Saturday, December 2, 2023

Patagonia Lake

Corona de Tucson

December 2, 2023  

Patagonia Lake State Park

Last weeks post ended with the mention of an adventure with Jamie and Andra on Saturday.  During coffee that morning several possibilities were discussed for a day trip to near by places that Jamie and Andra had not visited yet.  Patagonia Lake was unanimously chosen...yippee !    

The lake and surrounding area became a state park in 1975 and what makes it especially nice is that it joins the Sonoita Creek State Natural Area...both are named an Audubon important bird area.  

Patagonia Lake was actually formed when Sonoita Creek was dammed back in the 60s.  It's not a big lake at only 265 acres and 2.5 miles long, but it is always busy with boating, swimming, fishing, hiking, birding and camping.  

It sure is fun revisiting and sharing favorite places. 

There are a couple of  bird feeding stations at the park.  I was so happy to see a White-breasted Nuthatch.  I read that they get their common name from a habit of jamming large nuts and acorns into tree bark then whacking them with their sharp bill to "hatch" out the seed.  

These small territorial birds move about quickly at odd angles...mostly vertical...along the main branches of large trees which makes snapping a clear photo a bit of a challenge.

I was also delighted to see a male Ladder-backed Woodpecker.  A sweet little female ladder-back visits our  backyard feeders with some regularity, but we have not yet seen a male in the yard...fingers crossed ! 

 I don't think this female Common Grackle was very happy to see us...

And a "new to us" bird...the Inca Dove...with its scaly-looking feathers.  I would love to see one in flight as I read they have a flashing chestnut color underwing and white in its tail.   

There wasn't a variety of ducks waddling or swimming around the lake...just a few Mexican Ducks which are a very close relative of the Mallard...and sometimes called Mexican Mallard.  

The male has a dull yellow bill and the female has the molted orange and black bill.

Male Mexican Duck

Female Mexican Duck

We did have a nice walk along the lake shore just beyond the park campground in the State Natural Area.  There are only peeks of the lake here and there, but the old cottonwood trees are quite magnificent.  There are many of these giants that have lost huge limbs.  I read that these trees are among the largest (more than 100 feet tall) and oldest (130 + years) Freemont cottonwood trees in the country.  Patagonia Lake is one of the few remaining sites in Arizona where these trees still grow.

On the way home we stopped in Patagonia for lunch. We all enjoyed yummy burgers at the Wild Horse Restaurant and Saloon located inside The Stage Stop Inn.  The Inn stands on the site of the original Patagonia Stage Coach stop...part of the Butterfield Trail system.  It was originally built in the 1960s when an avid horse lover, Anne Stradling, moved to the dusty little town and opened an exhibit she named Museum of the Horse.  No one came to the museum to see her amazing collection of anything and everything related to horses which she surmised was due to the lack of lodging.  So, this wealthy East Coast family heiress built the Stage Stop Inn.  The restaurant is named in her honor and the saloon is the former site where Anne stored extra wagons and stage coaches.  

We had no idea that Patagonia was hosting its 21st Annual Patagonia Art Walk until we arrived there.  The event showcases the work of local artisans, authors, and gardeners at a range of sites scattered about in Patagonia.  

We didn't actually do the "art walk", but enjoyed watching the lady who was felting in The Book Nook, the pottery at a local gallery, the colorful little town, and a cookie (You can't leave Patagonia without one!) from Gathering Grounds.

I love browsing in The Book is located at the back of the Trading Post.  

A colorful potters workshop and gallery

Brother and sister ferrel cats the owner of Patagonia Plants had altered and now feeds.  I don't think these kitties have plans to go anywhere else.  

Shadows from inside the church...

Old hitching post in the park

Yummy peanutbutter and white chocolate cookie 

A touch of Christmas at Patagonia Plants

Reminders of days gone by...  

Mural at Velvet Elvis 

It was such a delightful day !

We headed to the city this week for a couple of appointments.  After Joe's appointment to get his teeth cleaned on Thursday, we made a stop at BKs for a dog and a side order of guac and chips.  I always forget to mention that I don't want the fries...the guac and chips are a favorite and so, so yummy !

Back at the oasis we enjoyed the rest of our week.  I can hardly believe we turned the calendar again, that it is December already, and 2023 only has a few more days.  

The weather was really nice and mid-morning/afternoon walks were pleasant. 

Late one afternoon we headed out for a short walk.

Sally and I caught November's second full moon setting early Tuesday morning.   

November's Beaver Moon so named because it is the time of year when beavers begin to take shelter in their lodges for the long winter ahead. 

I made banana nut bread.  I grew up with banana nut bread and love it toasted with lots of butter.  

