Communing with Nature: Madera Canyon

Submitted by Kathy Mclin, October 2020

In these past months, Communing With Nature has become as much necessity as passion.  And, when I’ve trekked about it’s been great having a like minded friend to share with, each experience.

On a warm day in late September, my friend Suzanne and I decided to head to Madera Canyon.   A popular birding spot, endorsed by Tucson Audubon’s Volunteer and Festival Coordinator, Luke Safford, for its wide variety of native and migratory birds.  
 
We were barely headed up the road to the Carrie Nation Trailhead when we stopped to photograph and document a Gould’s Tom Turkey and  two of his hens. Iridescent in the sunlight Gould’s are one of two turkeys native to Arizona, Merriam’s the other.
 
Arriving at our destination we began a gradual climb up Carrie Nation keeping our eyes and ears focused on the sights and sounds around us.  Hiking with a simpatico other(s) is an essential for optimizing each adventure.  We stop often, look for scat, flora, movement, unusual looking objects and listen.  For us, It’s not a race, but an experience, filled with suspense, grace and new discoveries.
 
The birds were elusive as we climbed steadily upwards.  Acorn woodpeckers, and Mexican Jay’s, teased us by perching behind tangles of branches. Only the Bridled Titmouse and a few Yellow eyed Junco’s  were willing to share open space with us. Turkey Vultures dotted the sky above.
 
We hadn’t made it to the spring yet when a Jay finally gave me a chance for a photo.  And turning to head back up the trail there it sat, a Male Elegant Trojan! Resplendent in his Red vest, azure Blue top coat and Green tail. He appeared with his back to us, then sensing our presence flew to a nearby tree where we could see his red vestment. Birders from all over America and across the globe come here hoping to get their sights on one. My first sighting, Suzanne’s second.  Wow!  Elated by his appearance we watched him for some time before deciding to move on.  We passed by the Spring and  stopped to catch our breath. A couple hundred yards ahead a Painted Red-start crossed our path and flew down into the wash that dropped down from the trail and separated our mountainside from the one on the other side. Playing hard to get it would land with its back facing us then quickly fly  a few feet ahead or backwards at it’s whim. We followed it back and forth trying to capture its red breast in a photo. Just as it landed, red flashed. Suzanne positioned her camera, I glanced across to the mountainside opposite, “ah, Suzanne, there’s a BEAR over there!”  “ A BEAR”, Yep, there it was,  a cinnamon colored, healthy, adult Black Bear  sniffing a bush.
 
I had one quick thought that if the bear had wanted to it could be on us in less than a minute.  But, instead it turned away and began walking away, up the hill.  A couple of steps,  it turned and gave a Harumpft! …..darn humans! I snapped several photos and together we giggled with joy!
 
We had been standing in this same spot not 2 minutes before and there was no bear.  Had it not been for that crazy Painted Red-start we never would have seen it.  It seemed unimaginable, seeing a real live bear and an Elegant Trogan minutes apart.  Mother Nature had smiled on us!  An unbelievable day! 

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