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Southeast Arizona

5-11 August 2007

Part 5:  The Huachucas

The Lord gave me a wonderful day the next day, even though we never made it to Garden Canyon! Started at Carr Canyon pre-dawn, picking up the usual suspects, but as we made our way up the road, I again found myself saying that I didn’t remember it being that bad!! Up the hill I added Scrubbies to the trip list, White-throated Swifts chattered against the cliffs, and what views I had! After four white-knuckle miles we finally made it to the higher elevation, where a sharp pit told me I had my #1 target bird: Buff-breasted Flycatcher! (In addition, he sang a little bit of his song…) As I enjoyed the view into Sierra Vista I noticed I had even beat the Aerostat up! (Click here for a Wikipedia article on Fort Huachuca and the Aerostat.)

 

      

Heading up Carr Canyon Road

    

Left:  The Aerostat (the white blob--used to monitor illegal trafficking) is still "parked"!  Right:  Getting up into Buff-breasted Flycatcher country

 Wheeled into The Reef (found out later that "reef" refers to the rock outcroppings that are believed to have been underwater millennia ago, i.e., a literal "reef") where Robins were all over, and was shocked to see a camper up there!! Turned out it belonged to the same photographer I ran into at Lake Patagonia (Gary Woods from Fresno; check out his website!!), and when I asked him if that rig belonged to him his face told the whole story—the poor guy had had nightmares all that night about going back down!  He had been shooting a Robin with a mouth stuffed with worms when I walked up, and told me about some Grace's Warblers he had seen as well.

       

"The Reef"

We went our separate ways; I took the requisite walk around the campground and I quickly picked up a family of Yellow-eyed Juncos, plus an Arizona Woodpecker that rattled harshly at the resting spot.  Driving on down to the end of the road I ran into Gary again who had staked out some berry bushes that the Robins were attacking, hoping for an Aztec Thrush! We chatted about that (and photography in general) for awhile, then I headed on to road-bird to the end. That was terrific as well, as at the very first stop a female (always, it seems) Olive Warbler was very cooperative (she even whistled for me), and a pair of Grace’s Warblers chased each other through the pines! The only Butterbutt of the trip showed up, and at one point I thought I heard a Virginia’s Warbler, so I used that stop to review the warbler songs, and that confirmed my suspicions (besides seeing the bird later). At the end of the road I made a loop around the campground; don’t remember anything significant (except the view), but on the way out a Greater Pewee was knocking the snot out of a sphinx!  Interestingly, it seemed easier going down than coming up (part of that was due to the fact that going down I naturally used the smoother outer curves of the switchbacks rather than the rocky inner curves I naturally used going up). Butterflies were starting to move on the way down, and where the water was running down the edges of the roads several Common Blues were mudding, as well as Arizona Sisters.

      

Left:  View near the end of the road  Right:  Creek at the bottom

Coming back down the mountain, butterflies would often congregate around the stream crossings!

         

Common Blues (formerly called Spring Azures)     

          

Arizona Sisters, recently split off from the identical California Sister

Headed on to Miller Canyon, where the butters were very active along the road: while shooting a Painted Lady a new checkerspot floated in, which turned out to be a Theona! Some Turkey Vultures abandoned their tree as I went by (except for one that stayed put for pictures). What I assumed was just another Echo Blue turned out to be a Tailed Blue upon closer inspection, and the presence of two orange spots as opposed to one make me lean towards Eastern (although I guess Western can also show two). Another obscure skipper turned out to be a Gold-costa, and a Mourning Cloak perched briefly on a thick branch.

 

           

More butters heading up Miller Canyon include Painted Lady, Eastern Tailed Blue, and Mourning Cloak

                                      

