Wednesday, December 7, 2011



Winter has come to Madera Canyon. Winter in this Sky Island begins when the cold moisture laden air settles into the Santa Cruz River Valley and rolls up canyon as the day slowly begins to warm up. I saw this last week from the patio of my neighbor that lived up on Hummingbird Hill. The crest of the Santa Rita Mountains were covered with fresh snow and Mt. Wrightson looked like a frozen monolith of rock. It had to be windy and bitterly cold on the summit. Paul Neff has a wonderful view from his house at the top of Susie Lode Lane. As Nancy and I looked down canyon the clouds were moving up canyon at a steady uneven pace. The scene reminded me of being in a cloud forest at Monte Verde or along the Los Quetzal's trail in the mountains of Panama. The mist washed over us and you began to see the view shrink before your eyes, You could make out the shape of the ridge across the street and the silhouette of the trees. I zipped up my jacket, rounded up Blue & Taz, and we took a hike along the Nature Trail. It was a beautiful winter day and my mind wandered to exotic places as I walked through the clouds.

We have had three moisture laden cold fronts come through southern Arizona over the past few weeks. These late in the year rains are what fuels the explosion of spring flowers in this part of the Sonoron Desert. Last Spring the Canyon was home to eleven species of Morning Glory. We've already had a low of 15 degrees, so there aren't many flowers blooming this time of year. There is still snow at the 6000' and once the sun goes down it gets cold quick. Our main water line froze and broke, yesterday. That's how cold it's been! My neighbor, Tim, hiked up the Old Baldy Trail today and repaired the broken water line. He is a "snowbird" from Talkeetna, Alaska. On a cold day he walks around in a sweatshirt and wonders out loud why we are such wimps. My neighbor is a good guy to have around...ahh, part of the year.


People often ask me if the birding is good in the winter. I usually liken it to a shift change. Some migrants leave for the winter and others come to stay. The resident birds, like Painted Redstart, Bridled Titmouse, Arizona Woodpecker, and Magnificent Hummingbird are here year around. For the past several winters Madera has had a male Elegant Trogon roaming through the lower canyon. What a treat! Does it get any better than this? Well, yes it does. Yesterday, the "Birdwire"  BIRDWG05@LISTSERV.ARIZONA.EDU  subject line in an email screamed: SEAZ: Florida Wash--Rufous-capped Warbler

Arizona Field Ornithologists (AZFO) confirmed that Rufous-capped Warbler is indeed a very rare bird. Florida Canyon is a only 20 minute drive from the Chuparosa. Local birder, Jan Wilson, discovered the bird on December 6, 2011, while hiking the trail up from the Florida Work Center, a research station operated by the University of Arizona. Local birding guide, Laurens Halsey, photographed the bird today. You can see his excellent photo and hear the bird at (click on "Photo Documentation" and "sound library" ). Historically, AZFO reports that there are 19 previous records for Rufous-capped Warbler. Most of those sightings were related to nesting attempts. Multiple birds were present at Florida Canyon from 19 December 2008 to 14 January 2010. A nest was found and photographed on 18 May 2008. The other recent record is of one to two individuals at Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve from 4 June to 28 October 2009 which also included reports of nest building.
Did you know that my favorite breakfast on a cold winter morning this year is "Eggs Robles?" I first had this dish in a Santa Fe restaurant where the chef was a man named -- you guessed it, Robles. That vato can make a mean breakfast: 2 tamales, topped w/ 2 eggs over easy, and smothered with green chili enchilada sauce...mmmmgood! You mention this blog when you make your reservation and I might make this special breakfast for you.

I'll be keeping my eye out for a Rufous-backed Robin. A birder this week reported seeing two of them while hiking the Bog Springs Trail. Come on out for some winter birding and see what you can find.


Friday, September 16, 2011

I Know that Fall is in the Air

At 7:00 this morning the temperature was a cool 62 degrees with a light breeze blowing down canyon, as the heavy air flows from the higher elevations to Proctor Overlook and the grasslands. It's another beautiful morning in Madera Canyon. The monsoon still lingers and cumulus clods are already growing along the crest and beyond. Rumor has it that there is a 20% chance of rain. The creek serenaded me to sleep last night and gently prodded me awake this morning. Have I told you lately that I love this place?

