The old Spanish Mission makes for wonderful photographic opportunities.
The birds also find it a pleasant place to perch!
In the courtyard a fountain flows out through shallow channels when sparrows gather to drink.
|Sparrows on the fountain|
I saw Chipping sparrows, Lark sparrows, and White-crowned sparrows all drinking from the fountain.
And in a brushy corner an Orange-crowned Warbler picked among the winter-killed flowers.
|San Cayetano Mountains|
The Tumacacori Mission is surrounded by mountains with the San Cayetano's off to the southeast...
|Santa Rita Mountains behind Mission|
...and the more famous Santa Rita Mountains where Madera Canyon is located off to the Northeast.
|Tumacacori Mountains with front facade of the Tumacacori Mission|
Across the street from the Mission are the Tumacacori Mountains for which the Mission is named.
Because of this proximity to so many mountains it is possible to see Golden Eagles here. While this is not the best photo you can clearly see the feathered head and yellow feet and the characteristic overall brownish plumage of this large raptor. This was my first sighting of a Golden Eagle in Santa Cruz County. I was not expecting it so it was a pleasant surprise. These serendipitous moments are what also makes birding so much fun for me!
|Red-naped Sapsucker in shade of mesquite tree|
I went to the Mission on two separate dates this past January in my pursuit of a Big January Count. The first day was on January 6th when we took my son and his wife here to sight-see, and while they were sight seeing, I was birding! I saw my first and only Red-naped sapsucker here and I saw it on both visits in the picnic area behind the courtyard. The bird was very shy and I was unable to get a photo on my first visit. when I returned on January 13th it was clinging to the shady side of an old mesquite tree in the same area. So, I sat down quietly at one of the picnic tables to get this shot. Not the best, but still, I was on a birding mission to prove I saw it!
Back beyond the mission there is a bit of a mesquite bosque. It is back here that I spotted a blue-gray gnatcatcher. Again, this was the only place I saw one in the whole month and I saw it here both times!
And in the grassy hedgerows beyond I found a small flock of Rufous-winged sparrows! Notice the rufous crown and the double whisker marks below the bill, a field mark for positive identification and more reliable than the "rufous wings" for which the bird is named! However, if you look closely at the photo you can actually see the hint of rusty color on the bird's upper wing.
Back in this same mesquite bosque I also found one of several Northern Cardinals. I've been told that our Northern Cardinals here have longer tails and crests than northern cardinals is other parts of the country, especially the Northeast. So, if you find yourself in Santa Cruz County come stop by the mission for some history and some birds. I am sure you will have fun!
You can see more photos of the Mission or read about my Big January on my other blogs. Just click on the links below:
- Kathie's Birds
- Sycamore Canyon: Tumacacori Mission
- Kathie's Poet Tree
- Big January 2013
- Tumacacori National Historic Park