We were both excited to see the neighborhood owl perched in the pine tree that is just outside our fence.  I am always looking for him (her) and see him often on walks, but I don't carry the zoom lens when I walk at home.  He was so close...such a treat...I waited patiently for 70 years to see an owl in the wild.   He perched there for quite awhile watching and waiting before flying away.


The Bottlebrush tree is blooming...that was a surprise !

We love watching the birds gather...

We enjoyed some cooler temps and much needed rain Friday.  I made chicken noodle soup.  It smelled so good cooking all day in the crockpot.  We served it with crunchy sourdough cheese toast.  It hit the spot !

That's a wrap on November and our week.  It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Until next time. 



  1. I have not heard of several of those birds. The Mexican Mallard, Inca dove and ladder-back are all new to me.

    What a treat to see the hootie-hoo! Great picture.

    1. Hi Jim! We do love seeing the Hooty-hoot…especially in our backyard. I thought the Inca Dove was quite unique with its scaly looking feathers…I think there is a quail that looks similar that we haven’t seen yet.

  2. Did that woodpecker have a Black and Decker drill under its wing? The holes in his chosen tree are perfect :)
    I bet the old shovel was used for target practice before it became a yard ornament.
    Your Sonoran Dog is HUGE! Do you share one? We'll gladly return to El Charro for the Carne Seca tho :)
    Altho your owl is so elegant and so silent in flight. I like the the magnificent bevy of quail at the water dish

    1. Hi Jeff! I am pretty sure peanut butter and or suet is stuffed into those holes which a favorite food for woodpeckers. Actually I read that the old shovel came from the Bisbee Mining Co and was used back in the day…not sure how it ended up in Patagonia…there were several other artifacts there too. Yes, the Sonoran dog is huge and yes, I do eat every bite all by myself along with the guacamole and chips…I never eat the fries though. Hoping you and Fran come thru this way again…we love El Charro too!

  3. I too have never been to Patagonia Lake--Michael has on motorcycles but not me. Thanks for providing that travel guide--burgers and cookies--that will make Mike happy! We were in Tucson on Monday and saw that you guys were getting rain. Only drops fell at our house. :( Loved all your bird photos--you know a lot about birds! I just say, "oh look at the pretty bird!"

    1. Hi Janna, we enjoy walking at Patagonia Lake…lakes are a real treat in the desert. There really isn’t much in Patagonia…a few shops, restaurants and some history, but I do enjoy walking Main Street. It is colorful, clean and friendly. We didn’t go this time with Jamie and Andra, but have visited the Audubon Hummingbird Center on other trips there. I do enjoy the research whether it’s birds, places or history…a carry over from teaching all those years I guess.

  4. Hmmmmm, some how we have missed this little gem, Patagonia Lake. Heading to AZ so maybe we can remedy that.

    1. Patagonia Lake is a great place to stretch your legs, look for birds and I think you can even rent boats. It’s not a long day…it’s just not that big!

  5. What a great outing at Patagonia! We stayed there a few years ago and enjoyed our time (well, except for the family of 4 children next to us, sleeping outside on cots directly under our bedroom window!) It made for a few good stories so all was not lost! So many nice birds there. The little town is fun to stroll around and so colorful!
    We have a pair of Ladder-backed woodpeckers at home and the male, we call him dumb bell for short, just can't seem to get the hang of our suet feeder! He taps and taps and taps on the plastic backing instead of moving around to the front where the seed is easily available! Good laughs at second cup!

    1. Hi Sue, yes, it is a treat to visit a lake from time to time when living in the desert. I love water birds and am always excited over the prospect of seeing them. I have my fingers crossed that our sweet little female ladder-back will someday visit the feeders with a mate. Wouldn’t it be so awesome to see babies? The birds are wonderful entertainment !

  6. That owl is magnificent! I ooh and ahh over all your pictures as I read your blog, then it's so very hard to choose favorites, so I'm choosing them all! I do love the photo of Jamie and Andra crossing the sweet and pretty. It looks like a lovely week, and you guys are so blessed to live in such a beautiful place. We can't wait to come for another visit. Love you all!

    1. Hi Jill, isn't he though…I love the owls and get so excited when they stop by. Living in Arizona is so different from the east. I love both places…(minus the humidity in the summer back east). I do enjoy your pictures from the mountains…so gorgeous and I do miss all the huge beautiful trees from there. We love your visits and always look forward to them! It’s fun sharing our favorite places with you! Love you too!

  7. Wonderful captures of little Patagonia lake and town! So many great birds :-))) They have more and better eateries than Tombstone!! Our sunny fall days have indeed been spectacular. Love your circle of drinking Quail!

    1. Hi Jodee! I love riding down to Patagonia Lake & looking for birds! And won’t come home without a cookie! We do love Tombstone too…so different from Patagonia, but way fun in its own way!