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Southeast Arizona 2006

Part 6: San Pedro & the Huachucas

Met birding buddy Judy Pike at the Denny's in Sierra Vista for breakfast the next morning, then headed out to San Pedro House to hike the trail before it got hot.  We had the whole place to ourselves (until a couple of gals came through doing their power walks), with the dominant grassland birds being Cassin's and Botteri's Sparrows and Blue Grosbeaks.  It was pretty quiet down at the river, and it was quite muddy as well (I didn't know the river actually flowed north out of Mexico!).  We did manage to see several Yellow Warblers, and Abert's Towhees were quite plentiful.  The Chats started to tune up after awhile, and we also had a couple of nice subadult Vermilion Flycatchers.  We flushed several Common Ground Doves which promptly began to sing, and scanned muddy Kingfisher Pond for its namesake, finding only a family of Barn Swallows still being fed by Mom!  Three Mexican Ducks flew overhead, and a Gray Hawk whistled unseen from the trees.  Judy spotted an Empid that I'm pretty sure was a Dusky Flycatcher: it flicked its tail upward (eliminating Gray), and overall it appeared quite dull (paler below) with a weak eyering but with a mainly pale lower mandible.  It actually reminded me a little of our Alder Flycatchers back in Michigan!  I felt the eyering was too strong for Willow, but I was willing to be challenged on that.


Left:  Shot of the "whale’s mouth" from the previous day's storm.  Right:  San Pedro House


A very beat up and muddy San Pedro River


Left:  Habitat around Kingfisher Pond.  Right:  Strange hole in the sky


Left and center:  Probable Dusky Flycatchers.  Right:  Blue Grosbeak

  Heading back we had a marvelous view of a male Lazuli Bunting, and a Yellowthroat was perched up on a yucca until a Kestrel sent him into hiding!  "Lilian's" Meadowlarks sang from the grasslands on the way back as well, and we enjoyed a shrike making nasty noises!  A flock of Lark Sparrows exploded from the side of the trails and gave great looks, and had a Bullock's Oriole chatter from the Big Cottonwood for the trip (during my exercise walk on Saturday I had a Say's Phoebe for the trip, but we didn't see him today).  There wasn't much at the seed feeders as they were pretty empty, but the Lesser Goldfinches were attacking the thistle sock with a vengeance!


Left:  Lesser Goldfinches attack the thistle sock!  Right:  House Sparrow

  Decided to do Carr Canyon first in case the monsoons decided to form early again, so up we went, stopping every half mile.  It was pretty quiet, but we did have a couple of Scaled Quail scurry across the road early on (Judy calls them "coneheads"), and where the pavement ends I actually heard a Bobwhite singing!  I wasn't sure if it was someone's pet or if they had an introduced population around there; Judy posted an RFI, and the response she got from Mark Stevenson suggested that Bobwhite are let loose periodically for dog training purposes (but don’t last long in the wild). 

Making our way up the road we added Bridled Titmouse, Black-headed Grosbeak, Canyon and Bewick's Wrens, Western Wood Pewee, and a distant Greater Pewee singing!  Judy pointed out a waterfall which her daughter Jannell and family had gone up over the weekend to see. 


Left:  View going up the canyon.  Right:  Sierra Vista from on high


Left:  The lower part of the road.  Right:  Subaru commercial...


Another spectacular view

We finally made it up to the top (someone had reported that the road was in pretty bad shape, but it wasn't any worse than it usually is, IMO), and a walk around the Reef Campground started out pretty dead (except for a Robin), but we shortly ran into a flock that included a family of White-breasted Nuthatches, a Brown Creeper, and Black-throated Gray Warbler.  What Judy thought was a Ruby-crowned Kinglet at first turned out to be a Hutton's Vireo (great ID lesson there), but the highlight was a brilliant male Hermit Warbler that Judy spotted, which she thought happened to be a life bird for her!  Unfortunately after checking her records she discovered she had seen one 11 years earlier, so it was kind of a letdown…


Left:  The Reef Campground.  Right:  Shy Hermit Warbler

Shortly after that a pretty Grace's Warbler came in, and several Yellow-eyed Juncos gave point blank views as they fed on the ground.  The other campground had a flock of Bushtits and a juvenile Acorn Woodpecker begging from its parent; I thought we had a strange flycatcher at first, the vocalizations were so high-pitched and squeaky!


