Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Manzanar National Historic Site

 On my first longer visit to Death Valley, a chance encounter with another visitor introduced me to Manzanar.  We were not going to be on that road again for a long time, so as we were traveling north on US HWY 395, I was determined to stop and see Manzanar.  When I was growing up and going through high school, by the time we got to May we were just barely getting to World War II and maybe the Korean War.  Knowing that now kids have 50 more years of US history to cover in one year makes me know that it is hard to cover everything.  Regardless, in my high school and college history classes, no mention was ever made of the US Japanese internment camps like Manzanar. he lady that told me about her visit talked about the gardens and what remained and how the Japanese there tried to make something beautiful and that one could still see their efforts so many years later. 

My visit was during the afternoon on a day with wind warnings.  Stepping out of the car, the sand whipped and stung my face and skin blown by the strong winds.  It reminded me of Texas Panhandle winds that you had to lean into to walk.  It was a warm day in the desert.  

Manzanar sits in the desert with the Sierra Nevada mountain range close on one side.  

For those of you like me that have not heard about places like Manzanar, the bombing of Pearl Harbor started the United States involvement in World War II.  We had Japanese people that were already living in the United States.  Many were citizens with jobs, businesses, families, etc. Many owned property.  Beginning shortly after Pearl Harbor in 1942, more than 110, 000 men, women, and children were ordered to leave their homes and were detained in ten remote, military-styled camps.  10,000 Japanese Americans spent their time during World War II at Manzanar.  

The visitor center was closed, being renovated and painted. The visitor center has a film available on YouTube. I just finished watching it:  Remembering Manzanar This documentary has interviews from people who were there.   


COVID restriction notices were posted on each doorway.  Only one family group at a time was supposed to enter the buildings and masks were required.  It was not a busy time at Manzanar when we visited.  There were only a few other people, but at the end of my visit a busload of teenagers showed up. They began playing basketball.  

I did not make it to some of the remains of the beautiful gardens they created, but I did go in all the restored buildings. Most of the buildings are gone with only the foundations and the walkways remaining.  

There was no privacy for using the bathroom or for showering.

Manzanar means "apple orchard."  They grew much of their own food and they prepared food to serve this large number of people. 

Most  of the buildings are gone.  But the sidewalks and paving stones are left.  I did not see a path to where the remnants of the decorative gardens remain.  The desert is not kind to plants.

The next day we drove by the Tule Lake National Monument.  It was late and closed. It has a different story to tell. This is where George Takei of Star Trek fame spent his World War II childhood. 


Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Drive days - Arizona, California 395

Road trips offer many opportunities for shooting photos out the window.  Memory pictures . . .   Near Wilcox, Arizona was this HUGE dust devil. 

The differences between the Chihuahuan Desert, the Sonoran Desert and the Mojave Desert are striking.  The Mohave has less plant life and more bare ground. 

We spent much of our time in Arizona along the interstate. But we also drove up along the Colorado River near Lake Havasu.  I remember stopping to take photos along the Colorado River, but I am not finding them.  

This is near Needles, California.  

Sunset was gorgeous that night. 

The southern part of US 395 through California goes through volcanoes and lava fields.  

Next stops along HWY 395 are Mono Lake and Manzanar. Both worthy of their own post.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Paton Center for Hummingbirds

For years I had known that southern Arizona south of Tucson was a place to see hummingbirds.  We try to do something fun each day of our trips, so when I saw how close we were going to be to the Paton Center for Hummingbirds, we decided to take a detour.  There was certainly the possibility for life birds there. For my non birder friends, a life bird is a bird species that you have never seen before.  There are hummingbird species in this most southern part of Arizona that can be seen no where else in the United States.  I had an evening and a morning.  When I entered the property, I knew it was going to be glorious. It reminded me of Salineno in south Texas - feeding stations, water stations, and chairs for comfortable viewing.  This was originally owned by Wally and Marion Paton.  They opened their yard for birders beginning in 1973.  The property is now managed by the Tuscon Audubon.  

