Beatnik Birding Again: Tubac, AZ
by Bryce W. Robinson
I am on the road and without a home once again!
For the next few months, I will be wandering and watching birds. I’m calling myself beatnik once again for many reasons. I’m traveling, unkempt and without a home, to ride the rhythms of life and honor them. I will be living out of my humble vehicle, which I must say is a good home.
I’m writing at the moment from Tubac, a small town just north of Nogales, in southern Arizona. For birding and many other reasons, this is a very special place. I’ve noticed that I am likely the youngest man in this town, as this is a destination for the seasoned, or retired members of society.
After deciding to hit the road once again, I received council from my friend Jerry Liguori that the spring migration in Tubac was not to be missed, so this became my destination. He planned to go as well. Upon my arrival, I met up Jerry and his wife Sherry, to watch this migration that flows up the river system through town. It was a bit of a surprise to find many others watching as well. As I found out, Bill Clark was leading a workshop with Tuscon Audubon. Meeting him was interesting…
It was nice to be with Jerry watching migrating raptors again. These were different birds however, and I was tasked with learning. Jerry, of course, is the best to learn from. He took the time to share his impressions, and kindly correct my misidentifications. Trial and error, and keen interest in learning is how one becomes a better birder. BUT, with Jerry’s help, my learning curve has been reduced significantly. I still need to watch and soak in each bird for myself, and there is one particular bird that has been a bit difficult to identify at a distance.
The Zone-tailed Hawk flies with exaggerated dihedral, just like the Turkey Vulture. From afar the two are nearly identical, but as I watch more, the differences are becoming noticeable. I also saw a few other raptors that are new to my eyes. The number of Common Blackhawk that go through this town in spring is the reason for the hoards of birders. It was a great bird to see, and is rather distinctive at a distance.
The first few days I had a some distant glimpses at the Gray Hawk, but today a pair was displaying, in courtship, over the trees. The patterning and shape of this bird is so interesting to me. After watching all three hawks, I started to speculate as to why the three desert denizens might have black and white barred tails. I haven’t decided on any conclusions, but my mind will remain on the subject until I do.
Of course there are other birds here besides the raptors, and most are new to me. Birding in the trees near the river, and in the hills outside of town, has been spectacular.
As my journey continues I am sure I will have many more things to share, besides the birds. People of the road are part of the journey, and I hope to meet and make many friends. As I wander, watch for me. As always I am heavily bearded, and an obvious example of what is a beatnik birder.
This is a wonderful post and I am looking forward to seeing more of them while you are Beatnik Birding!
Hey B, back in the day of being a beatnik U of A student I would regularly stop in Tabac on Tucson to Nogales forays. There was an ice cream place on a hill that made giant, flaming Baked Alaskas, something I’d never had growing up. If memory serves correct, the blue and orange haired soda jerks were all 50+ years older than me. Sounds like nothing has changed… Keep posting pics!
Same place Mike! I’ll keep up with the photos
Sounds like a wonderful trip, Bryce and I’m so jealous of your opportunities with some raptor species I’ve never seen. Great that you got to hook up with Jerry in a place like that. Keep posting!
Lighting is tough down here Ron, especially with overhead birds only. I’ll keep at it as far as photography goes, and post what I come away with.
You are going to have an awesome trip! Those hawks are amazing, especially the zone tailed! LOVE!
Living in Tubac since December. Pretty cool community even if most are elders. I have to say the birds have been spectacular and that’s saying a lot coming from Colorado. I’m new to the “birding” world, I’m just enjoying their beauty. I found you by attempting to figure out-not from a book-some of what I’m seeing.
Great camping at Flying W Ranch!
Wonderful. The Anza trail is great! Just keep at it, and listen. Soon you will know what you see and hear. Tubac is great. I got a lot of great work done in the little coffee shop in the town.