The 400 Bird Quest - 168

Count Update: 168/400

In our last few days in Arizona we enjoyed visiting, sightseeing, hiking and birding with friends.  We got to experience the rare lunar ellipse, blue moon, blood moon combo.  I took these 2 photos just minutes apart.

Blood blue full moon 2018 AZ 2 feb 7.JPG
Blood blue full moon 2018 AZ feb 7.JPG

Here are petroglyphs etched in rock long ago by the native Americas.   I guess westerners did not invent graffiti after all?


In the Gila Mountains of New Mexico I picked up Pygmy Nuthatch, Williamson’s and Red-naped Sapsuckers, Mountain Chickadee, and Green-tailed Towhee.

I also had a remarkable day-hike that included Devil’s Hall canyon in the Guadalupe Mountains on the New Mexico/Texas border.   This hike included impressivs rock formations from narrow slot areas to a natural amplitheater.  

Devil's Hall Gaudalupe Mountions TX  1 feb 7.JPG
Devil's Hall Gaudalupe Mountions TX  2 feb 7.JPG

The area was parched for rain and the stream bed was bone dry except for one shaded very deep hole in solid stone.   That water attracted many birds including this junco and the  Townsend’s Solitaire and Hermit Thrush which are rarely photographed together.    Hermit thrushes mostly stay low in the forest brush.

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

L to R:  Townsend Solataire and  Hermit Thush

L to R:  Townsend Solataire and  Hermit Thush

Jim is attempting to find and identify 400 different species of birds in the USA in 2018. 


The 400 Bird Quest - 148

Count update: 148/400

I got out for an all day hike at Lake Pleasant Regional Park, north of Phoenix and enjoyed spotting a few of the regular local birds.   I hiked 7 miles, tallied 20 species in the dry desert surrounding the lake. No year birds.  Still, what an interesting day!  I encountered 3 bands of wild burros….

They were somewhat wary, but not as much as most mammals.  I encountered them unexpectedly on a bend in a small canyon. They ran a short ways, stopped, and froze like rabbits do.   It seems like a ridiculous concealment strategy for a 350 pound critter in sparse vegetation.  Although I suppose they have few predators, so they may not care.

Walking amongst the numerous saguaro cacti, I saw just one jack rabbit.  Now and then a tiny lizard would sprint for cover with incredible speed.

Common side-blotched lizard

Common side-blotched lizard

One huge Saguaro cactus caught my eye and I approached it with admiration.   Saguaros this big are about 200 years old.

cactus surprise 1.JPG

Impressive yes, but look closer…

cactus surprise 2.JPG

It was only when I got right up to is that I was shocked to discover this little guy…

Grey Fox

Grey Fox

A grey fox 11 feet high resting in shade!  I knew they climb trees, but a vertical spine covered cactus?  That’s just crazy talk?  While I concede I observed it during a long remote hike in the desert sun, I assure you I did have plenty of water.  It happened.   I took the close photo first and then backed away for the others.   Eventually he jumped down awkwardly through a palo verde bush and ran off in a flash.

Later I googled “grey fox and climbing cactus”. The behavior is mentioned in the text but I could not find any photo of a fox on a cactus anywhere.

What a memorable day.

Jim is attempting to find and identify 400 different species of birds in the USA in 2018. 


The 400 Bird Quest - 136

Count update:  136/400  Jan 20th

My friend Leigh and I left Phoenix a few days ago for a trip to Denver.  In northern Arizona, we hit Montezuma’s Well and the Grand Canyon, then toured the Upper Antelope Canyon (slot canyon) which I recommend highly.  Then on to Arches National Park. These views are also breathtaking.  In addition to adding a few birds to the year list, we found elk, pronghorn antelope, coyote, and spooked a herd of 20-30 Javelina.  Utah yielded few notable new birds. We were mostly driving.  But we did get one flyover Golden Eagle, and saw mule deer.  After Denver, we headed south through New Mexico, then west over the Gila Mountains back to Phoenix

Jim is attempting to find and identify 400 different species of birds in the USA in 2018. 

The 400 Bird Quest - 115

Count update:  115/400

Thursday was my last day with Tom before he had to depart.  We enjoyed the beautiful view from high up Picacho Peak State Park before visiting Casa Granada National Monument.  Then we birded the back roads through cotton, hay, and farrow winter fields on our way back to Phoenix.  We encountered many grassland sparrows and other expected birds along the way, about 20 in all.   The best was when Tom spotted a Prairie Falcon glide across the road in front of us.   We watched it cruise low over the field until it was out of site.  What a treat! This is only the 2nd or 3rd Prairie Falcon I have ever seen.  This Falcon was clear bird of the day.

Jim is attempting to find and identify 400 different species of birds in the USA in 2018. 

