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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Southeast Arizona’s Backyard Birding at Paton’s Feeders

April 24th, 2012 · No Comments

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In Southeast Arizona some of the best birding is right in the town of Patagonia. It’s the backyard of 477 Pennsylvania Avenue, where Wally and Marion Paton lived.

In the early 1990s they opened their yard to the world after several rare hummingbirds built nests there. At least 15 of the 23 species of hummingbirds anywhere in North America live in or migrate to Southeast Arizona, most of them to the Paton backyard. Wally died in 2001 and Marion in 2009, but the Paton family still keeps the feeders stocked as well as providing a comfortable place for birders from all over the world to sit or stand.

“The place owned by Marion Paton and her late husband, Wally, is unprepossessing, but for many birders it’s the best place in Arizona,” Luke Dempsey wrote in his delightful 2008 book, A Supremely Bad Idea: Three Mad Birders and Their Quest to See It All. “She keeps many feeders hanging from the eaves of the low-slung house, and birders are invited to stop in and see what’s there at any time of the day. She and her husband had not only established all these feeders across the years, but also provided some chairs to sit on, a bunch of birding guides, and eventually even a canopy to save birders from the hot Arizona sun. I read somewhere that because of the storms that come through here, she’s on her seventh tent, which seems almost biblical.”

Sharon and I saw more species of hummingbirds at Paton’s feeders than we could possibly identify even after searching all of our field guides. Here are a couple of photos that I took of them there.

I especially like this male Rufous Hummingbird, even though it is the only species of hummingbird that we see around Boulder. This little bird, which is only about 3 inches long, migrates here every summer. “If migration distance is divided by body length,” says Richard Cachor Taylor in his Birds of Southeastern Arizona, “the 2,000-mile migration of Rufous Hummingbirds is among the longest in the animal kingdom.”

A Male Rufous Hummingbird Feeds

A Male Rufous Hummingbird Feeds

Click on the picture above to enlarge

Another common hummingbird that I saw at Paton’s feeders is also one of my favorites. What an incredible color combination!

A Male Broad-billed Hummingbird at a Feeder

A Male Broad-billed Hummingbird at a Feeder

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The feeders in the backyard of the Paton residence attract not only hummingbirds but also all kinds of other birds.

A nuthatch searches for insects hidden under the bark of this tree in its usual manner, head-first.

A White-breasted Nuthatch Looks for Food

A White-breasted Nuthatch Looks for Food

Click on the picture above to enlarge
A Male Gila Woodpecker Wants to Eat Too

A Male Gila Woodpecker Wants to Eat Too

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Three Male Lazuli Buntings on a Feeder

Three Male Lazuli Buntings on a Feeder

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The Paton residence is just a few blocks down the street from the residence of some friends of mine who used to live in Boulder. Binx Selby and his wife Linda Fong welcomed us to their home. They founded BalancePoint, a program to reduce inflammation. They also co-authored with my friend Dick Williams the new book, Eating Your Heart Out?, which I reviewed in February. With all the birds in their neighborhood I could almost understand why Binx and Linda abandoned Boulder for Patagonia.

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