I know that Fall is in the air because the mums are flowering in the gardens at the Chuparosa. These pretty yellow flowers attract butterflies, bees and me. They always remind me of Nancy. You see, all the mums were gifts to Nancy in years past. They are, truely, a gift that keeps on giving. Long ago, they brightened up her day when I surprised her with flowers. Later they matured, dropped their flowers, lost their luster, and were set outside to be planted in the winter gardens. Each year, thereafter, they bloomed in September and signaled that Fall is around the corner. Nancy loves the Fall season in Madera Canyon.

I know that fall is in the air because two of my favorite fliers are migrating thru the Sky Islands of southern Arizona. Hummingbirds and nectar feeding bats are hitting the feeders in large numbers as they make their way to points further south. Devastating forest fires hit Arizona this year and the habitat for their flight home has changed for the worse. As a result, we are keeping the nectar feeders full and refilling them for the night shift. There are thousands of bats migrating thru each night. It is a sight to see as they nimbly glide thru the forest understory as if they could see every tree, shrub, and feeder. Did you know that 28 species of bats have been reported in Arizona and 16 of those have been found in Madera Canyon?

I know that fall is in the air because the telephone wires on the way down the hill have lots of migrating western flycatchers perching as they seek out a buffet of grasshoppers. The "butcher birds" are back on the wires too! Logger-head Shrikes post up along the road  and watch the White-winged Doves as they head south to Sonora. The grass along the sides of the road as you drive up canyon is a favorite spot to find many butterfly species, including the beautiful Variegated Fritillary. They are feeding on snakeweed (Gutierrzia sarothrae), turpentine bush (Ericameria laricifolia), and the many sunflowers that bloom this time of year.

Finally, I know Fall is in the air because the autumnal equinox is next week. On September 23rd the sun will pass directly over the earth's equator and the day will be split in two equal parts. Look up into the night sky and you will see Capricornus or the Seagoat. He will be up in "The Sea" along with Pices and Aquarius. The local O'odham name for September is "Moon of the Dry Grass." By the end of September drying winds will turn the sea of green grass into a carpet of brown tinder.

Adios, until next time.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lucifer Hummingbird Thrills Guests

The male Lucifer Hummingbird (Calathorax lucifer) continues to thrill guests at the Chuparosa. This rare hummingbird has set up shop in Luis' "super secret garden" and has graced us with his presence for the past 2 months. He was banded on July 25, 2011. Two weeks later a Berylline and Calliope hummingbird were banded. the Berylline remained, but the Calliope was not to be seen. We still have a pair of Blue-throated hummers and numerous Magnificent. I have observed up to five Mags at a time on one feeder. The Violet-crowned is still coming in to the feeder across the bridge. Fall migration should be in full swing by the last week of August thru  the first week of September. Bring your binoculars, spotting scope, and camera.

This year the bat migration started early, so the "night shift" has been draining every feeder that does not have a "bat guard." The Mexican Long-tongued bat (Choeronycteris mexicana) and Lesser (Sanborn's Long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris curasoae) are coming thru in large numbers. Many guest's are getting great photos, so bring a flash. We are going thru, at least, nine quarts of hummer juice each day. What the hummers don't drink during the day the night shift finishes off after dark.

The butterfly garden is at its' peak flowering cycle and there are many species coming to feast on the nectar. There are large numbers of Dull Firetip (Pyrrhopyge araaxes) butterflies coming thru the gardens. In addition, there are Hairstreaks,Sulphurs, and Western Tiger Swallowtails visiting the "Obedient Plants) in the front garden. The Sacred Datura ( growing in the back gardens are almost leaf less as the hornworm caterpillar of the Five-spotted hawkmoth (Manduca quinquemaculata) munch their way thru two large plants. It's weird to see them flowering without any leaves.

The dominant black bear in the Canyon has been feeding and hanging out along the creek bed just down from the one-laned bridges. We stopped walking Blue & Taz in that area to avoid any turf wars.

The creek is running and is still music to my ears. It's hard to stay awake when you are relaxing on the patios. This weekend at the Chuparosa you can expect scattered thunderstorms and isolated rain showers. Daytime high temperatures in the 70's to low 80's dropping into the 60's and 70's overnight. In short, it is just plain beautiful. I love the monsoon season! 

