Archive for July, 2014

Southeast Arizona Wildflowers

July 31st, 2014 by Mike Hug

Southeast Arizona Wildflowers Bloom After The Monsoons Start In July

Southeast Arizona Wildflowers picture

Southeast Arizona Wildflowers first blossom are found on the Cactus like Cane Cholla.

Southeast Arizona wildflowers start to bloom in the spring but after the monsoons start, there is a profusion of colors on display across Cochise County. The varieties of colors are numerous and the blooming starts with the cactus and a few varieties of other plants. Driving on the roads and hiking the trails can show you visual delights from the flowers as they bloom. As the spring becomes summer and then fall the blooms will change and you will see different plants that add their colorful flowers.

Southeast Arizona Wildflower Picture

The Dwarf Morning Glories appear in June and last through the entire summer.

In the spring we have many of the cacti blooming as the nights warm up. The reds from the Cane Cholla, the pinks from pincushion cacti and yellows and oranges from the Prickly Pear give a splash of to brighten the landscape. The Velvet Mesquite adds to the scene with the whitish yellow flowers that hang from the branches of the trees. There are also some smaller clusters of flowers that come out before the rains including the violet colored Wild Dwarf Morning Glory, the yellow and orange Indian Rushpea and the white Spreading Fleabane. The large Jimsom Weed with the white and purple flowers can also be found blooming in the sandy areas.

Southeast Arizona Wildflower Picture

White Easter Mojave Buckwheat, purple Mock Vervain and yellow Desert Marigolds all add to the colors you will see when you find Southeast Arizona Wildflowers.

But with the monsoons the colors of Southeast Arizona wildflowers explode throughout the county. The ground will get enough rain to germinate last year’s seed and will add many new red, orange, yellow, purples and white flowers. Under the mesquite tree next to the B and B becomes covered with vines of bluish Morning Glories, and red Trans Pecos Morning Glories. Included in the mix are Golden Crown Beards, Globe Mallow and the San Pedro Daisies. The orchid like flower of the Devils Claw is also found interspersed in the vines. We have staked the area with an old chair and limbs to allow the climbers to extend up into the mesquite. It becomes covered by the vines that you don’t dare enter because you don’t know what is hiding in the area. All of the growth is natural as we haven’t planted a seed. We do some trimming to make sure we don’t lose total control. Wandering over the property and along the San Pedro River you will find many different flowering plants that are native to this part of Southeast Arizona.

Southeast Arizona Wildflower Pictures

The red Trans Pecos Morning Glories add color to the purple Morning Glories and Golden Crown Beards.

So if you want to see the beauty of Mother Nature’s garden come to Down By The River and view the Southeast Arizona wildflowers. You can also take a look at our Pinterest page for the flowers that we have photographed around the B and B. The two pins are Bristly Beauty and Petal to the Medal That isn’t as good as seeing it yourself but it will give you a representation of what you are missing. Come join us for monsoon season and see the lightning storms in the afternoon and the wildflowers in the morning.

Cactus flower pictures

The desert has a beauty that some people never see. Take to the back roads during the Southeast Arizona wildflower season and you will be surprised with what you find along the road.


San Rafael Valley

July 25th, 2014 by Mike Hug

The San Rafael Valley Located South Of Patagonia Arizona Has Been Set Aside As A State Park.

San Rafael Valley Photograph

The San Rafael Valley stretches out before you as you come over the pass on the road from Patagonia.

After visiting the town site of Harshaw, we returned to the intersection that would lead us into the San Rafael Valley. The road goes over a pass and then at the top you have a vista open up before you. The San Rafael valley located south of Patagonia is a verdant grassland that has been set aside as a state park. The grassland stretches to Mexico and this valley is the actual headwaters of the Santa Cruz River which flows into Sonora, Mexico

San Rafael Valley Picture

This is the river bed of the Santa Cruz River. The headwaters start here in the San Rafael Valley.

and then back north toward Tucson eventually flowing into the Gila River. The Valley was originally an old Mexican Land Grant, San Rafael de la Zanja. The last owners were the Greenes who maintained the Valley as a cattle ranch. The property was purchased by the Nature Conservancy in1998. In 1999, The Arizona State Park Agency purchased 3557 acres and designated it a State Natural Area. There are other cattle ranches in the area and you will encounter cattle as you drive through. You can click on the link to view a map of the San Rafael Valley.  The area is so photogenic that the San Rafael Valley was the location set for a number films including Monte Walsh, Oklahoma!, and Tom Horn.

San Rafael Valley Photo.

A lone tree stands as a sentinel on the San Rafael Valley Plain.