I did not wander much that evening, so I did not see some other parts until the next morning.  

That evening the most common hummingbird was the Broad-billed Hummingbird. While I HAD seen it at the Tucson Desert Museum in a hummingbird house, I had never seen it in the wild!  The males are really striking with their bluish purple throat and red bil

Other birds seen that evening were White-winged doves, Ladder-backed Woodpecker family, Lesser Goldfinch and Blue Grosbeak.

Costa's Hummingbird was another delight.

We drove to Nogales to spend the night.  There IS a hotel in Patagonia, but we were trying to mimimize our expenses so Nogales was significantly cheaper.  The hotel in Patagonia looks great, perhaps I can stay there another time when I come back to spend more days at the Paton Center.

The next morning I set about exploring the trails.  WOW!  There is a big hummingbird/butterfly garden. I saw my first Butterfly Weed Milkweed in bloom.  There was a small pond with a mulberry tree that the birds were coming in to eat the mulberries.  I spent at least an hour on the bench there watching a hummingbird feeder and the other birds coming in. 

Then I moved farther along the trail towards the residence.  A lovely covered seating area with all sorts of feeders: hummingbird feeders, seed feeders, oranges, etc.  Another birder and I started chatting.  Hummingbirds seen Black-chinned hummingbird, Rivoli Hummingbird (Magnificent), Violet-crowned Hummingbird, and lots of Broad-billed hummingbirds.  At one point I thought we might have had White-eared Hummingbird, but iNaturalist did not confirm it.  

Violet Crowned hummingbirds were the third life birds for me at this place.  

The last hummingbird species I saw there is the one that is my summer guest: the Black-chinnned Hummingbird 

Another bird showed up and gave me a good look but NOT a photo was the Yellow breasted chat.  I think I had seen it during the City Nature Challenge in Austin, but not a good looks wee.  So this was also a life bird.  Albert’s Towhee was a new bird species for me, as was the Brown-crested Flycatcher.  There were Pine Siskin - not as exciting this year because I had so many at my house during the irruption.  In addition there were Gambel’s qual, White-winged doves, a woodpecker, (probably Gila), Phainopepla, House finches (eating oranges), Scott’s Oriole, Black-headed Grosbeak, and Blue Grosbeak.

This is really only a 2 day drive from where I live.  I hope to go back. 

Side note - a week or so later their Facebook page noted that they had to take down their feeders temporarily because of bear sightings.  So glad I was there while the feeders were going. 

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Franklin Mountains State Park

We made it to El Paso the first day’s drive.  I have been wanting to bird there for a long time, so we stopped at the Franklin Mountains State Park that morning.  The Franklin Mountains are surrounded by the city of El Paso and I think the entire park is within the city limits.  Before the park was created, developers were eyeing the land for residential development.  A group formed to “Save the Franklin Mountains.”  They were successful in getting a state park created and saving a special habit and beautiful area.  We saw joggers running in the cool of the desert morning. 

The park has a bird blind and feeding station.  I spent maybe an hour at the feeding station.  


I loved getting close looks at Scaled Quail coming in both to the feeders and the water feature.  


There were White-winged Doves


and Mourning Doves.  

There were LOTS of House Finches - with several of the color variations. 

Black-chinned hummingbirds visited the feeder that was close to the blind.  

I had a Northern Mockingbird 

and a Western Kingbird visit. 

And an oriole came to visit, probably Scott's Oriole.  

At the Visitor Center there was a bird nesting in the eaves of the porch, a closer look and photographs showed it to be Say’s Phoebe.  

And then there were the small mammals:

Texas Antelope squirrel 

Rock squirrels, adults and juveniles 
I look forward to returning to the Franklin Mountains during different seasons. 

Friday, June 18, 2021

50th Anniversary Trip

 We left Saturday, June 5th for a road trip celebrating our 50 years of adventures. Our days on the road are very full . . .  So . . . Blogging about things will occur later.  I am currently in Idaho on a make miles day - so I will start making my blog posts about the trips and then add photos later.