Monday, November 15, 2010

A Day in Scottsdale with Friends

Avi and I woke up before everyone else and went out on the balcony to see if there were any birds around. Well, of course there were! Apartment complexes use sprinkler systems so, even with the desert landscaping, there were Curve-billed Thrashers and Gambel’s Quail in the area.


We also heard a distant hummingbird. When they woke up, we suggested to our hosts they put out a hummingbird feeder. Hopefully they do!

The first order of business for the day was getting a good cup of coffee. Actually, this is the the first order of business most days. We settled on a place called Jolta Java before moving on to breakfast elsewhere. On our way out we were approached by someone with “Yianni” embroidered on his shirt. He asked us where we were from.

When we answered, “San Antonio” he got all excited, telling us he was opening his new restaurant in San Antonio that night: My Big Fat Greek Restaurant. Apparently, Yianni is starting to build a franchise, with eleven of them in Arizona. San Antonio’s would be the first one in Texas. We promised we would go when we got home and he told us to ask for Lefty and Chris and tell them he sent us.

<Slight diversionary footnote here: We went to the one in Scottsdale that late afternoon AND the one in San Antonio when we got home. I highly recommend both places. Despite some of the kitsch (plate breaking, dancing, “Opa!” yelling), the food is fresh and well prepared.>

Breakfast was at a New York styled “deli” and so, thus fortified, we went on tour, our friends taking us around different areas of Scottsdale and trying to “get us” some birds.

In addition to looking for birds, we also made a stop at Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s western headquarters. After all, we were in the area and it seemed like something we really had to see.

The tours were a bit too rich for our blood, especially being five people, with the lowest priced tour charging $32 each. But we were able to see the exterior of one of the buildings.

Wright, in spite of poor engineering execution on many of his homes (the ones up north are often cold and leaky), he certainly was, and still is, the master of building homes that just seem to meld into the surrounding landscape.

Taliesin Taliesin-1 Taliesin-2

Sandi and Jack (and their daughter Hannah) took us around to different areas to show us views from neighborhoods being developed in the hills of Scottsdale. In one of the areas Avi yelled “STOP!” He had spotted this beautiful Accipiter perched on a small tree.


Let me preface all this by telling you we’re not experts at Hawk ID. And this was a fairly LARGE Accipiter. We knew it wasn’t a Sharp-shinned Hawk, but couldn’t wrap our heads around a Cooper’s being quite as large as this bird seemed to be. We hoped it was a Northern Goshawk, a bird we need for our life list.

Luckily, the hawk was very tolerant of our walking around her, snapping photos from all different angles.

When I got home, I posted the photos, asking for help. Help came from Peter Gustas, a hawk watcher and counter. He pointed out several field markings indicating she is a Cooper’s Hawk, rather than a Northern Goshawk. This is one of the things I love about birding – people more expert than you are always willing to help with ID’s and identification education.

Here’s another shot of our little lady. (I say lady because female accipiters are larger than males, and this lady, as I said before, was large).Hawk-3

Avi and I told Sandi and Jack that we needed to go where there was water to get any decent list of birds. We found that water (of course) near one of the area malls that was adjacent to a golf course. That’s when we really began seeing birds, albeit mainly waterfowl and shorebirds.

Hannah, their daughter really started enjoying the concept of birding at that point. Here were birds she could wrap her head around. They were moderately stationary, close-up, and had some color to them. So Avi spent some time teaching her how to use her binoculars and we both started helping her by telling her the birds’ names and how to identify them.

Hannah Rzepka 

We ended our time with a decent list, having had a wonderful visit with some friends we hadn’t seen for several years.

Thanks Jack, Sandi and Hannah!

April and the Rzepkas

We returned to the apt. Packed up the Mazda, and headed out to stay the night in Willcox, AZ, which would put us in perfect position to visit Chiricahua National Monument the next day.

Our day ended with this creature greeting us at the entrance to our evening’s accommodations:

Willcox Centipede

Yes, it was alive. No, we didn’t kill it, or take it home (the more likely option, if you know us well)!

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