The State Natural Area is closed to the public because of the sensitive and fragile environment. The grassland is unique because it hasn’t had evasive plants introduced into the area and the goal is to provide safe keeping the San Rafael Valley in its natural state. There is a road that runs through the area and there are places that you can pull over and view the wildlife and birds. On our trip we didn’t encounter any vehicles on the road with the exception of a FEDEX truck. Guess they deliver even WAY off the beaten path.  There are opportunities to see prairie birds that are unique to the area. We did encounter birds as we drove through but had no time to identify them or to shoot any photos. The Tucson Audubon has had trips into this IBA and one of their blogs describes the experience.

San Rafael Valley Photo

The headwaters of the Santa Cruz River Start in the San Rafael Valley and flow into Mexico before returning to the US.

Hawk in Flight photo

We surprised a hawk as we were driving on the road to Hwy 83.

We finally crossed the Santa Cruz riverbed as we were traveling through the valley. During the monsoon season be cautious as there are many washes beside the river that may be flowing. Don’t take the chance to cross them as you might be swept away. We came to another junction that would have taken us south to Parker Canyon Lake and Lochiel or east to Canelo Pass and on into Elgin. Since we had been to Parker Canyon Lake we decided to head up the Canelo Pass Road, FR 799. The road to the pass gave us some spectacular views toward the west and the Santa Rita Mountains. The roads are well maintained though rough in spots and there are many signs to let you know which direction you can choose. We did spot wildlife on the road and surprised two hawks as we were driving by.

Hawk Photo

The second hawk that we saw sat and posed for us until finally it decided we weren’t leaving so it did.

After this wonderful day of birding and sightseeing, Angie and I finally found ourselves back on Arizona 83. We headed north to Sonoita and Elgin. On the way we checked the time and decided we could stop and sample some wine. We like many of the wineries but since it was a Wednesday and later in the day our options were limited. We chose Kief Joshua as our stop.  We have known Kief ever since he opened his tasting room and he is always happy to see us. He has even been a guest at the B and B and has referred his patrons to our b and b.

We had an enjoyable day doing a loop trip to Patagonia for some great birding, scaring up a few Southeast Arizona ghost towns, viewing and traveling through the San Rafael Valley and finally wine tasting in Elgin. This is just one of many loop trips you can make when you stay at Down By The River B and B. Make your reservation today to have some fun in Southeastern Arizona.

Southeast Arizona Ghost Towns

July 19th, 2014 by Mike Hug

Southeast Arizona Ghost Towns A Few Are Located A Short Distance South Of Patagonia.

After Angie and I had visited the Paton Hummingbird Haven and had lunch we decided against returning to Down By The River B and B directly on Arizona Highway 82 but to rather take a back road that leads into the San Rafael Valley. This drive will take you close to some Southeast Arizona ghost towns. The San Rafael Valley is south of Patagonia and is accessible by Harshaw Road on the east end of town. The road is paved up to the turnoff to the old ghost town of Harshaw. We traveled about 2 miles on the gravel road to the right passing cattle and driving through a beautiful sycamore and oak forest. We finally came to a sign that pointed left to Harshaw.

Southeast Arizona Ghost Town Picture

The road to Harshaw, a Southeast Arizona ghost town, passes sycamores and oak trees.

The town was the original site of a cattle ranch owned by David Harshaw. Hawshaw returned to cattle ranching after leaving the army in the 1870s. He settled south of Patagonia after being run off by Tom Jeffords for illegally grazing his cattle on Apache lands. While raising cattle in this area he found silver ore. He made a mining claim and named the mine Hermosa. The town was founded prior to the ore deposits that were found

Southeast Arizona ghost town ruins can be found in Harshaw.

Southeast Arizona ghost town ruins can be found in Harshaw.

in Tombstone in the late 1870s. The silver deposits started to fade by 1881 and the town burned in 1882. Harshaw’s main street stretched for a mile and had a newspaper, Post Office, saloons, boarding house and many other businesses. There is a gravesite at the town also. Over the years the mine restarted and stopped numerous times until by the 1960s everything was abandoned and it reverted to just another one of the Southeast Arizona ghost towns. The town site is now part of the Coronado National Forest. There are ruins to see and explore but we only made a cursory look of the town site.

If you continue down that Forest Road 49 you will encounter other Southeast Arizona ghost towns. These are old towns that grew up around mines and include Mowry, Washington Camp, Duquesne, and finally Lochiel which is located on the border of Mexico. Mowry is the oldest with the mine dating back into the 1850s. The other towns were mining in the late 1800s. We looked at the time and decided that we wouldn’t be able to make that trip since we started too late to be able to explore the area like we wanted. There are cautionary signs on the road in this area and you don’t want to be here after dark because of the illegal aliens and the drug smuggling that happens in the area at night. Instead of exploring more Southeast Arizona ghost towns we decided instead to head back and continue into the San Rafael Valley.

