“Preposterously Beautiful” ~ Patagonia, AZ

This is the way part-time resident, novelist and screenwriter (Legends of the Fall) Jim Harrison describes Patagonia.  We just blew through this funky little town several years ago when we visited so we decided it was time to show her some respect.

Our good friends Stan and Marilyn were hunkered down here for a few days while a winter storm passed by and we wanted to see them one last time before they began their journey back home.  Even though the weather wasn’t perfect, what better place to enjoy nature for a few hours than in a world-class birding hot spot.  Even if you are not a birder, once here we are told, you may discover your inner passion for these colorful, feathery creatures who far outnumber people. This little gem has been named in the publication Fifty Places to Go Birding Before You Die:  Birding Experts Share the World’s Greatest Destinations.

Bridge over Patagonia Lake
Bridge over Patagonia Lake

Nestled between the Santa Rita and Patagonia Mountains at a 4000-foot elevation, this town has a unique vibe, a quirkiness about it that suits its residents just fine.  Preserving its history, its rich riparian area, and sustainability are some of Patagonia’s top priorities.

Just west of town lies the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve, “home to one of Arizona’s few permanently flowing streams, endangered fish, butterflies, and birds”.  Adjacent to town the Nature Conservancy has also staked its claim and the organization Native Seeds/SEARCH maintains a farm for preserving and growing seeds of endangered crops that grow in this area.  Scratch below the surface, dig a little deeper, and you will find some hidden gems in small town America.  We will definitely be back.

Patagonia Lake
Patagonia Lake

Although I have bemoaned the fact that I need a camera with better zoom ability to catch the beauty of these little feathered friends, we headed out to Patagonia Lake State Park & Sonoita Creek Natural Area with binoculars in hand (and camera just in case I got lucky).  Our first stop was to the visitor center to ask where the most birds can be seen.  Many agreed that if we stood in their side yard, where their feeders are, we would see a wide variety, but they also decided to share a couple of trails that might offer some enjoyment.  We opted for the birding trail, sans tour guide, where we could get a little exercise and hopefully see some birds.

A pair of cardinals hiding in the thicket
A pair of cardinals hiding in the thicket

For the record, I am not a birder, but I must admit to sending out a little prayer into the universe to have a chance meeting with the reclusive Elegant Trogon, the colorful, tropical bird that brings birders by the thousands to southeast Arizona each year.  Patagonia and its surrounding  mountain ranges are the farthest north this little beauty ventures so I wasn’t very optimistic about my chances.

Who are you lookin' at?
Who are you lookin’ at?

The first mile didn’t offer much to entice our sense of sight, other than some inquisitive cows, a burbling creek and the sound of many bird species that filled the air.  We were relishing the fresh air after being cooped up inside waiting out the winter storm.  Following the creek around a bend, our friend Marilyn whispered, “there he is”.  The gods were smiling down on us as we watched this little beauty quietly perched on a branch.  I kept snapping away in the hopes of having a few viable photos then traded off with Terry so I could see him in all his splendor up-close through the binoculars.  Terry was able to creep even closer when the Elegant Trogon flew from his perch to the ground and back up again. Here is what he found to be much more interesting than us:

The big question from everyone we met on the trail was “did you see it?”.  We showed our photos many times before we got back to our vehicle.  We were ready to take off when someone tapped on Stan’s window.  Rolling it down, the group standing there asked to see the photos.  Guess this colorful little fella is something of a rock star!

Our time with Stan and Marilyn was coming to an end, and what better way to find solace than to nourish our bodies and toast this heart connection with a glass of nice French wine.  We headed over to the Velvet Elvis Pizza Company, where the lovely Ecuadorian proprietor and executive chef, Cecilia, creates the most delectable dishes.  Her pizzas are gourmet and the remaining menu has a Latin American flair.  What a find in this funky little town and the perfect way to bid adieu to our friends, with the promise of a visit later this summer.

"Last supper" at the Velvet Elvis
“Last supper” at the Velvet Elvis

For a great gallery of Arizona birds, check out the Lowe’s RV Adventures, and while you’re there, spent some time reading about their many wonderful travel exploits.

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67 thoughts on ““Preposterously Beautiful” ~ Patagonia, AZ

  • What a wonderful capture… we have the Narina Trogon in our coastal forests in South Africa, an although a beauty to spot but a difficult bird to capture on camera… the one you captured is better coloured… that was a marvelous capture… and as a birder and photographer of birds I can imagine your excitement when you “got the shot”.. love it…

    • We were very excited, particularly because we were able to get so close. I think he had his eye on the lizard and wasn’t going to let us spook him and miss such a fine treat! 🙂

  • WOW…so glad you were so lucky to see the Elegant Trogon. What a beautiful bird.
    Thanks for the shot of the cardinals too. Being from Ohio, it makes me a bit homesick.

    • They were trying their best to hide from me so I wasn’t able to get a very clear shot of them but it was nice to see them as a couple.