Left:  Grace's Warbler.  Yellow-eyed Juncos (juvenile left, adults center and right)


Left:  Road to the other campground and developing monsoon.  Right:  Bushtit

  Headed down after that and up to Ramsey Canyon, where a knockout Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher put on a show on the way in!  The feeders at the B&B were hopping (we spotted a Mag on the way in), but we dutifully headed up to the parking area, enjoying a White-tailed Deer feeding on some salt in the parking lot!  We checked on the preserve's feeders first, which were really quite dead except for a few Blackchins and one Anna's.  After 15 minutes we headed up the trail, which was also very quiet except for a Painted Redstart (we passed a family and mused about their comment that it was "quite active" up at the pond when it was "quite dead" when we got there!).  The creek was running great guns; even Judy admitted she had never seen it that heavy!


Left and center:  Oblivious deer finds something interesting in the parking lot at Ramsey Canyon!  Right:  Black-chinned Hummer waiting his turn at the feeders.


Left:  This picture doesn’t do justice to the amount of water flowing down this thing!  Right:  White-winged Dove



Birding buddy Judy Pike on the trail

  After getting the required T-shirt we headed down to the B&B feeders to watch them for awhile, and soon a local guide with two clients came down and promptly pointed out the male Berylline Hummer that had just come in!  He didn't stick around long, though (the hummer, not the guide), and most of the avian customers were Anna's, Blackchins, and Selasphorii (the book implies that Rufous is probably more likely this time of year), while a young Black-headed Grosbeak did his "cockatiel" call overhead and then tried to sing! 

  We then headed over to Miller Canyon and headed straight to Tom Beatty's because of the threat of rain (it had been thundering the whole time at Ramsey, which also put a damper—no pun intended—on the hike, and we saw a whopper of a monsoon dumping near Bisbee, it looked like).  We handed over our ten bucks and chatted with Tom for awhile; it was really starting to look like the rain forest of the Andes, so we were anxious to get up to the Controlled Access Area before it let loose!  There was another fellow up there shooting (with a camera) who was very nice, and before long we were pointing out all sorts of stuff to each other: mostly Broad-tailed, Anna's, and Blackchins, but also an occasional female Broad-billed and Mag, but before long the star of the show came in, a lovely male White-eared!  A Blue-throated also came in for a brief look, and later while editing my own photos, I think I may have inadvertently shot a female Calliope (Tom said they were around): very short-billed and short-tailed, but this bird showed no buffy underneath.  San Diego birding buddy John Walters thought it looked more like a Costa’s, which when he mentioned that I felt like an idiot—of course! Why didn’t I think of that??


Left:  Monsoon dumping on Bisbee (we presumed).  Right:  Raging creek at Beatty’s

Hummers at the Controlled Access Site...


Left:  Magnificent Hummingbird    Center and right:  Broad-tailed Hummingbirds


Left:  Female Costa’s Hummingbird   Right:  Female Broad-billed Hummer

  It was really getting dark, windy, and threatening (Judy was the only one with any sense and finally talked us all into leaving, but not before a brilliant male Mag landed right in front of us for pictures), but ironically by the time we got back down to the public area, the "threat" seemed to dissipate, and it was just gloomy and overcast!  So we sat at those feeders for about 15 minutes; the Lucifer had been coming in to the far feeder, and all the nice male Rufous Hummers seemed to be coming in down there as well, so I parked myself at that end to get some shots, when after awhile another White-eared came sailing in!  What a show!

More hummers at the "public area"...


Left:  White-eared Hummer, a rare visitor from Mexico.    Migrating Rufous Hummingbirds (female left; male right)

Judy wanted to treat me to a Moolatte for my birthday (and it was still kinda threatening-looking), so we decided to call it a day and head for the Dairy Queen (and those things are good!)!  So I dropped her off at the Denny’s, then headed back to the hotel for the night.

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