device that would track stars. The equipment would be mounted on the camera tripod with the camera attached to it. Then the tracker would be aligned with the North Star, After that, he would aim the camera at an object to photograph and take the picture for the time duration he wanted. John does have a special camera that was modified to enhance the pictures using this method but a normal DSLR camera will work. Angie saw my enthusiasm and bought the equipment for me to use.

I have tried it and it takes some work to get the lens focused properly but I am getting better the more I try. I have photographed the moon, and the alignment of Venus, Jupiter and Mercury. My first attempt with the tracking equipment actually worked well enough for me to have a picture of Jupiter with one moon showing. I have tried to photograph Orion with a little success and finally the Pleiades. But alignment and focusing are the key elements for success.

Southeast Arizona Stargazing picture of Jupiter

This is the first attempt at photographing Jupiter. The picture shows the moon to the right side close to the planet.

For others that do not have or know how to use the equipment but would like to view the stars, San Pedro Valley Observatory is within 30 minutes drive and they will show you the stars. Appointments are needed to do the viewing. So next time you want to do some Southeast Arizona Stargazing come to Cochise County and stay at Down By The River B and B. The stars are amazing – See for yourself.

Southeast Arizona stargazing view of Orion

The Constellation of Orion is one of the more well known star formations and the sword has the Orion Nebula in it.

Photography Contest at The River

April 1st, 2014 by Mike Hug

Enter the Photography Contest at The River and you have a chance to win a great prize.

San Pedro River Bird Watcher

I am Eightball and you can address me as Your Majesty.

I am back. I guess that my last guest blog for Down By The River was such a hit, that my servants decided that I should tell you about the “Contest at The River”.  I will reintroduce myself – I go by Ditz but I am more formally known as Eightball. So long as they don’t let my food and water run out, me they can call me whatever! I get them back at night when I wake them up running across the bed with my stuffed mouse.  Gotta love it when I wake them up in the middle of the night. Hee hee, I laugh all the way to my hidie hole. But anyway I need to get on with this, as it is cutting into my nap time.

I suggested that the hired help put this together so that I can see more of the property that I let them occupy and keep up. They won’t let me out, prisoner in my own house so to speak, even though I know that the birds would fear me. Especially the hawks – They got nothing to compare with my sharp claws. And the woodpecker – His bill would be dented if he tried to use that on me. But there I go again off on a tangent. They did do a little work on this contest, very little actually. Mostly it was my idea but they just had to fill in the details. The contest is to send in entry photos of the b and b or pictures taken on the property of the b and b and its surroundings. That way I can get to view the place without sneaking out and interrupting my nap. You have until April 29 to get this submitted.

at the door picture

I only get to watch the San Pedro River Birds. Can’t hide in the juniper and leap out with my frightening MEOW.

The rules are simple and we have them posted at this link and we also tell you where to email your entry. You just need to be a fan of our Facebook site and send us a photograph that was taken on the property. If you aren’t a fan then click on this link and like us. That way you are a fan.  The photograph needs to be a certain size but it can be of anything. The more unusual and creative the better to keep me awake while I am judging the pictures. The hired help think it is their job to find the winner but I will tell them the one I like.

I also told them to post the winning photograph on the Facebook cover for the month of May and to put it on the website. I will have them give you credit for the great work you did. They thought that this was a great idea all by itself but I told them to give away a $50 gift certificate for use at the B and B as the main prize. I have to do all the thinking around here. It just tires me out. Well time to eat and then go catch a few hours of shut eye. Got to be ready for tonight’s bed bouncing episodes. Oh and good luck on your entry.

Goldfinch feeder picture

Goldfinches flock to the feeders at Down By The River B and B.

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