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Southeast Arizona 2015

Part 5:  The Huachucas

Actually got to Carr Canyon Road right on time, but didn’t start the survey until I hit the dirt portion, as there were a lot of residences along there.  I had some obviously low-elevation things to start off with, like Blue Grosbeak, Cassin’s Kingbird, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, and House Finch (!), but as we climbed into the foothills we added the normal Mexican Jays, Bewick’s Wrens, Rufous-crowned Sparrows, and Spotted Towhees.  The biggest surprise was a whistling Gray Hawk (it did the “song” as well, so I know it wasn’t a jay J), and as we climbed, two large raptors took off from a tree level with one of the pullouts, and one of them was a Zonetail!  Can’t beat seeing that at eye level!  The other one was a Redtail – the odd couple, I guess…

Early morning on Carr Canyon Road


Fuzzy Zone-tailed Hawk

Sunrise over Sierra Vista

Getting up closer to The Reef, I wasn’t surprised to pick up a Hepatic Tanager or two, but I was surprised to hear an Anna’s Hummingbird singing its scraping little song just below the road!  Up at The Reef got the requisite pewees (both types – a Greater was making that same funny whipping noise, but what looked like an illegal was making his way up the hill towards the road, so I didn’t stick around…), Painted Redstart, Steller’s Jays, and finally at the second big forested area past the Reef Campground, I heard something that sounded like part of the Buff-breasted Flycatcher’s song, so got out, and sure enough, there were two of them, doing both that and the pit call!  Seeing as I was short on time, I was very happy I didn’t have to walk the Reef campground in search of them!  I did walk the little loop at the end of the road, however, just to stretch my legs, and got a flock of Bushtits and a very dull Nashville Warbler.

Here a near-endemic Buff-breasted Flycatcher gives part of his che-bek! song, and also his sharp pit! call.  In the background is a chattering Lesser Goldfinch and the descending cherrr of a Western Wood Pewee.

Rolled back down the mountain, running into a group of birders coming up, so I told them about the flycatchers and the illegal (they wanted Greater Pewee), then texted my friend Norma to let her know I was on my way but would be late (we made arrangements to meet up at Ramsey Canyon at eight).  She texted back that they were starting up the trail, so I just headed on up after getting there myself and paying the fee, and found the girls at the upper feeders!  It was a great reunion; when Norma initially told me who all was going on this trip, I didn’t recognize some of the names, but I recognized all the faces when I saw them:  Virginia (who remembered me from my stint at Valley Nature Center), Linda from Massachusetts, Laura, and of course there was Sue and Alicia!  They said they had had a White-eared Hummingbird come in to the feeders, but their descriptions actually sounded more like female Broad-billed, and indeed that’s a very easy confusion species (Tom Beatty was calling them the “poor man’s White-ear”).

I meet up with the ACAS Girls at the upper feeders at Ramsey Canyon!

L-R (kind of):  Laura, Alicia, Linda behind her, Virginia behind her, and Norma (Sue is invisible on the bench...)

So we headed up the trail, and as usual Alicia was the great spotter!  I was pointing out an Echo Blue to some of the girls when Sue called me over to look at “something oriole-sized” (which I was never able to get on), so I pished and tooted, and a Western Tanager called, so that’s what I assumed it was, until I remembered that Flame-coloreds were also being seen along this trail, and indeed both the girls had seen reddish-orange in the bird where Westerns aren’t supposed to have any!  So I counted it – maybe borderline, seeing as I was trusting in someone else’s sighting of the bird…

We came to a little pooling of the creek where birds were coming down to bathe, and we indeed had a couple of young/female Western Tanagers, along with a Warbling Vireo.  Lots of Painted Redstarts put on a show, and at one little clearing a couple of Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers flopped around along with a female Black-headed Grosbeak (one of those situations where everyone’s on a different bird… J).  At one point we heard a Pygmy Owl in the distance (at least it sounded like the real deal and not a squirrel), and another group of birders had found a Plumbeous Vireo at the Hamburg Trail turnoff that was a lifer for most of the folks!  We took the Bledsoe Loop and saw the new frog ponds (no frogs, though) and that was a great trail altogether!  Coming back down we ran into more tanagers, and Alicia shot one that looked like it had the appropriate tertial spots, but a guide was there with several folks, and after much discussion we decided it was actually a female Western, as she had no streaking at all on the back, and the Western does show some tertial striping that flares, but not nearly like the Flame’s.  We were headed on when I thought I heard a trogon, and looked back at the guide's group, thinking somebody played the recording on their app or something, but they hadn’t – it was the real deal!  (And they had had one earlier in that area, but were too engrossed with the tanagers to pay it much mind…)  Alicia thought she had heard one earlier, so I was very glad the thing sounded off!

