Thursday, November 10, 2016

Bittersweet morning at Sweetwater Wetlands

This past week we suddenly and unexpectedly traveled to southern Arizona. 

Saguaro Cactus in the desert outside Tucson:

Tucson desert HDR 20161103

Just before our planned return to Florida from our second home in Illinois we learned that MaryLou's brother Jack, who lived in Tucson, Arizona was terminally ill and had entered hospice care. We arrived in Florida on Sunday and on Tuesday morning, hoping to visit him before the end, flew to Arizona. It was dark when we arrived and drove directly to see him. He was in a nearly comatose state and we worried he would not make it through the night. 

We stayed in the Air Force Inn at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. The next morning (Wednesday) we visited him again at 9:00 AM. We were gratified to find him to be quite aware of his surroundings. On the way to the hospice facility we stopped by the Sweetwater Wetlands, quite nearby. 


We got there before 7:30 AM and briefly joined a scheduled walk conducted by the Tucson Audubon Society:

Birders at Sweetwater Wetlands, Tucson, Arizona 20161102

We only ventured a few hundred yards into the preserve but were rewarded with excellent sightings of a Cooper's Hawk...

Cooper's Hawk 03-20161103

...Anna's Hummingbirds:

Anna's Hummingbird documentation 2-20161103

Anna's Hummingbird 4-20161103

...and a flock of Yellow-headed Blackbirds:

Yellow-headed Blackbirds 2-20161103

Yellow-headed Blackbirds 20161103

A Red-tailed Hawk alighted atop a power pole along the perimeter road:

Red-tailed Hawk 02-20161103

This Desert Cottontail ventured across the path. Its long ears help dissipate body heat:

Desert Cottontail 01-20161103

A highlight was this Red-naped Sapsucker, which I had seen when we lived in New Mexico, but it was my "first photographed" of this species:

Red-naped Sapsucker 03-20161103

We had to hurry off but planned to make another visit to Sweetwater early the next day.  We were surprised how much better my Brother-in Law appeared to be, and we stayed with him all morning and into mid-afternoon.

Jack's breathing was labored and his speech indistinct, but we conversed about current events in politics and particularly, sports. Jack is an attorney and had served as counsel for the Chicago White Sox baseball team. While he considered the Chicago Cubs to be his "number two team," he was avidly interested in seeing the Cubs in the final tie-breaking World Series championship game that very night (which they won). 

Back at our quarters the next morning we were up very early because of jet lag due to the three-hours difference in time. We received a call from Jack's caregivers advising us that he had passed away quietly some time between 4 and 5:15 AM.  Sad as this was, we were so grateful that we had one last chance to be with him-- much better than just coming out for a funeral.

We drove back to Sweetwater Wetlands and had time to be alone with nature. Although it was not nearly as "birdy" as it had been the previous morning, I captured photos of another "life bird photographed," the diminutive and reclusive Verdin:

Verdin 03-20161103

Verdin 04-20161103

I am fondest of my first Verdin photo. While not a "bird guide" picture, it captures its arid environment and the bird's relative size:

Verdin 01-20161103

That afternoon, hot and tired, we briefly visited the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum southwest of town. There were many visitors but few birds. Cactus Wrens were inviting subjects:

Cactus Wren 20161103

Cactus Wren 2-20161103

Butterflies were plentiful, among them a Clouded Sulphur...

Clouded Sulphur 20161103

...and a Common Checkered-Skipper:

Common Checkered-Skipper male 2-20161103

Storms threatened as we departed the Museum:

Arizona-Sonora Museum HDR 02-20161103

There was heavy rain Thursday night, but skies were clear for our early morning departure on Friday.  We had to lead a South Florida Audubon bird walk the next morning. On Sunday the weather was cool and clear, perfect for grocery shopping to replenish the larders after being away from home for six weeks. Monday provided a cloudy dawn over the local wetlands:

Pine Bank cloudy sunrise HDR  20161031  

Great Egret reflection:

Great Egret HDR 02-20161108

A fence along "The Road to Nowhere" at the north end of our birding patch:

Road to nowhere HDR 20161108

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to GOOD FENCES by Tex (Theresa). 

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy


Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart

Linking to Today's Flowers Friday by Denise

Linking to Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday) by NC Sue

Please visit the links to all these memes to see some excellent photos on display


  1. Sorry for your family's loss.

    Bud and I lived in Tucson for a decade after retiring from Colorado living. I love the desert and its unique beauty. Your bird photos are outstanding.

  2. i am so sorry for the loss of your brother-in-law, but glad you were able to visit and converse with him before he passed. bless him. and glad you could enjoy the beauty and comfort of nature, too.

  3. looks like a beautiful day, you got some great captures!