L-R:  Theona Checkerspots, Gold-costa Skipper, and Turkey Vulture

Tom Beatty had indeed done away with the lower feeders for the most part (the observation benches were gone, anyway), so after perusing their butterfly garden that had a spotty skipper that got away and tons of Bordered Patches, I headed on up to the controlled access spot, where my first 15 minutes of feeder-watching got used up by fabulous butterflies, the best of which was a knockout Dull Firetip (a misnomer if there ever was one)! There was also a Silver-spotted Skipper and a Zela Metalmark, but when I finally pulled myself away from there I was treated to Broad-tailed, Black-chinned, and Anna’s Hummers, with the occasional Mag and what I’m sure was a Calliope (even though I only saw the back side) because it was half the size of the Anna’s and Black-chinned sharing its feeder! After another 15 minutes Mr. Whitear finally came in, and right after he left, who should show up but a tour group! So I stuck around to help spot, and thankfully he came in again fairly quickly. So I left after that, stopping at the store to pay my fee. I ran into a guy in the parking lot staring up into the trees; he turned out to be an entomologist looking for flies, but he happened to have my trip Black-throated Gray Warbler in sight! Later down the road I ran into him again along with his friend (who sounded German), and I hopped out as well as the butterflies as well as the wasps and flies were active along the water in the ditch! Arizona Sisters were plentiful, as well as an aggressive Northern Cloudywing. Another Bordered Patch fed on some fresh poop next to an Arizona Sister who didn’t know to get out of the way when the last car drove through… After getting home and editing the pictures, I discovered that I had failed Scotty’s admonition on Star Trek: "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me!" What I thought was just another Pipevine Swallowtail feeding alongside a Silver-spotted Skipper on the road turned out to be a Red-spotted Purple! I obviously hadn’t learned my lesson with that bug in Texas!  (Click here for that story...)

Butters at Beatty’s...

 

           

Bordered Patches can be extremely variable, as shown by these two individuals!

                

Dull Firetip ("dull" only in comparison to its tropical relatives!)

                 

Drusius Cloudywings (left and center), with the similar Northern Cloudywing (right)

                                  

Zela Metalmarks

         

Silver-spotted Skippers

Yes, I suppose we should look at the hummers while we’re here…

White-eared Hummingbird (what Beatty’s is famous for)   

      

Broad-tailed Hummingbird, the default mountain species

                       

Creek by the controlled access site with a Common Blue

                       

Coming down the road, a Silver-spotted Skipper joins a Red-spotted Purple for a drink!   

  

What happens when you get too engrossed in doo-doo...

Headed up to Ramsey, but the monsoon was building by then, and by the time I got up there it was thundering! Whoopee! (Although that shot the hike…) So I opted to watch the feeders for 15 and was rudely removed from my bench by a big spider that decided to crawl on me! (Another birder pointed out a big furry one on another bench that was down to four legs…) Nothing really showed up, so I bought my obligatory T-shirt, a new set of bin straps, and some Roadrunner earrings (one of which I promptly lost the next day), then walked down to the B&B to set up vigil. A male Broadbill showed up, but it started dripping halfway through the 15 minutes, so I decided to call it a day, seeing as my Bisbee birding buddy Judy Pike had left a message earlier saying she was heading on to Willcox already (she was joining me on the Pinery Road trip to hopefully get her life Mexican Chickadee). As I headed north, I saw that Fort Huachuca was getting clobbered, and truthfully, had I hiked the trail at Ramsey, I wouldn’t have had time to do Garden Canyon anyway, so that told me that one could do either Carr Canyon or Garden Canyon, but not both.

   

Crab Spider (best guess), missing a few legs...

 

 

 Fed Jip, got checked in at the Best Western and settled, called Judy, and after she came by my room we headed over to Twin Lakes, where it looked dead at first (except for a Great Blue Heron), but as we turned the corner there was a mass of Wilson’s Phalaropes! Some diligent searching finally picked out a Red-necked, which was a lifer for Judy! It turned out to be quite productive—had an oversummering Shoveler, Lesser Scaup, and a ratty-looking Ring-billed Gull, and other shorebirds including both stilt and avocet, Least and Westerns Sandpipers, and a single Spotty, still with spots! Lots of pretty Ruddy Ducks were in the middle, and a small flock of ibis made an appearance as well. The monsoon had followed us, and it was awesome! (Thankfully it bypassed us…) I also pointed out the driver (the golf club variety) in the middle of the little pond that was still there from the last time…

 

 

Monsoon bearing down on Willcox

Unusual birds at Twin Lakes...

                                                             

L-R:  Ratty-looking Ring-billed Gull; Red-necked (left) and Wilson’s Phalaropes; over-summering Lesser Scaup

Had a great dinner and DQ Blizzard afterwards (they were donating part of the proceeds to charity that day), then after exchanging birthday gifts (part of the yearly ritual J) played Romi (the card version of RummiCubes) with a new deck of butterfly cards Judy gave me!

Continue to Pinery Road & Cave Creek

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