Tucson Audubon’s Paton Center for Hummingbirds, Patagonia, Arizona
The Paton Center opens at 6:30 am and I was there at 6:30 sharp. At first I thought they weren’t open because I was the only one there. I learned a big lesson from the cruise to the ABC Islands. I didn’t want to hear that if I got there at 8, the hummers were already in “Siesta Mode” and hiding in the trees.
A few people started arriving around 7:15 so I had the place to myself for 45 minutes to get the lay of the land. I was really happy I got there early, because I was the only one who got to witness bath time for two Broad-Billed hummers! There is a rock with circulating water, and these two hummingbirds were having a grand time with it. No other hummer got into the water the rest of the day, so I was the only one who captured the moment.
Soon after bath time I saw my first ever Violet-Crowned Hummingbird. I’m not sure why they are called “Violet-Crowned” because their heads are blue, blue, blue. I am told that these birds are there all year and sort of get “pushed around” by the other hummers who migrate here in the Spring. This is the bird that people want to see when they come to the Paton Center, since they are very hard to find elsewhere in Arizona.
There were so many Broad-Billed Hummingbirds. They were definitely the prominent species today. There were a few Anna’s and a male Black-Chinned made an appearance (which means they should be hitting Studio City very soon). I didn’t take any pictures of the Anna’s, as I have many registered members in the Studio City Gang!
I did get a shot of a Black-Chinned with a photobombing bee.
The Paton Center for Hummingbirds is run by the Arizona Audubon Society, which took over the site after the deaths of the original owners of the house. Wally and Marion Paton fed hummingbirds here for years and opened up their home to people from all over the world who traveled here to see them. It’s wonderful that the tradition is carried on and people can still enjoy the many species of migrating hummingbirds that pass through here.
This text is taken verbatim from the “welcome sign” at the entrance to the yard:
“When my parents moved into the house at 477 Pennsylvania Avenue in the early 70’s, there was little growing in the yard. As Dad tells it ‘there was an old junk sitting over there with some ivy growing in it and that’s about the only thing that was growing around here.’
Avid gardeners, they set out to change this barren landscape. Dad bought a rototiller and dug up large areas of the backyard for a vegetable garden. He planted pecan trees and a mini orchard of fruit trees in the front yard. Mom planted flowers and bushes, especially rose bushes. As my mom noted, ‘the more I planted, the more hummingbirds came.’ Birds flying down the Sonoita Creek in search of food changed their flight path to check out this new oasis that my parents had created. And they came by the hundreds. Shortly, birders followed.
While others were erecting fences and hedges to afford their space privacy, my parents were opening their gate and welcoming anyone in to sit in their backyard for as long as they wanted. Our home became ‘home’ to thousands. Feeding the birds was a constant not unlike the feeding and milking of cows of our New England farming days. Sometimes I would awaken to the whispers of birders passing my bedroom window, excited to be there, yet always respectful of the family’s privacy. I loved looking through the guestbook pages to see who had been visiting and from what corner of the globe they had traveled to get to this tiny piece of birding paradise.
It was all magical, a sanctuary for sure.
Bonnie Paton Moon, daughter of Wally & Marion Paton”
Some improvements have been made to the place. Two “Porta Potties” have been added. Until recently I’m told you had to walk a third of a mile down the road to a public restroom. A permanent wood structure has also been built to shield birders from the sun.
They do not charge admission, but they have a box for donations to the “sugar fund.” I guarantee you they don’t go through as much sugar as the Studio City Restaurant, but I made a donation to the cause.
They also have seed and suet feeders and they attract many kinds of birds. But the Gila Woodpeckers seem to prefer the hummingbird feeders!
I had a wonderful day there and I met so many nice people. A special thanks goes out to Thor Manson, the very knowledgeable docent that was there today. Now off to Madera Canyon for a new adventure and my search for Rivoli’s Hummingbird.
The spectacular male Rivoli’s did not make an appearance, at least while I was here today.
Carole Studio City, California