Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Along the Colorado with Friends

Annually we join friends at the wonderful Buckskin Mountain State Park along the lower Colorado River north of Parker, Arizona for 10 days or so of camaraderie, good food, golf, relaxing by the river, birding, hiking, laughs and great times.  Eight couples converge from Tucson, Yuma and Reno.  Pairs of couples are assigned to cook one night for the entire group and the dinners are nothing short of amazing.  The other nights are potluck, leftovers (and there are LOTS of those) or eating out.
Buckskin Mountain State Park, Parker Strip, Arizona (near side of the river)
We always celebrate my husband's birthday, and he loves to cook for the group on his day.  Our scheduled cooking night didn't fall on his birthday, so he orchestrated Build-Your-Own-Baggie-Omelet night.  He puts your eggs in a freezer baggie, you add all the ingredients you want from a vast array, then into a big pot of boiling water they go.  Shortly, out it comes from the pot, and onto your plate goes a fabulous omelet.

Jay and his birthday gift - "Albert"

Four days are scheduled for golf, three at the beautiful Emerald Canyon course, and one day for a par-3 tournament at Havasu Springs.
Some of the gang, at Emerald Canyon
The remaining days are open for sightseeing, hiking, birding, kayaking, reading, and whatever else anyone has a mind to do.  Many stories are told around the campfire each evening.
Around the Campfire

The Buckskin Trail leads from the campground up into the Buckskin Mountains where the sparse vegetation of the Lower Colorado Valley Subdivision of the Sonoran Desert is dominated by palo verde trees, brittlebush, creosote bush, cholla, beavertail prickly pear cactus and red-spined barrel cactus. A few lonely saguaros punctuate the skyline.   Birds up here away from the river include the lovely little black-throated sparrow, Costa's and Anna's hummingbirds, verdins, kestrels, turkey vultures and ravens.  Lots of little lizards scampered off the trail as I approached.  But if I stopped and stood still, so did they.  Some even let me take their portraits.
Black-throated sparrow on cholla
Red-spined barrel cacti
Beavertail Cactus in Bloom
Lizard all dressed up in breeding colors
Beside the conspicuous beavertail and the reliable creosote bush, the wildflowers were few and far between, a testament to the extreme lack of rainfall here this year.

Wildflowers along the Buckskin Trail

There was lots of talk in the camp about a rare bird sighting just up the road in the Bill Williams NWR.  Nutting's flycatcher, an unusual visitor from Mexico, had been seen every morning, right about mile-marker-2 on the Bill Williams road.  So, coffee in hand and dressed in layers in the chilly morning, Jay and I decided to take a look and see what all the fuss was about.  Jay was watching his odometer to make sure we got to the right spot, but there was no need.  The moment we came over a hill to the 2-mile marker, there were half a dozen cars and birders with their scopes and binoculars already in place.  Wouldn't you know that the bird had been there just minutes before, showing off and singing too.  So, I settled in for the wait, hoping he would return.  Meanwhile, a very vocal canyon wren entertained us with his singing and antics on the sheer rock cliff on the other side of the road.  Verdins, Gila woodpeckers, black-tailed gnatcatchers, a variety of sparrows, phainopeplas and warblers also kept the group busy.  Finally, the famous guy made a reappearance, but left me somewhat unimpressed.  He looked a lot like an ash-throated flycatcher, and had the 'experts' not been there, I would have perhaps made that ID mistake.  There was no mistaking the javelina that crossed the road right near us!  Wildflowers were much more in evidence here in certain areas.

Wildflowers in the Bill Williams NWR

Bill Williams River
Down along the Colorado and in camp, many more birds added to my list:  osprey, Cooper's hawk, robins, rufous hummingbirds, ruby-crowned kinglet, red-winged blackbirds, great blue herons, pied-billed grebes, coots, mourning doves, Eurasion collared doves, gilded flicker, hooded merganser, ring-necked ducks, white-crowned sparrows, vermillion flycatchers, Western grebes, cormorants, mallards, shovelers, buffleheads, red-tailed hawks, Gambel's quail, killdeer, ring-billed gulls, terns, roadrunner, Say's and black phoebes, Northern rough-winged swallows, Western bluebirds, starlings, Abert's towhees, grackles, yellow-rumped warblers, lesser goldfinches, cowbirds and house finches.   A big chuckwalla lizard hangs out on the rock ledges, and the wild burros and coyotes sing for us at night.  A beaver lives just down by the water, where you can see his trail and the arrowweed he has cut down, and if you go early in the morning, you might even see the big guy himself.  The campground is also a fabulous place to watch the night sky, and the alignment of Venus, Jupiter and the moon made it special.  Mars was also rising in the east.

The time ended much too soon and before we knew it, we had to head our separate ways.  Until we meet again right here next year.

Here's wishing you happy days spent with friends, and a little silliness too!
Barry, Carole, Pat and Shellie - Winners All!


  1. Looks like a really nice tradition to look forward to....I love your nature shots. I look forward to this down the road. We have a similiar tradition for getting together during certain times of the year....minus the golf:) Spending time with friends is the best.

  2. A great gathering in a beautiful place.

    Was along the Colorado River a little further north a couple weeks ago and saw my very first killdeer.

  3. Fabulous post Carole! I'm loving your new photos. That cactus flower now heading your website looks like it's made of silk.
    Black-Throated Sparrows are totally stunning. Every time I see them it's jaw dropping, like seeing them for the first time all over again.
    I agree too about the Nutting's Flycatcher. It's been reported and raved about since last October it seems, but for some reason I just don't feel the inclination to chase all the way out there for an unusual, ubiquitous flycatcher. I guess the lack of specialness to the bird's look and the distance are holding me back, but hey it's cool you saw it! They only come into the U.S. every few years!

  4. Looks like a fun get together! The blooming beaver tail cactus is gorgeous and I love the colorful lizard. :)

  5. What a great tradition! I really like your shot of the beaver tail cactus. Great shot of the blooming cactus with a wonderful background. :)

  6. beautifully composed pictures, especially that of the beveartail cactus with the rocky mountains in the background, the desert is wonderful.


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