Today’s post contains a special conservation message from Victor Emanuel, owner of VENT Tours, about the Paton property, a famous hummingbird site in Arizona.
Submitted by About a year ago I received a call from a woman named Ann Cullen Smith asking VENT to help save the famous Paton hummingbird property in Patagonia, Arizona. Over the years, Ann has traveled on several VENT trips, which is how I came to know her. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but what is so remarkable about her is that she also happens to be 104 years old. Let’s just say that I don’t get many phone calls from birders over 100 who are still trying to save birding sites.
As the premier site in the United States to see the rare Violet-crowned Hummingbird and other specialty birds, the Paton property has been a mainstay of North American birding since its purchase by Wally and Marion Paton in 1974. With the Patons having passed on, the house was about to go up for sale. Ann’s call prompted me to contact Bonnie Paton Moon, the daughter of Wally and Marion and the family member responsible for settling her parents’ estate. Bonnie explained that she very much wanted the property to continue operating as it had when her parents were alive, but that the family needed to sell it. The value of the place was set at $300,000. That’s when I offered to help.
I am on the board of the American Bird Conservancy (ABC), one of the top organizations helping to conserve birds. I attended a board meeting this past January at which time I asked ABC to help raise the money to buy the Paton property. After the meeting, Executive Director George Fenwick gave me the electrifying news that ABC would embrace the effort, and even play the lead role. If the property was purchased from the Paton family, he told me, ABC wanted to give it to Tucson Audubon. Paul Green, Tucson Audubon’s Executive Director, and his board agreed to receive the donation and to assume responsibility for staffing and maintaining the property.
Right out of the gate I was able to secure pledges totaling $110,000 from a few ABC supporters. It was decided that our three organizations would send out an appeal for donations to raise the additional $190,000. It was also determined that any funds raised in excess of that goal will go into an endowment for the Paton property.
I was glad to get involved with this project since I knew Wally and Marion and had been to the Paton’s numbers of times. I had seen firsthand what this property meant to birders and to the hummingbirds that visited the feeders and flowering plants in the yard, especially the Violet-crowned Hummingbird. The Paton’s is the only site in the U.S. where that beautiful hummingbird can be seen reliably. I had experienced the warm hospitality of Marion and Wally, who opened their home to thousands of birders. I knew they would want their property to continue operating in the tradition they started. Underscoring my determination, I remember the sad fate of the Spofford house in the Chiricahuas, another equally famous birding property. After longtime owners Walter and Sally Spofford passed away, the feeders were taken down, the house was eventually sold, and that marvelous site was no longer available to the birds and birders. Through our youth birding camps I had taken many young birders to the Spofford’s and had seen their reactions when they saw “lifer” hummingbirds including the spectacular Magnificent Hummingbird. While we lost the Spofford’s, I do not want us to lose the Paton’s.
I hope you will help save Paton’s Birder Haven by making a donation at www.abcbirds.org/paton/. Every dollar will help. Please forward this post anyone you know who might be interested in donating to this cause. If you haven’t been to the Paton’s, I hope you can visit that lovely site someday, and if you’ve already made a donation you can take pride in knowing that because of you and thousands of other birders, the Paton’s will be there forever—for the hummingbirds and the birders who love seeing them.