Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Red Army Part 2

At the midnight hour, the day before we were supposed to return back to our classrooms, the deal fell through.  Anger.  Rage.  And once again, a trip up to the capital in the thousands is what many Arizona teachers did.  

"20 By 20" was Governor Ducey's response to the public education crisis in Arizona.  In other words, a 20 percent raise by the year 2020.  Originally it was 2 percent, but Arizona teachers had had it. Classrooms falling apart, support staff gone, and the loss of amazing teachers to other states were just a few issues that set off the Red For Ed movement.

Now at the midnight hour, literally, we were in the legislature once again in Phoenix.  The legislature wasn't going to pass Governor Ducey's proposed budget.  With thousands in the mall, legislation building and inside the legislation room with our lawmakers, we made it known that we weren't leaving until that budget passed.  And it did in the very early morning hours. It isn't a perfect plan, but it will do for now.  It was very clear that Arizona lawmakers didn't care about public education. They ignored the shouting from the mall and outside rooms. Their indifference spoke volumes. One representative, Kelly Townsend, wanted to fine teachers for walking out of the classroom.  Thankfully her bill didn't pass. This class act happened to be watching a movie while voting down a child care measure. Needless to say, their days are numbered. They have unwittingly created a red army come re-election night. Both Republican and Democrat teachers have joined together to stop these bad lawmakers, the Koch Brother agenda to privatize public schools and Dark Money. 

Exhausted physically and mentally by the strange hours of the strike and (not getting paid), I prepared for our fundraising event with the Wrenegades.  The crazy hours were taking their toll on my body.  I wanted to back out, but I made a promise to the team and I didn't want to break our year tradition.  

Wilson's Phalarope
 We raised lots of money for Tucson Audubon and had a very challenging time with high winds.  Each time we come together as a team, we learn lots from each other while catching up with things happening in the Arizona birding world. 

I birded, but my mind was on the strike.  How many more days would we go like this? Would our demands be met?  Would they extend our school days?  There were so many balls up in the air that it was difficult to concentrate. And my sleep schedule was all off. 

White-faced Ibis
 The birding was good and the first part of our evening passed with a beautiful reminder......

.....which was to just go with the flow.  I can't be 100 percent all the time, but I will try my best. 

Our evening was made even better when we started getting into the creepy urban wildlife spaces like the Sweetwater Wetlands.  I shared with the team why I had the heeby jeebies and they kind of all laughed it off until the person from Tucson Water, who unlocked the gate, joined us and shared a similar tale. 

There are no ghosts or goblins.  But there are strange characters that hang out at the park during all times of the day. Two such characters are known as Raccoon Bob and The Butcher.  When the lady started telling the story about the Butcher, they all burst out laughing.  I could tell that they hadn't birded Sweetwater enough to know that the Butcher was real. 

And while we were there, Raccoon Bob PASSED us in his rusty old bug TWICE!  Raccoon Bob hides in the darkness to watch mammals at night.  His favorite mammals are the raccoon.  I wasn't afraid of him.  I was more afraid of the Butcher.  He rides in an old red meat wagon and lives out of the vehicle.  Birders swear that he has been breaking into their vehicles.  And I'm also of the mind that it's the Butcher responsible for the parking lot crime wave.  We didn't see him that evening, but I knew he was around the area.  So did TEP(Tucson Electric and Power)

After the Sweetwater experience, I became a zombie up on Mt. Lemmon. I couldn't focus for the life of me.  It was 2 or 3 AM and I was cold.

In the morning, I found a letter on a rock overlooking the grand canyons of Mt. Lemmon.  The team thought I was joking around at first when I read the letter aloud, but it was a sad note.  A hiker had recently passed away on the trails after getting lost. By the time he was found, he was too far gone.  Our team member, Sara, saw his body in the bag before they took him away.  The letter was from his niece telling him that she would never forget him and that every time they looked out from that vista, she would think of him. On the rock by the letter were a pair of sunglasses and a tea packet. We folded the letter neatly up and placed it back on the rock.  It was a moment of reflection. 

Red-faced Warbler with the nest site behind
At this point, I had achieved my "2nd wind" and was excited to watch a pair of Red-faced Warblers make a nest under the roots of a tree. 

It was early morning and the woods were dark.  But how beautiful.  Then I found out the strike was off and it was back to work again getting the students ready for the finals. 

Canyon Towhee
After the Wrenegades, the strike and being back in the classroom, it was then time to guide.  Believe it or not, I looked forward to the guiding the most.  It gave me something to focus on.  

Western Screech-Owl
For 2 weekends, we chased really great birds and had success with most of them, except that blasted Arizona Woodpecker.  They were heard everywhere and yet, they were little buggers to spot.  

Western Tanager
I had a blast spending the weekends with Steve and Kathy from Wisconsin.  There is something about Wisconsin birders that I love.  Maybe it's because we're from the same state.  Maybe it's because I can slip back into my Wisconsin "don't cha no" accent and not be teased.  Or maybe because it's just nice to be around good people. 

Yellow Warbler
I take huge pride in Southern Arizona.  Showing people our secret gems from around this part of the state is always wonderful.  We are more than just a desert.  Although, I think Kathy will agree with me on's hot here!  So we went to higher elevations OR got up super early.  

Acorn Woodpeckers
We found the Rufous-backed Robins, Sinaloa Wren, Rose-throated Becard, nesting Elegant Trogons and lots of other birds.  

American Robin guarding a nest
We even spotted some weird rarities like Cassin's Finches, a Townsend's Solitaire and Williamson's Sapsucker. All lifers.  And not expected at all during their visit.  

The days fly by so quickly.  Kathy asked me what I'd do this weekend and I laughed. Nothing.  I am going to clean my house and sleep in.  No birds.  No heat.  No strikes.  No fund raising.  Just me and a cup of coffee watching my bird feeders.  

Broad-billed Hummingbird
Las Aventuras is planning 3 major treks before this "season" is over. August is the start of the new birding season. Anyhow, one trek is just exploring an area for birds in general.  The second trek will be the important one and it will hopefully propel me beyond the 1000 life bird mark.  And our 3rd will be a fun road trip to find just one bird in the US.  Stay tuned for more.......


  1. There is always more for you Chris! You deserve a real break... but what does a real break means for you? I wonder.
    Glad for the Legislation to have passed.

  2. I am exhausted just reading this post. I hate the move to school privatization. So glad you found some surprises while birding. Peace.

  3. Even your birding adventures are so busy ...add to that all of the other stuff...arrghhhh@@#! no wonder you are worn out... give me a quiet walk along an ocean beach... with nobody around....... ahhhhh... yeh..... that's the ticket............


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