Spotted Towhee  photo by Jim Hughes

Spotted Towhee  photo by Jim Hughes

The 400 Bird Quest - 111

Count update:  111/400

It has been another amazing day in Arizona adding 10 new “year birds”.  Tom and I did an early walk in light rain at Saguaro National Park, through century old saguaro cacti as tall as a house (yep, that’s a real estate reference).  Next we stopped by a sewage pond in Alma, where a confused Brown Pelican has wandered far from its normal salt water range.  The highlights of the day were at the bird feeders at Santa Rita Lodge in the evergreens of Madera Canyon.  This has been a historic birder destination for many years.  We found the feeders loaded with lots of unusual species including several new year birds and one I’d never seen before: Rivoli’s Hummingbird (lifer!).  We topped off birding with dinner at Lin’s Grand Buffet.  My gravestone may well read, “I’ve never met a buffet I did not like.

Jim is attempting to find and identify 400 different species of birds in the USA in 2018.  Although significant, 400 is a modest “Big Year” goal for birders. A larger goal would require more travel.  The national record is around 750. 


Rivoli's Hummingbird ( formally named Magnificent Hummingbird) and Acorn Woodpecker - photos by Jim Hughes

The 400 bird Quest

Jim is attempting to find and identify 400 species of birds in the USA in 2018.  In my 4+ decades of birding I have identified 414 different species of birds in the wild.    This year I hope to discover some new species for the first time (lifers) but at the same time rack up 400 total species for the year.  Yep, that is a thing. Sort of like the movie "The Big Year" but without going too far out of the way,  from plans already made.


We are nine days into the year and on a vacation to Arizona.  I casually found 48 species of common birds in the first 7 days this year.  Yesterday and today we kicked into high gear,  Life long friend and bird expert Tom joined me in the Tuscon area.  We made a visit to Gilbert Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch east of Phoenix.  Then on to Sweetwater Wetlands near Tucson. These are both sewage treatment facilities turned into parks.  It's not what you think.  They are beautiful odorless green parks loaded with birds.  We chalked up many local birds plus a couple local rarities:  Northern Parula, and Greater Scaup.  Anna's Hummingbirds were buzzing everywhere, as we walked, laughed and searched.

Today Tom's bother Bruce, a true adventurer, joined us. We made a second visit to Sweetwater Wetlands followed by a trip to the top of 9100 ft Mount Lemmon east of Tucson.   Highlights included a Steller's Jay, one bright male Vermilion Flycatcher, a flock of Cassin's Finchs (lifer!), and a Black and White warbler (rare for AZ).  Great birds and great company.  

That brings the total to 101.  It is a good start, but of course the first birds are the easy ones.  Each species only gets counted once so each new species it harder to find.


Great Egret - photo by Jim Hughes

Spook-tacular Pumpkin Carving Contest!

Greenwell would love to see your wicked pumpkin carving skills in exchange for some bone-chilling cash!

Take a selfie of you and your boo-tiful pumpkin and post it to our Facebook page that is posted below to enter.

Greenwell will select 3 magical finalists and then all our friends will select the favorite!

1st place: $100

2nd place: $50

3rd place: $25


Happy Carving!



Andover MN real estate bubble?

Are we in a real estate bubble?

In about 2004 we started hearing a few (very few) people talk about a housing bubble. By 2005 the stats showed it was real, we just didn’t believe it. Now in 2016 prices are rising steadily and approaching 2005 levels again. So there is talk of another housing bubble. So lets look objectively at the numbers. This Twin Cities, MN housing report has good statistically info:

Housing affordability (page 13) was at 120 in 2006, now it is 180, housing cost is a low % of median income.

Inventory of homes for sale was at about 25,000 in the metro area in 2005. Now it is about 13,000 (page 14).

Similarly Months’ Supply of homes was about 4.5 months, now it is 2.5 (page 15).

Home buyer culture is also very different from 2005.   Back then buyers were trying to buy as much home as the banks would let them.  Today the buyers we are helping are consistently searching for homes with payment limits they are comfortable with.  Often much lower that the bank says they are approved for.   It's a much healthier culture.

So are we in a real estate bubble?  Nope. Not in the Minneapolis / St. Paul region.  There is room in this environment for homes values to increase. The key is “in this environment”. High local employment, a mostly stable political world, and especially very low interest rates are strong positives for real estate. The most likely threat to these “good real estate times” is a substantial interest rate increase.

What to do? Renters: buy now if you can and lock in low fixed rates. Sellers: It may be to early to sell if you are trying to time the market and you don’t plan to buy a replacement home. Investors: buy carefully selected solid deals and lock in low fixed rates while you can.

As always, this is just one person’s opinion. I’ve been right before, and I’ve been wrong… right is better :). In this case I am confident enough that I am quite comfortable making personal real estate decisions based on this data. 

Jim Hughes, CRS, ChFC, GRI, ABR, e-PRO, CDPE

Greenwell Realty

Greenwell turns 25 years old!

Greenwell Realty was started in 1991 by Jim Hughes,  with a vision of advocating for home buyers and sellers with more passion and thoroughness than was common.   25 years later Jim's small firm of 6 veterans is still representing home owners and home buyers one at a time and getting results.  We've have stayed a small group on purpose.  We have such a good group and our size has allowed us to be more personal, accountable and provide single agency (avoid subjecting our clients from dual agency) for a quarter century. Single agency is a core company value.