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Lazuli, Indigo (2BY7) May 2, 2013

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

On the plane to Phoenix two Saturdays ago, Tim began to read about the nature preserve in Patagonia that we planned to visit on Monday and Tuesday. It was then that we discovered that it was closed two days each week: Monday and Tuesday.

We had planned our birding vacation around this visit.

It would be open on Sunday, so we scrapped our plans for a leisurely morning with dear friends (we would be coming back Wednesday, after all) and drove south to visit the preserve in its last three open hours.

The small visitors center was loaded with hummingbird feeders, which were loaded with hummingbirds, and we ate our sandwiches there and watched them. Back east, we have only one species of hummingbird, so every bird was one we don’t get to see at home.

Then we had a lucky encounter with the current caretaker. We mentioned that we’d tried to get a guide, but had trouble, then kind of gave up. She mentioned that she and her husband had hired a guide for the next morning to try to see some species they hadn’t found yet during their now-nearly-over two-month stay. Did we want to come along? She would check with the guide. Oddly, the guide showed up before Tim and I left for the trails, and we made a plan to meet at 6:00 Monday morning.

It was a great day. Being with a guide meant we didn’t have to look everything up in the book, guessing. Being with a guide meant being with someone who already had western songs matched to western species. We couldn’t bird by ear out there, but he could. We added nearly thirty species to our list in those six hours.

And when we couldn’t find something—or when other birders were talking about seeing anything, really—someone would eventually say, “Go to Paton’s.”

Late Monday afternoon, we did.

We’d read about Paton’s in our guidebook to birding in southeast Arizona. The description begins: “Paton’s Feeders are not only the best place in America to see Violet-crowned Hummingbirds, but also a magnet for many other species! Marion Paton passed away in late 2009, but as of press time the Paton family was continuing her tradition of generously welcoming birders to her back yard feeders in Patagonia.”

We’d passed the place on the dirt road to the preserve. We drove over and parked by the gate. It looked like we were the only car there. I didn’t know what to expect.


The backyard held a tent canopy over four or five rows of folding chairs and benches. There was at least one table with guidebooks, binoculars, etc. Most of the chairs were filled (where did all those people park?). It was quiet. Everyone was facing a large yard filled with all sorts of feeders. As birds came in, a man announced the species and its location. It soon became clear that he was the (extremely knowledgeable) caretaker.

Moreover, it eventually became clear that even though we’d traveled all the way from Vermont, most of this crowd lived much farther east. Just about everyone was British.

So many birds. I got good looks at species I’d had only fleeting looks at before. I saw the violet-crowned hummingbirds. I sat there for 90 minutes, wanting never to leave. I found myself thinking, If this is what church could be, I could be a church-goer!—quiet, filled with beauty, everyone excited about every miracle that flew by.

One feeder was filled with lazuli buntings—I don’t think I’d ever seen one before. And then, among them, an indigo bunting appeared. “Is that an indigo bunting?” I said, already knowing, and the caretaker confirmed it and told everyone where it was. I hadn’t seen once since 2011. At last.

The Brits left and some Americans came in—a few even less experienced than we are. (For as much as my friends and neighbors think I am a serious birder, believe me, I know I am not. And serious birders certainly know I am not. And Patagonia is all about serious birders.) Around 5:00, two men arrived who were attempting a 100-species day. They were at 84. I think they got a couple more at Paton’s, but most of what was there they had already listed and, of course, they’d just missed a few.

It was hard to leave, especially knowing that being there again isn’t likely. It’s so far away. And the place is on the market.

There was a box for donations on the way out. I’ve never been so happy to make one.


1. Mali - May 3, 2013

OK, for a moment I got confused and thought you’d actually gone to the real Patagonia. (You know, the one in my hemisphere!)

Those violet-crowned hummingbirds are beautiful. And the buntings. I’m so glad you saw an Indigo Bunting. I wish I could (the feathered or the martini-ed variety).

indigobunting - May 6, 2013

One Patagonia is much better known than the other. Alas, I may not get to the one in the Other Hemisphere (but oh, the photos! oh, the fishing!).

2. Dona - May 5, 2013

I am envious, IB. We’ve never gone on a birding vacation — only vacations that involve birding as a side trip. As much as Dean likes to be in nature, he gets very bored when I want to stand and watch birds. I need a birding friend nearby.

indigobunting - May 6, 2013

Yes, you do! Great birding on the C&O Canal up to Great Falls…

3. Eulalia Benejam Cobb - May 5, 2013

That quasi-religious feeling you describe reminds me of what I felt last summer watching a pack of wolves devour a bison in Yellowstone. Come to think of it, remove the “quasi.”

indigobunting - May 6, 2013

And I just have.

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