We take a breather at the Hamburg Trail split-off.

Sue knows how to bird in style!

Friendly Western Wood Pewee at the old frog pond


Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher 

Beyer’s Jewel Scarab (Chrysina beyeri)


Plumbeous Vireo that got a lot of folks excited!

Tonto Dancer


Curious Painted Redstart


Young Western Tanager we were trying to turn into a Flame-colored...

Upon reaching the upper feeders we all decided to sit for 15, during which a Violet-crowned Hummer showed up, along with a beautiful Magnificent!  The rest were all Blackchins or Broadbills, and that’s where we had the White-ear discussion.  Then it was time to hit the bathrooms and head for Brown Ranch for lunch!

Magnificent Hummingbird    (his call is the bright chirp, while Blackchins chatter in the background...)

This was a beautiful little area (lack of pictures due to the fact that the Powershot battery died) back in some savannah-type habitat (with Botteri’s Sparrows singing) that had a pond with at least a Common Green Darner, but nothing would hold still!  We did pick up a Black Phoebe and Yellow Warbler there, along with some Marine Blues mudding, and had just a great time feeding our faces and fellowshipping!  I had to eat and run, though, if I was gonna spend quality time at Beatty’s and Mary Jo’s, so I kissed everyone goodbye (they had talked me into doing Harshaw Road and I had talked them into the Swift Trail J) and headed out.

I decided to forego the road birding going in to Miller Canyon and went straight to Beatty’s instead, where I ran into Mrs. Beatty and gave her my money, then trudged up the hill and recorded a pair of ravens croaking away, then committed to spend at least an hour there after that arduous climb!  No White-ears came in (she apparently came in long after I had settled down in my hotel room), but there again were plenty of Broadbills and Blackchins, a few Maggies that showed up, a singing Anna’s behind me, and a Rufous Hummer that came in briefly.  Non-hummers included a Rock Wren calling from the hillside and some Bridled Titmice calling from down slope somewhere.  On the way out checked for butter and ode action; their teeny pond had some kind of a darner patrolling it that was either an Arroyo or Blue-eyed (there's a subtle difference on one of the thoratic stripes, but darned - no pun intended - if I could tell!); it was quite sharp-looking!  Shot an Ares Metalmark, and a Tropical Buckeye was bouncing along the trail as well!  A churring Montezuma Quail sent me off…

Common Raven carrying on a conversation with his mate on the next pole over... 


Young male Broad-billed Hummingbird (aka Blue-throated Hummingbird wannabe...)


Black-chinned Hummingbirds chasing each other


Trying to shoot an ode in flight is beyond challenging, so this is the best I could do on this guy, which is either an Arroyo or a Blue-eyed Darner (will have to wait on expert opinion)!



Ares Metalmark

Even though it was getting late I decided I wanted to do Ash Canyon justice, and that was a great move!  Barely found a parking place as there were lots of birders there (including one of the guys who had made the Tufted Flycatcher trek and gotten them), and the Lucifer came in almost the minute I stepped onto the property!  Found myself a seat and enjoyed the show: I had never seen such a cooperative Lucifer before, and even the female came in!  Also coming to the feeders was an Anna’s, and a whole other set of feeders in the back had the probable hybrid “Costifer”, along with grosbeaks, finches, and a Rufous-crowned Sparrow.  A strange call stumped me for a minute until I realized it was a Gila Woodpecker (and the Acorns were horning in on the hummer feeders as well)!

One of several Lucifer Hummingbirds hanging out at Ash Canyon B&B!


Rufous-crowned Sparrow

White-breasted Nuthatch

Best guess is a female Springwater Dancer

It actually started thundering J so we all headed off and I got iced up, then checked into the Windermere.  Unfortunately their great restaurant is closed for renovation, but there’s a steakhouse right across the street, so that’s handy!


Click here to continue to the San Pedro Riparian Area

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