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Southeast Arizona

5-11 August 2007

Part 6:  Pinery Road and Cave Creek

Judy was at my door right on time the next morning, so we headed out praying that the overnight rain was the end of it! Once it got light enough to see we added Harrier, Turkey Vulture, and Red-tailed Hawk, and our first stop added Blue Grosbeak, Scaled and Gambel’s Quail, Canyon Towhee, Kestrels, and even a cooing Roadrunner! Lilian’s Meadowlarks sang while Judy spotted a Swainson’s Hawk, and we had a mystery sparrow with a pink bill that I’m beginning to think was probably a Brewer’s, but I wasn’t sure enough to count it. But the biggest surprise in the lowlands was a Pine Siskin bouncing over, giving its characteristic cheer! call!

Early morning on the west end of Pinery Road

It wasn’t long before we were in the junipers where we added Spotted Towhee, Bridled Titmice, Yellow-eyed Junco, and an Arizona Woodpecker.  Like last time, the stops tended to be rather quiet unless there happened to be a feeding flock around, but at one stop we were treated to the absolutely heavenly sounds of a Hermit Thrush singing below us! When we did finally run into a feeding flock, it did happen to have Mexican Chickadees, but they took off before we could get a look. We ended up getting all the way up to Onion Saddle before we hit the jackpot, where a little pygmy owl impersonation brought in not only a mob of chickadees, but both Hutton’s and Plumbeous Vireos, Red-faced, Hermit, and Townsend’s Warblers, Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches, and tons of Yellow-eyed Juncos! (An Olive Warbler whistled, but he/she didn’t come in… L) Judy was happy, and I was relieved, as the point of this whole trip (and long drive from Bisbee for her) was to get her her life Mexican Chickadee!


Birding buddy Judy Pike along the road

Up at Rustler Park we used the potty while the ranger checked out our vehicles (we had seen some suspicious-looking trucks and vans go by earlier, which made us wonder…), and had more juncos and some Steller’s Jays. Another Olive Warbler whistled, and Hairy Woodpeckers showed up periodically. A Band-tailed Pigeon actually responded to pishing by making that funny aggressive call and then perching on an open branch, giving great views, and a Red Crossbill flew over closer to the camp. Back on the main road heading downhill, Judy found another feeding flock that gave us in-your-face looks at Black-throated Gray Warblers, both Hutton’s and Plumbeous Vireos (we were wondering if one was a Cassin’s but we concluded it was a young Plumbeous), Red-breasted Nuthatches, another chickadee (which surprised me because we were getting pretty low in elevation at that point), and a stunning Painted Redstart! A warbler came in that struck me as a Nashville (that would have been another lifer for Judy), but I couldn’t get a good enough look to rule out Virginia’s, so we let that one go… Butters were disappointingly scarce, but what looked like a comma attached itself to a tree (and tried to hide behind it when I approached for a shot), and sure enough, it turned out to be a Satyr Comma and not the Question Mark I feared it might have been (only because the satyr would have been a lifer)! About the only other things that showed up was a probable Taxiles Skipper and a metalmark that looked most like an Ares.

Judy finds a feeding flock with Painted Redstarts and Black-throated Gray Warblers (among other things)


The warbler’s the stripey one; the redstart should be self-explanatory...


Another "Jip was there" shot, and one of many creeks


Ares Metalmarks (left and center); possible Taxiles Skipper (right)


Satyr Comma, named for the white "comma" on the underside of the wing

By bypassing the Paradise Road we got to Cave Creek in record time, but once you hit the pavement you’re not allowed to stop! We checked out the campground that I never got to see as it’s uphill from South Fork (and when I would do the Paradise Road route, South Fork was as far as I went up that road), and had some spectacular views, but it was pretty quiet except for a Variegated Frit. Heading on down to South Fork we parked and walked back along the road, which was pretty quiet except for a cooperative Two-tailed Swallowtail and a pretty Red-spotted Purple (which I again mistook for a Pipevine until I took a closer look at the pictures). Judy did pick up a Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher that suddenly picked a fight with an Acorn Woodpecker, and spotted a lizard that I just assumed was a young Eastern Fence (everything seems to be either a Fence or Side-blotched Lizard, at least in San Diego), but the book showed it to be a Southeast Arizona specialty: a Striped Plateau Lizard! But the real prize was just below the bridge where Judy caught sight of a bird flying in, and it was a female trogon! What a blessing! We happily headed back to the parking lot where a couple had found a Painted Redstart, which I probably scared away when I walked through the spider web on the way to the bathroom! I think all was forgiven when they pointed out the Arizona Woodpecker and Grace’s Warbler (and Judy had told them about the trogon).


Striped Plateau Lizard along the road coming into Cave Creek Canyon


Rock formations at one of the campgrounds


These two Red-spotted Purples in virtually the same pose show the difference between a worn (left) and fresh individual.


Variegated Fritillaries


Two-tailed Swallowtails

We decided to head straight to Cave Creek Ranch after that, where the owner happened to be a Brit named Tony whom Judy knew when he used to live in Bisbee! My last expected hummer (Blue-throated) showed up as we were chatting, and we subsequently relaxed in the chairs for 15, enjoying finches, grosbeaks, Cardinals, nuthatches, titmice, and a couple of Black-chinned Hummers. We heard siskins come into the area, but they never came to the feeders (although a Curve-billed Thrasher did).


    Bridled Titmouse   


I was ready to head home after that (Tony admitted that the butterfly action was pretty slow, and that the same two guys I met in the Huachucas were also there complaining about the lack of bugs). The drive back was uneventful (although a nice Lark Bunting flew overhead at Road Forks), and Judy treated me to another Blizzard before we kissed goodbye (I think I gained back whatever I lost) before having another catfish dinner at the Best Western and catching up on the journal. Since the next day was Saturday there wasn’t much on the radio circuit, but the drive was nice and easy, and everything was still here! J


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