Harshaw townsite picture

Harshaw town site has ruins for exploring at this Southeast Arizona ghost town.

Birding at Paton Hummingbird Haven

July 13th, 2014 by Mike Hug

Birding at Paton Hummingbird Haven – Put It On Your Bucket List

Birding at Paton Hummingbird Haven

The White Breasted Nuthatch is one of the many birds you will see at the feeders.

Birding at the Paton Hummingbird Haven is a great activity no matter what type of birder you are. Amateurs as well as the experienced birder will be awed by the variety of birds found at this one location. Click here to see the activity. I did a blog earlier on the history of the Paton Hummingbird Haven. This portion will go into what we saw and did after we arrived. Upon arriving at the property we found the gate open and parked in the shade of a large tree. Arizona people tend to find shade first and if it is close to where you want to be, all the better. Entering the gate we headed toward the unassuming house. The caretaker was watering and we took a little time to talk with him. Angie continued talking while I went on to find the seating area and check out the birds.

Birding at paton Hummingbird haven picture

Bridled Titmouse were flying in and out of view, They did stop at the tree feeder long enough for me to get this photo.

No one was at the Haven when we arrived so I picked out a spot to set up my camera and tripod then began shooting photos. The layout of the area allows for birding to happen all around you. You are not able to take everything in and so there are opportunities in other areas that you don’t know about. The forest is to the west, and seed feeders are to the north and south. To the east is the house with the hummingbird feeders hanging from the eaves. You are within 50 feet of seed feeders in the seating area under the tent. The hummingbird feeders are closer and if you wish you can get a chair and sit within 5 or 10 feet of the hummingbird feeders.

There are three more areas that you might miss when birding at the Paton Hummingbird Haven. The ground has activity where birds have knocked seed out of the feeders. There is also a feeder that is located on a tree that attracts woodpeckers and nuthatches to name a few.  But also look up and you will see hawks and vultures flying overhead. Great photos are yours for the taking just have a little patience because Lady Luck is sitting right there. In the first 20 minutes I was having a field day with shooting pictures. I didn’t know if these birds were here for a little while and then would leave not to be seen again for hours. After that I tended to focus on more quality photos.

Birding at Paton hummingbird haven picture

Northern Cardinals were in the area. Both the male and female made an appearance

birding at Paton Hummingbird Haven

This Broadbilled Hummingbird was one of 5 species we saw at the Paton Hummingbird Haven during our time there.

As people arrived to the tent, the birds would fly off but return relatively quickly once they are seated. We met several other birders during the time we were there and everyone was pointing birds out to others. Identification was easy for many birds but in my case I would rather take the pictures and then sit at the computer so that I can see and compare. For me it is much easier to find a bird when you have time and aren’t savvy enough to pick it quickly out of a book. I believe that we saw almost 30 different birds along with 5 different hummingbirds while we were birding at the Paton Hummingbird Haven.

Biirding at Paton Hummingbird Haven

The Blue Grosbeak was easy to spot at various locations while we were view the birds at Patons.

200 + photos and three hours later we were starting to get hungry. We decided to go out to get lunch. We wanted to go to the Velvet Elvis for pizza since we have heard so much about it. But alas they are open Thursday to Sunday only. Instead we went to the Gathering Place. The sandwiches were very good and for dessert get one of the homemade cookies. They were oh so good!  After lunch we decided to take another route home to Down By The River B and B. The next blog will be about the San Rafael Valley and our adventure there.

birding at Paton Hummingbird Haven

I photographed four different species of birds all in a tree at the same time. White winged Dove, Brown headed Cowbird, Blue Grosbeak and Bronze Cow Birds

Paton Hummingbird Haven

July 7th, 2014 by Mike Hug

Paton Hummingbird Haven – A Birders Paradise

The open gate at Paton Hummingbird Haven picture

The open gate at Paton Hummingbird Haven

Paton Hummingbird Haven  is a short day trip from Down By The River B and B that will take you through wine country and into the rolling hill country of Patagonia. This drive is very scenic with scattered oak trees dotting the landscape after you leave Sonoita.  The Paton Hummingbird Haven started as the home of Wally and Marion Paton in 1974. They found this ideal spot located on a quiet back street with a wooded area surrounding the property. Over the years the Paton’s developed the site to attract birds and butterflies. The property was covered with hummingbird and seed feeders.

