The Casitas at Smokey Springs Ranch
We had made reservations a full year in advance at a ranch way up on Mt. Lemmon, thinking that it might be fun to see some mountain birds on our trip. BUT the place closed during the winter! Maeve had stayed at a lovely resort in east Tucson a few years back, so she contacted them - and they had one casita open!
We had energetic plans: we'd drive up and down Mt. Lemmon; we'd visit nearby Agua Caliente Park; we'd check out other nearby birding hotspots. But once we got to the Casitas at Smokey Springs Ranch we didn't want to leave!
We spent most of our four days sitting on the veranda and watching birds and other critters.
We took walks in the mornings and evenings.
Our casita was lovely, with thoughtful southwestern decorations and designs and lots of privacy.
Our walks revealed unexpected treats such as miniature golf and a beautiful and inviting "spool" (a new meaning for us, a combination of "spa" and "pool").
For Northerners like us, it was a real treat to see beautifully-planned southwestern landscaping!
Unfortunately, Bernie got too close to some of the landscaping - and ended up with a few dozen 4 to 5 inch long spines from a prickly pear cactus stuck in his leg!
Cactus barbs stay under the skin even after the spines are pulled out. We learned on this trip that there are two recommended methods for getting the barbs out: bikini wax or household glue slathered on gauze and allowed to dry, and then yanked off. We don't travel with either of those items, but we do travel with the ever-handy duct tape. Bernie applied it over and over until his skin felt smooth.
Critter-watching was very rewarding! Birds, ground squirrels and rabbits didn't seem to mind our watchful presence.
We were also visited by a seven-foot-long snake! The ranch owners assured us that it was the local Gopher Snake, a nonvenomous desert dweller.
Note the little rodent seemingly unconcerned about the snake.
At every stop on our three week journey in southeastern Arizona, we saw and were delighted by feisty Cactus Wrens!
We also got a kick out of comical little ground squirrels and long-eared jack rabbits.
Critters enjoyed the shade as much as we did, and the little ground squirrels enthusiastically shared our popcorn.
Gambel's Quail came by several times, with youngsters in tow.
Some of the most frequent visitors to "our" backyard were Curve-bill Thrashers.
Gila Woodpeckers visited us daily, along with Gilded Flickers.
These two gorgeous Harris' Hawks were our "goodbye" from the ranch.
The name Phainopepla might be weird but these are gorgeous birds. The first time Maeve saw one, she was with her daughter Megan and Megan called out, "Look! A velvet black cardinal!"
Verdins are small desert birds with golden heads. Their three or four-note whistles were all around us on our first stop and this, our last stop, but it's hard to get a good look at them because they never stop moving!
The ranch owners graciously invited us into their backyard to meet their mules, peacock, goats and humongous African tortoise. We also enjoyed one or two immature Vermillion Flycatchers and watched a huge Cooper's Hawk nest. Bob told us that a pair had nested there for several years and this year the female had moved the old nest, stick by stick, to an different tree!
The Casitas at Smokey Springs Ranch had turned out to be a perfect ending for our trip!
Today (1/13/2019) as we activate this post, the outdoor temperature here in Vermont, is (-12) degrees fahrenheit. At least the sky is blue and sunny like it was in The Casitas at Smokey Springs Ranch.
Click here for link to The Casitas at Smokey Springs Ranch website.