Happy New Year everyone! 😀
I thought I’d take a quick look back at 2012, which has been a big year for me personally.
May as well get the bad stuff out the way first…
My big, stupid, beautiful dog Maddie passed away suddenly in June, aged nine. I still miss her every day and I think I’ll always have an enormous, mastiff-shaped hole in my life. She was difficult at times but I loved my big girl dearly. I was extremely grateful that she was still around when I got into my new home. She wasn’t ill but, being an Old English Mastiff with a life expectancy of eight, I knew she wouldn’t last for much longer. We got to spend a happy couple of months living here Rio Rico, memories that I’ll cherish. Her ashes and collar are buried under a new Sweet Acacia tree in a spot she liked to sit in my back yard.
It seems like a lifetime ago now, but I began the year living in Patagonia. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons the non-profit I’d formed could not buy the Paton house and the whole deal went sour. It was a shame but I had to move on. To happier times…
I started looking for a house of my own, initially in Patagonia, but the only houses in my price range were not terribly inspiring. I’d always liked the look of the Rio Rico area, and I liked it even more when I discovered the house prices! So my search moved west. I spent two months relentlessly looking online, every few days taking a long drive around Rio Rico and crossing houses off the list.
A couple of times I came close to buying a house, and only missed out because someone else had got there first. It was deflating at the time but I’m glad now, because when I found the house I eventually bought, it blew the rest away.
It was the last house on my list for the day, and the most intriguing. Knowing it was empty, I pulled into the driveway just before dusk. Two male Rufous-winged Sparrows were counter-singing at each other across the driveway entrance. At that point, it was pretty much a done deal! During the home inspection my realtor excitedly called me over to look out of the kitchen window, where we watched a roadrunner chase a lizard around the yard for ten minutes. They could have called the home inspection off then and there – the house was sold!
I moved in on May 4 and have loved it ever since. I don’t live in the house of my dreams – it’s better than that.
This year was also a landmark for me as I led my first tour overseas, to Belize and Guatemala in February (although, as someone pointed out, you can drive there so technically not overseas, despite the huge chunk of ocean you fly over to get there). I had a fabulous time, as did the participants, and we’ll be doing it again in 2014.
Another milestone for me came in the summer, when I took a birding tour to my native Great Britain, this one as a leader for Borderland Tours with Rick Taylor. Despite living there for the best part of 30 years, I’ve never guided in the UK, so I had to look at British birding from a new viewpoint, that of a visitor. We spent five days in Norfolk in England, then a similar amount of time touring mainland Scotland and the Isle of Skye, ending with a week on the Shetland Isles. It was a lot of fun and I got to see my friends and family into the bargain. I’ll be doing it all again for Borderland Tours and Tucson Audubon Society in 2013, and plan to take a Fun Birding Tours group to the UK in 2014.
In November and December I had the pleasure of hosting my parents at my new home. They’ve been to Arizona several times but this was their longest visit yet and we got up to all sorts of mischief. Trips to the Salt River and Cochise County were big highlights. I can’t wait for their next visit.
As for birding, 2012 was the first year in five that I’ve not increased my Arizona year list, this year ending on 280, well down on the 311 of 2011 and the first time I’ve not broken 300 since 2009. I put this down to basically not chasing a rarity all year, so it’s largely a self-found total, and spending most of my free birding time at home, working on my yard list. On that score, I finished the year on 82 species, a total I’m very pleased with.
What’s in store for 2013? More of the same, fingers crossed…
I hope you have a wonderful, bird filled 2013! All the best from Fun Birding Tours.