Boating on Patagonia Lake

January 23, 2020
Boating on Patagonia Lake

It’s the last day of our trip and we went boating on Patagonia Lake.

But the birding started in the parking lot of our hotel in Tombstone.

While Rob was on the phone with the office I took the opportunity to check out the little birds fluttering in the trees around the hotel.

Jackpot!

A flock of Verdins was scouring the low shrubs in front of the car.

Every time I took a picture there was a branch somewhere in front of the bird. They are masters of hiding in their habitat as they look for bugs.

Luck would have it though as one flew onto a cactus and posed for a moment and then flew to a bush that had gone to seed and I was able to capture a couple of good shots.

Verdin sitting on cactus

Verdin sitting on cactus

Verdin on bush

Verdin on bush

There was also a Bewick’s Wren and a thrasher combing the ground at the base of the bushes searching for breakfast.

Heading down the road we came across numerous hawks that flew away as soon as we slowed down to take a photo. Obviously they were camera shy.

This area is starting to have a few vineyards and we saw a sign that said fruit wine. One of Rob’s favourite.

Pulling into a winery the lady was really nice but we had pulled into the wrong driveway.

They only made red wine (dry) so she referred us to the meadery next door.

Turns out all the wineries in the area work with each other and have made a sort of wine tasting tour.

Nice to see as this area is a bit off the main highways.

So… off to the meadery, we go and not only do they have mead but also the preferred fruit wine.

How they make the wine is to ferment the honey and then add the fruit.

Delicious.

Rob’s only complaint was that we didn’t stop when we went through a couple of days ago.

The store was done up like a home with a library including the rolling ladder and a window filled with coloured glass bottles and dishes.

I could have sat down on the sofa, grabbed a book and a glass of wine and spent a lovely afternoon.

Instead… we headed into Patagonia and picked up a couple of salads for lunch and headed to Patagonia Lake State Park.

The day was warm and sunny, perfect for some time on the water.

Heading down to the dock we talked to Carl (the boatman) and he told us to rent the pontoon boats were $175 for 4 hours and to rent the skiffs were $75 an hour.

We only needed it for 2.5 hours so we decided to go with the skiff.

The only problem was I couldn’t get in and out of it.

So Rob went to talk to the powers that be and charmed the ladies into giving him the pontoon boat for $100.

As there were only 2 boats rented for the day he argued that it was better for them to get $100 than nothing at all.

You can walk right onto the pontoon boats and they have nice cushy seats so much nicer to be on than just a skiff.

And off we went!

First, we headed down to the end of the lake where the majority of the birds normally are and there is a no-wake policy for boats.

Compared to the birds we normally see in November the bird counts were down considerably.

In the fall there are lots of ducks and numerous grebe varieties but today the majority of birds consisted of ruddy ducks, common mergansers and coots.

American coot posturing

American coot posturing

That wasn’t to say there wasn’t a surprise in the works.

We noticed something white amongst the trees and upon coming closer found that there was six something white amongst the trees.

Like the verdin first thing this morning they were hidden by the branches and it was hard to get a good clear photo of one of them.

But they were Black-crowned Night-Herons.

I’ve seen them before but only from a distance.

These were fairly close and are actually quite a short stocky bird with a very big beak and a red eye.

Black-crowned Night-Heron in tree

Black-crowned Night-Heron in tree

Black-crowned Night-Heron at Patagonia Lake

Black-crowned Night-Heron at Patagonia Lake

Awesome to see so up close.

The ruddy ducks were just starting to get their breeding colours.

The male’s beak had a ting of blue and the chest was starting to turn brown.

Male ruddy duck winter plumage

Male ruddy duck winter plumage

Here is what they look like in full breeding colours.

There was a group of Eared Grebes at the far end of the lake as well as an unexpected visitor at one of the campsites.

Eared Grebe in cove

Eared Grebe in a cove

Imagine being asleep in your tent and having this large bovine walking around outside.

Bull in campsite

Bull in campsite

Or leaving a few choice cow patties to step into?

As we got closer to show the bull stood up and it was definitely a bull with all the right tackle.

The time was much too short on the boat but we still had to get to Phoenix for the night and return the car.

Back on the highway, we made good time, got our hotel, returned the car and will be home by tomorrow night where I hear it is raining.

No matter what the weather it will be nice to sleep in one’s own bed after a relaxing and eventful holiday.

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