Arivaca is a small community in south-central Arizona with an estimated population of 900~1000 citizens. There is a watershed of 45 square miles that drains out on Arivaca Creek. The subterranean geology brings the underground stream near the surface and an unexpected marsh (cienega) with giant cottonwood trees rising from the arid landscape. A dozen years ago I made a friend here, and I wanted to reconnect on this trip. My friend Barbara has lived here for 57 years, raising kids and grand kids. She taught generations of local kids as an elementary teacher and was part her family’s beekeeping business. She has worked for years as part of the local electrical coop and served on the water board. In fact, I met her when she was measuring the town wells.
On my way into town I spotted several sparrows at the roadside and I pulled over to investigate. Most were Rufous-Winged, but one bird did not match up to the others. I tagged it as a “First Winter” Rufous-Winged Sparrow, but in reviewing the images, I became doubtful of this ID. I’ve since learned the bird was a Cassin’s Sparrow … another “first bird” for me.
On this visit I walked twice into the cienega; once the afternoon of my arrival, and again on the following morning. The cienega yielded a few birds, none were exceptional, but I was happy to meet them anyway. I saw one small falcon that seemed unusual. It looked right for the rare Aplomado Falcon, but I got no picture and it was a flyby, so I wasn’t able to study the bird. Other birds I encountered were Cooper’s Hawk, American Kestrel, Common Raven, Rufous-Winged Sparrow, Green-Tailed Towhee (these winter here), Cassin’s Kingbird, Red-Tailed Hawk, Gila Woodpecker, Ladder-Backed Woodpecker, Pyrrhuloxia, Canyon Towhee. On the walk from the parking to the cienega I could not resist snapping shots of grasshoppers, butterflies and lizards.
The birding in late October is not at its best. March is considered the best time to visit for birds and flowers. The company here was first rate. I hope to travel this way again in the spring.