Busman’s Holiday

You might expect a person who writes about wildlife for a living to go for a change of pace on vacation. Las Vegas isn’t that far from Flagstaff, after all. And there’s always San Diego, the traditional escape for us landlocked Arizonans.

But no … my spring vacation was a “busman’s holiday.” Is this charming phrase still in use, or has it dropped by the wayside?

I’ve been watching birds down in Patagonia; not the famous region in South America, but the small town in southern Arizona, in the middle of one of America’s best birdwatching regions.

Spring is blooming there, bringing long warm days. On daily hikes and visits to Patagonia Lake State Park and the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve, we saw dozens of bird species, and the season is not yet at its peak.

Some of the best birding, though, was on the patio at our bed and breakfast. Bright orioles, shy cardinals and pyrrhuloxia, and sparrows by the dozens visit the feeders there. Fierce rufous hummingbirds had staked out the territory and were fighting off all rivals. More than once during their shrill arguments, a hummingbird zipped so close to my head I could swear the breeze stirred my hair.

Sitting on the patio with a cup of coffee, being buzzed by hummingbirds — birdwatching doesn’t get much easier, or more pleasant, than that.

I’ve been to other birding destinations in southern Arizona, including Madera and Ramsey canyons and the Chiricahuas. The Patagonia area is their equal for the variety of its birds. Plus, the town itself has a quaint charm. We were met with friendliness everywhere, from the coffee shop to the corned-beef-and-cabbage feed. Twice as we drove the main road, we were greeted by an elderly gentleman with a huge smile and a big happy wave.

When you write about wildlife for a living, going to a place that is famous for its wildlife could be interpreted as “work.” Being in Patagonia sure didn’t feel like work. I wonder if those busmen, riding the bus to their vacation destinations, felt the same way … just happy to be out, enjoying the road?

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