Over the years bird watchers would gather outside the yard to look at the birds. The Paton Hummingbird Haven was a draw and the Patons finally allowed the visitors to enter the property to better see the birds. They installed a tent cover

The Paton Home at Paton Hummingbird Haven Picture

The Paton Home at Paton Hummingbird Haven

and placed seating under it to give the birder some shade and allow them to relax while viewing the activity. The Haven also had a plastic tote that contains birding identification books for the use of the birders. That is a nice thing to have if you forgot your copy. There is also a white board where people put down what they have seen. The site became famous all over the world for the opportunities to see a large variety of birds in a single setting. With reports of over 200 species of  birds having been seen in the yard over the years, this location is probably the highest number that have been recorded anywhere.

The tent awning and seating are for birders to use at Paton Hummingbird Haven.

The tent awning and seating are for birders to use at Paton Hummingbird Haven.

When Barb and I opened the B and B in 2005, we had heard of the Paton’s site in Patagonia but with all the things you have to do to provide a good B and B experience for your guests we never were able to visit the location. Many of our guests have told us about this venue and raved about the many birds that they had seen. This past year I  had heard that the American Bird Conservancy, The Tucson Audubon and Victor Emanuel Nature Tours were working together to purchase the site from the Paton heirs. The goal was to purchase the property and to be able to maintain this fantastic birding experience for future birding enthusiasts.

Bird list photo

White board Bird List is available for birders to add their sightings at Paton Hummingbird Haven.

Recently Angie and I decided to plan a day when we had no guests and make a day trip to Paton’s and see exactly what everyone was talking about. With that in mind we set out early one morning to head for Patagonia. The trip took us a little over an hour but the scenery is magnificent. We enjoyed the drive and once we were in Patagonia we looked for 4th Ave, made a right turn and went to Pennsylvania St. Turning left we drove to 477 Pennsylvania and parked in the shade of a large tree. The Haven has a caretaker that waters the yard and keeps the feeders filled. This is a constant job for one person. He told us that he goes through more than 20 pounds of seed a day.  There is more to learn about this great place and so the next blog will go into the experience that we had looking at the birds during our stay at the Paton Hummingbird Haven.

Birders at Paton Hummingbird Haven

Birders at Paton Hummingbird Haven taking their pictures.

Cochise County Birding Hotspot

July 1st, 2014 by Mike Hug

Cochise County Birding Hotspot and Down By The River B and B a perfect match

San Pedro River

The San Pedro as it leaves the northern boundary of the San Pedro National Riparian Conservation Area

A Cochise County birding hotspot is the San Pedro River at the National Riparian area which is adjacent to Down By The River B and B. Birders come to this locale to see the birds only found in this part of the Southwest and not other parts of the country. When you visit a Cochise County birding hotspot, one thing everyone wants to see is a Greater Roadrunner.

The Greater Roadrunner is in the Cuckoo family. This bird is a fascinating to watch and is rather canny as it hunts.  Unlike the Loony Tunes character that is chased by the coyote but always outsmarts him, the resemblance stops there. The Roadrunner doesn’t eat bird seed but instead it hunts its prey including lizards, other birds and snakes. Roadrunners have been known to kill rattlesnakes. We have seen a roadrunner carrying snakes and lizards through the breezeway at the b and b.

Since Cochise County is a Birding Hotspot, there are many young birds around that the Roadrunner will

Roadrunner picture

The Greater Roadrunner is a frequent guest at Down By The River

go after. Gambrels Quail on high on the list. We have quail on the property and we leave the brush for cover so that the Quail have a place to hide and raise their young. When we first opened I had a symbiotic experience with a Roadrunner. When I walked on the property, a Roadrunner would follow me and wait for me to scare a lizard or snake out of the brush. He would stay about 4 feet away but just close enough to be able to make a quick dash for dinner.

Generally the Roadrunners are solitary but we did have a group of five together in the yard one day. We don’t know why they were together unless it was a mother and juveniles that were learning to hunt. We have also had one Roadrunner roost in strange locations around the b and b. The Roadrunner would roost on window sills against the window of a room. On other occasions a roadrunner would roost on the mantle of an outdoor fireplace and on a wood

Roadrunner roosting picture

The Roadrunner roosting at Down By The River a Cochise County Birding Hotspot.

decorative piece that was 9 feet off the floor. When we spotted the Roadrunner in those locations we wondered how he got there. Very seldom do you see a Roadrunner leave the ground in flight.

It took us a while but we finally saw the bird run leap and fly up to the roost at dusk and settle in for the night. So when you want to visit a Cochise County hotspot and see Roadrunners, plan your trip to Down By The River and see what we have to offer. Our bird list will give you a idea of what you can see during the year around our property. Additionally we are centrally located and therefore you only need to do short day trips to all the Cochise County hotspots.

Roadrunner picture

The Greater Roadrunner sometime follows me to see what I scare up for dinner while I am walking through the brush.

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