Monday, August 22, 2011


August 22, 2011    This weekend weekend Debra & Rusty and Cathleen & Tom made their 11th annual visit to the Chuparosa. They are guests and friends that come each year to get a way from the Phoenix heat. The 2.5 hour drive from Phoenix makes for a short trip when you figure that it is about 30 degrees cooler here in the Canyon. Tom, as usual, was the chef and cooked a sumptuous dinner of steak (bison fillets & sirloins), chicken, and salmon. Sides of grilled vegetables and Capresi salad were enjoyed by all. Debra, a Phoenix realtor, used her expertise to select a variety of wines that made everyone happy. Tom, Kathleen, and Rusty hiked to Josephine Saddle on Saturday. On Sunday Cathleen & Tom rode their bike down to Green Vally (14.2 miles) and toured the Stone Mountain subdivision.

Repeat guests "Jack" Craig & Manabu Saito joined us on Saturday night for a great time around the fire-pit. Earlier in the evening they went down canyon to Whitehouse Picnic Area for some "bugging" with Doug Moore and the Friends of Madera Canyon. They were thrilled to see many Madrean species of moths and beetles. Their favorite was the Chrysina Gloriosa a beautiful scarab beetle that is green with gold strips. Jack & Manabu kept us spellbound with their tales of adventure around the world. Jack has travelled the world as a physician and Manabu is an artist that specializes in botanical drawings. He illustrated the Cacti (A Golden Guide) by Frank D. Venning (1974). They will be coming back this Fall with Bobbie & Chuck Woodman.

Amy & Scott were first time visitors to the Chuparosa. They joined the rest of the guests on Friday for a fire, appetisers and a couple of glasses of wine.Saturday morning they were up early and hiked the Old Baldy / Super Trail hike to Josephine Saddle. I have a sneaky feeling that they too will become regular guests at the Chuparosa.

All the guests enjoyed their breakfast of asparagus quiche, fresh apple muffins, ginger bread, and our famous fruit parfaits. This was a weekend to remember and we look forward to Debra & Rusty and Cathleen & Tom's 12th annual visit--it may take me that long to recover!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I don't want to count my chickens before they've hatched, but if you are reading this blog then the sweet smell of victory is in the air here at the Chuparosa. After numerous tries I have finally been able to access my own blogspot. As you can see, it doesn't take much to make a digitally challenged person happy. Where do you start w/ a blog? Must I say something profound or do you just want to hear what's happening here in Madera Canyon? I think that I better go w/ the latter, instead of boring you w/ the profound.

The monsoon season is in full swing and it looks like springtime in the Canyon. The creeks are running, flowers blooming, and Aztec Trush has returned to Madera Canyon. We are getting rain just about every afternoon and the temperatures have cooled down to 65-75 degrees. This is the season for rarities! We have been seeing 11 species of hummingbirds since the beginning of July, including Lucifer, Beryline, and Violet-crowned. All of the usual suspects are here and we even banded an Allen's hummingbird. I'm here keeping hope alive that a White-eared hummer will appear any day now.

Tonight I will be setting up a couple of black lights and a mercury vapor light to do a little "bugging." We have guests from Sierra Vista that want to sample the nightlife here at the Chuparosa. It will be an evening of bugs, bats (Lesser-long nosed & Mexican-long tongued), Rig-tailed cats, and Elf owls. I 've already warned the guest's to keep their door closed so they don't get any unwanted visitors in the room. Our resident skunks & raccoons can be pretty bold.

Well, Nancy just got home from work-god bless her- and we are going to take Taz & Blue for a walk to the mailboxes (2 mile round trip to get the mail, sweet). We have been seeing a happy 3-4 year old black bear down by Madera Picnic Area for the past few days. A walk in a Sky Island is always an interesting proposition. Adios, until next time--if I can remember what I did differently this time to access my blog!
Luis Calvo

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Welcome to our BLOG! Where we can share information about the Chuparosa Inn!

The Inn offers a wonderful environment for couples with a romantic heart, nature lovers, hiking and biking enthusiasts, or anyone who enjoys meeting others in a relaxed atmosphere.