Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Birder's Mecca

Ever heard of the Patagonia picnic table effect?

This is the site where the saying was born. Patagonia, Arizona, located just a piece up the road from from Wyatt Erp's famous gun-fighting Tombstone, is a sleepy little ranch community with an edgy artistic fringe. It was placed squarely in the center of birders' mentality by the discovery of Arizona's first recorded Black-capped Gnatcatcher, one of the species I was fortunate enough to see on my recent trip.

And as the birders gathered at this rest-stop, other rarities were found, leading us to wonder- could rarities be everywhere and its only a concentration of great birders that will recognize the rarities (like the Kirtland's Warbler at MBS)? Or is this a blessed area, meant for finding rare birds?

In reality, it is probably all about the real estate and botany; across the highway from this famous roadside rest lies a 150-yard trail along a creek. Water, especially in arid desert-like regions, always increases the wildlife sightings.
Add the water related trees, Cottonwood and Sycamore (photo above)- and yes, you have a bird magnet.

But look again, this is not the Sycamore we know in the east. Although the bark shows the same Monnet-esque patterns of our familiar riparian corridor tree, the leaves have morphed! Behold, the Arizona Sycamore, Platanus wrightii with its elongated leaf and smooth fruits. This species provides habitat for Elegant Trogans and Violet-crowned Hummingbirds! Check it out in Sibley's new Guide to Trees- pg 104.
Better yet, I can check it off, as Mr. Sibley provides a tree checklist in the back of the book. Weedpicker could soon become... Weed-lister!

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