We set out early this morning to visit Roy P. Drachman Agua Caliente Park which is nestled in the northeastern corner of Tucson. With the Santa Catalina's and the Rincon Mountains as back drops. Agua Caliente is an unusual desert oasis loaded with birdwatching opportunities.
As we stepped out of the car we were greeted by this "empidonax". There is no grouping of birds that is harder to identify but they make for a great picture. You can learn more about the trials and tribulations of identification of emphidonax here: 10000birds.com/what-is-an-empidonax-flycatcher.htm
We are originally from New England and immediately were aware of the familiar call of Robin Red Breast. There were perhaps 15 or so that I counted during our visit. Learn more about American Robins here: www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/american_robin/id/ac
Agua Caliente which translates to "Hot Water" is a year round source of warm water that comes from the Santa Catalina's. There is a spot in the park where the water bubbles up out of the ground and turns into a small stream that feeds the ponds at Agua Caliente. The park was planted many years ago with non native palm trees that have grown to magnificent size and are the most notable plant around the main pond.
I loved this walk through the wooded area of the park. It has a variety of trees but is mostly Mesquite. This path leads to the smaller ponds that are fed water after the main pond is full and while we were there the water was coming in at a very slow rate. These ponds were by no means at capacity and we saw very little activity here.
Most of the palms were not pruned and had the fronds hanging all the way to the ground which provides a home for many birds and other desert creatures.
Another surprise was the presence of Cedar Waxwings which were near the water and feeding in the palms as shown here. I estimate that there were around two dozen Waxwings in the park and everyone was trying to get a good picture. I have to admit that when I'm in the field the excitement of the moment sometimes overcomes my technical sensibilities and when I load the images onto my computer there is always the possibility that I will be disappointed with the results. The waxwings is one such incident and I am considering an early morning return to try once again. www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Cedar_waxwing/id/ac
There are many picnic tables at the first pond which has a contingent of resident mallards and other ducks that are very comfortable around humans and some dogs. Most were scattered along the waters edge sleeping and barely noticed our presence if at all.
The three photos above show the size of the palms which must have been planted many years ago. While not native to the Sonoran Desert there are many palms throughout the Tucson area.
This Great Blue Heron spent the entire time we were there observing the water around this platform. Moving from side to side but we never saw it enter the water or catch any food. You can read more about Great Blue Herons here at: www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Great_Blue_Heron/id/ac
These two photos show the Santa Catalina's in the background and the "oasis" quality of the first pond juxtaposed against the traditional dry desert mountains. It's a contrast that's worth seeing as there are so few permanent water sources here in the desert.
The rule for bird watching here in southern Arizona in expect the unexpected and I didn't expect to see a pair of male Ring-necked Ducks today but here is the proof. Check out Ring-necked Ducks here: www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Ring-necked_Duck/id/ac
It was a nice visit and I will return to Agua Caliente in the future as it has allot to offer those of us who seek to spend our days in and around nature.