  4. So great and wonderful photos, i really impressived !
    Greetings from Germany

  5. Condolences to your wife and all for your loss.

    Gorgeous photos. Love those of the verdin particularly

  6. What a gorgeous series, Kenneth! And it is hard to believe that your photo of the Red-naped Sapsucker was your first photo of the species.

  7. I am glad that the birding helped lighten what might have been a very difficult time in Tucson and you were able to spend this last time with your loved one. I am sure he appreciated it.

  8. Fantastic shots, KCS. And congrats on your lifer pics!

  9. I am so, so sorry for your loss...but glad you got to see him and actually visit with him.

    You got some wonderful shots here.


  10. I am so sorry for the loss of your brother-in-law. But it is wonderful you could visit him. So can you give it all a good place in your minds. Sterkte!!!

  11. Another glorious series of captures Kenneth - I especially like the Sapsucker. Condolences on your loss.

  12. Southern Arizona is a photographer's paradise. Your shots reflect that.

  13. the Arizona skies are fabulous. You found a lovely assortment of pretty birds.

    And my deepest condolences on the loss of Jack.

  14. Beautiful photographs, condolences for your loss...

  15. Fabulous shots. So sorry to hear about Jack.

  16. It was good that you found solace in nature. A sad time for you and your family but helped a little by spending those last few hours with Jack.

  17. Sweet and sad visit. Glad to hear you were able to visit with him before he passed. Capturing all those birds and creatures is a gift.

  18. What a trip, thanks for sharing - with so many beautiful captures. One time I'll paint the cooper hawk, but then the cactus wren is another possibility:) Also love the yellowish butterfly. Have to look at the map, we've several times driven through Arizona, on the way to UT

  19. Sorry about your loss. The colours of the desert and the cacti are just stunning, as are those birds! Love the shot of the little green hummingbird.

  20. Sorry that such a sad occasion brought you to southern Arizona. We did a northern Arizona tour several years ago...I guess the whole state is a photographer's playground. That blue sky [top images] is unreal. If that was without using a polarizing filter or kicking up the saturation, then I'm speechless. Very nice set of photos!!

  21. This is my first visit to your blog. I'm glad to have arrived for this particular post and find sorrow and beauty interleaved with such dignity - and for all that I am not a birder be amazed at your wonderful photos. Best wishes for the months ahead, Lucy

  22. Hello, awesome post and photos. The cactus and skies are lovely. The birds are beautifully captured. I would love to see the Verdin. Cute bunny. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend!

  23. I'm so sorry for your loss! How wonderful to have your BIL in hospice. They make such a difference!
    You were wise to get out into nature, in between. It is so healing.
    (ツ) from Cottage Country Ontario , ON, Canada!

  24. I am your newest follower. Arizona is the place to be to take photographs, for hiking, go bird watching. I really enjoyed your images posted this week. Have a great week-end.

  25. As I said above when I was in my Hootin' Anni's blog admin, the desert is such a beautiful place to be [so many don't realize just how much].

    Loved all the photos today Ken...brings back tons of good memories of Tucson. -- The cactus wren I always enjoyed them so much [we had one raise a family in our saguaro each year along with a family of Gambel's Quail near the stone wall and walking bridge in our back yard]

    Thanks for sharing this weekend at I'd Rather B Birdin'

  26. Oh so sorry for your loss. It is wonderful though that you were able to spend some quality time with him before he passed away. - Loads of beautiful scnery, birds & good fences here today. It was a pleasure to view them all.

  27. Getting out in beautiful nature, especially when it is birdy" soothes my spirit too. I am sorry for your loss and glad you both were able to be there. Tucson is such an excellent birding place ...we spent a couple of winters there. Thank you for the memories and wonderful,pictures.

  28. Sorry for your loss, but it sounds like you had a very special few hours with Jack which I'm sure will comfort you.
    I think there's nothing better than to spend time appreciating nature. You have some amazing photographs. Truly beautiful and wonderful.
    I'll be heading back through your post to appreciate them for the second time Thank you for sharing :D

  29. I'm glad you had the precious time with Jack. That is irreplaceable. Your photos are really beautiful. I love the birds and butterflies at the end. Stunning.

  30. The last hours you spent with Jack before his death will likely become a treasured memory for you. My condolences on your loss.
    Thanks for sharing your treasure-trove of photos at

  31. Sorry to hear about your loss. Like you mentioned, it was so good that you had the opportunity to spend those last moments with your brother in law. Love you photos. I went to Tucson last year and would love to go back. #WordlessWednesday

  32. It is great that you got to spend some time with your friend.

  33. Very sorry for your loss. A wonderful series of desert shots. I'm not a bird person, but recognized the cactus wren right away! They are common on my property.

  34. I'm so sorry for your loss, but I'm glad you had a chance to visit before your BIL passed away.


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