  • What an awesome bird! I’m not a birder either, but being in birding areas makes you into at least a temporary birder. Glad you were able to see it and spend time with good friends.

  • OK, I can see that what I thought was going to be a four week Southwest spring trip in 2014 is now going to be much longer. This little place looks absolutely irresistible. As do the places you’ve shared in your last few posts.

    So many wonderful places to see in this world. Life is simply amazing when you set out with an open and seeking attitude, isn’t it? 🙂

    • You two did have some nasty weather when you came through southeast AZ. By the end of this week, it is supposed to get to 90 degrees…yikes! Up until now, it has been chilly. Safe travels to you as well.

  • You so “Beautifully” captured our day together. You know we hope to share many more in the future.

  • I love the pictures you have of such colorful birds! We’ve never visited Patagonia. Perhaps, it needs to be on our list for next year … that and tha Kartcher Caverns too.

  • We are starting to find our “inner passion” for bird watching. Your post today has put us right over the edge. We will definitely check out this place in the future. What a beautiful bird!

  • Gorgeous birds. It must be a thrill to see them and be able to capture. Thank you for sharing the enjoyable dinner time with your friends,
    Happy travel, LuAnn and Terry!

  • We also stayed at Lake Patagonia and ate at the Velvet Elvis. What a wonderful find! I can assure you the restaurant is the place to hang out on weekends!

    • I wish we had more time to enjoy Cecilia’s delightful little restaurant. Patagonia is a quirky little town that we thoroughly enjoyed. Thanks for your comment. 🙂

  • How lucky you are to have spotted and captured that incredible shot of the Elegant Trogon! I had no idea there was a Patagonia in the US, have only heard of the South American one. Enjoyed this very much Luann 🙂

    • I have always dreamed of visiting the Patagonia in South America and suspect it will be more glorious than the one in this country, but we have certainly enjoyed our time here.

  • OK then… We are staying at Patagonia Lake State Park until Friday and just took our first hike along the Sonoita Creek trail. No Trogon today – but we are not giving up and plan on several more “birding” hikes along the trail. Also, sounds like we need to get over to Velvet Elvis. Both you and Mona Liza got some some great shots.

    • Hopefully you will see one of these little guys. They are really quite beautiful. We had a great meal at the Velvet Elvis and Ceclia, the proprietor, is lovely. Our friends also went for breakfast the next morning and liked it just as much as dinner the night before. 🙂

  • That bridge looks like quite the workout. The cardinals are beautiful. I always get excited when I see one fly by. It’s always as if I’m seeing them for the 1st time 🙂
    The cow is hilarious. WHat a look on that face!
    Such eye candy when you catch something with the naked eye that you haven’t seen before & what a nice catch of the trogon.
    ALways love reading about your adventures! 🙂

  • Checking out your beautiful birds on Nina’s recommendation. Love the cardinals and those trogons are gorgeous! I can see why so many people are searching for them.

    I see we have many of the same blog followers. We are friends of the Weavers, too.

    A great life we are leading. We have been full timers since June of 2010.

    • It certainly is a great lifestyle, something we have been doing for the past 1.5 years. Looking forward to following your journey. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  • Nice post LuAnn. I’ve never heard of Patagonia, but we’ll check it out next time we’re in the area. Re: better zoom camera. I don’t know what kind of camera you presently have, but I have the same complaint with my point-n-shoot Canon. Recently, I bought a new camera for a better zoom. It’s a Canon travel zoom and I really like it. In fact, I like it so much, I will be doing post in a few days. It’s small, has tons of features, and the zoom is brilliant. It’s a Canon Powershot SX260 HS, and I love it. There are lots of similar competitors to consider, but this technology is a quantum leap in zoom capability for me. BTW, great bird pix. ~James

    • Thanks so much for the information. I have a Canon S100 point and shoot and it has a lot of great features but not the zoom I would like. I will check into the Powershot SX260 HS. I have been researching several others and my head is now spinning.

  • Beautiful colorful birds LuAnn! You are making me itchy to really travel around Arizona! I’ve been there many many times but mostly to Tucson and the White Mountains. Looks like I’m missing an awful lot!

  • Another great post. Cool catch with that gorgeous fascinating bird. How very fun for both of you, esp. Terry and then the excitement of the others wanting to see! I also must note here that you guys find wonderful eating spots as you travel! 🙂 xx

  • I’m way behind on reading blogs.Your elegant trogon photo with the lizard is great!!

    I second James at Gallivance.net about the Canon PowerShot SX260HS. That’s what I have and it’s wonderful. I am so happy with it’s capabilities. In fact, my friend Peri of Taleswiththecampinghouse bought one too. Highly recommend it.


  • I love photographing birds not only for the sure fire good images you get but also the challenge of capturing birds. That Trogon sure is a precious catch!

    • He was and people were clamoring to see our photos. I am looking to get another camera so I may be picking your brain for suggestions on lenses if you don’t mind.

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