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Copper Canyon Adventure

21-31 March 2003

Day 5: Barranca Urique

All photographs ©2003 by Mary Beth Stowe

There was no set plan for the morning, but Barry was gonna poke around at 6:30 to see what he could find. What a morning! First thing to greet us was dueling Greater Pewees, and when we got the scope on ‘im, he was so cute with his spiky crest! I heard what sounded like Rock Wrens on speed, and Barry said two males were in a fight before I walked up, literally rolling around on the ground! An Arizona Woodpecker peeked, and a pair came right in to the tape; one even stayed put for pictures! But the star of the show called across the creek and then came tearing in: a White-striped Woodcreeper! He was absolutely stunning, with wings that were much more rufous than I imagined! A nice male Red-naped Sapsucker also came in, but he was kinda anti-climactic!


Kicking up birdies in the riverbed, like this Arizona Woodpecker


Another view of the riverbed and the rock formation at "Paraiso del Oso" lodge, which means "Hat of the Bear":  check out the far right-hand formation and you’ll see Yogi!  

We had a great breakfast after that, then piled in the bus to start out for the Urique overlook. We stopped at several spots, the first giving us a tremendous view of Cercahui. Helene had spotted "something white" that turned out to be a perched Short-tailed Hawk, probably the best look anyone ever has had of this bird (and probably ever would by the sounds of it)! While Doug told the group some local history I snuck up to the bus to shed my jacket and listen to the ethereal Brown-backed Solitaire that was singing (along with my first Mountain Pygmy Owl—hey, I’m counting it!) when something thooked right next to the road. I immediately thought something exotic like Russet Nightingale Thrush, but it never came out (well, it did, but I didn’t see it until it took off, of course), and later when Brian came up he said Hermit Thrushes were also there, so who knows. It could have also been a Hepatic Tanager, as we had lots of those as the day went on.


We stop to look at a Short-tailed Hawk (Barry and Doug, the owner of the lodge)


Views on the road to Urique, looking down at Cerocahui  

The next stop was open pine woods where we picked up both Bridled Titmouse and Mexican Chickadee in the same tree. We also had great looks at "Black-eared" Bushtit, which was a stunning little bird! Another stop in the thicker woods had a calling Olive Warbler, but as we lingered we heard a squeaky warbler song that made me think "Red" (Barry confirmed that that was their preferred habitat, but they had never had one on the tour before), so Barry sent Brian to go check it out, and he found us a Mountain Trogon! So we all ended up going down the hill and got magnificent looks at this magnificent bird! I then heard a flat buzz: Crescent-chested Warbler! He shortly came in to the tape and we all got great looks! Well, those who didn’t Barry took down the track, but I still wanted to find that squeaky warbler! A couple of Slate-throated Redstarts came in eventually, and when they responded to the tape, I’m pretty sure that’s what I had heard. We also had a couple of Hermit Warblers come through as well.


We stop at several spots along the road to kick up high elevation species, like the Mexican Chickadee (center), and the “Black-eared” Bushtit, once thought to be a separate species but now just considered a color morph.


L-R:  Head-on view of a Crescent-chested Warbler (note the white eye stripes and "crescent" on the chest), Slate-throated Redstart, and Mountain Trogon

Stopped at a little place for bathrooms (they had to open up a couple of cabins for us) then continued towards the overlook. Our first real interaction with a Tarahumara Indian was at one of our many stops in the middle of noplace, and suddenly this woman came out of nowhere, racing down the side of the hill like a mountain goat and setting up shop under a tree! Poor Doug was pre-empted for sure that time, cuz everyone gathered around this lady and I think everyone ended up buying something from her, including myself! To me, that’s as authentic as you can get!


Birding is temporarily put on hold when a Tarahumara Indian woman shows up with her wares!   At right, a view of the Urique River


Enjoying the views from the road


Barranca Urique

I don’t think we had any stops of note before lunch, where the view was spectacular and the food excellent (well, the flank steak was a little tough...). This was the famous view you see on all the Copper Canyon brochures of the guy standing on the edge of the rock, and it was certainly easy to get to should you want to do the same! I discovered quickly that they don’t have the same safety standards we do in the U.S.; they have a railing at the main overlook, but there’s certainly not much to keep you from jumping into the canyon if you choose to do so! Andy wanted me to take his picture against the backdrop, and both Nancy (I think it was) and myself were encouraging him to get closer to the edge for composition’s sake! You could tell he wasn’t thrilled with the idea but he did comply... We had another Rock Wren there as well as swifts and swallows.


Doug’s lodge employees prepare lunch for the gang at the overlook


After lunch the gang enjoys the view...


Barry enjoys the famous scene from the brochures...


One more irresistible shopping spree before we get distracted by a Rock Wren...

On the way back we stopped at one more ridge that turned out to be one of the most productive spots of the morning! More Olive Warblers were singing, and the guys found me a gorgeous orange-headed male who actually let me look at him for a long time! We also kicked up old San Diego favorites such as Canyon Wren, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Hutton’s Vireo, and Steller’s Jay, as well as Hepatic Tanagers and Mexican Jays. Also had a nice female Black-headed Grosbeak, and an empid we finally decided upon as a Hammond’s after much debate! Oh, had a nice Band-tailed Pigeon, too, plus a dark morph Redtail.


L-R:  Another Crescent-chested Warbler, dark morph Red-tailed Hawk, Turkey Vulture, and Canyon Wren


Scenes along the road on the way back, including Yuccas growing right out of the rock face!


More scenes...


L-R:  Picturesque burros, Hammond's Flycatcher, and female Black-headed Grosbeak

I think that was it for the birds there—oh, also had a White-eared Hummer buzzing around. Anyway, got home and took a shower, and planned to catch up on this while shooting hummers along with Mark, but Barry and Brian decided to go on a walk and invited us ("us" being Ethel, Andy, and Rodrigo and myself), and off we went to a trail going downstream next to some pretty (albeit overgrazed) habitat. Had our Eastern Bluebirds again, and lots of Chippies and Black-headed Grosbeaks in the trees. It was pretty quiet overall but we found another empid that we were debating between Dusky and Gray (it was a "Floyd" moment for sure, i.e., my friend Floyd once declared that "You can tell the level of birder you’re dealing with by how much they argue with each other over an identification!"). Barry also had Buff-breasted Flycatcher for sure, and we also kicked up Canyon and Green-tailed Towhees, plus a singing Bewick’s Wren. Back out at the main road a classic Hammond’s posed for us, leaving no doubt as to what he was!


L-R:  Female White-eared Hummingbird, Dark-eyed Junco (yes, really...), and Magnificent Hummingbirds

We did our list after that, had a scrumptious dinner by the campfire after the list, then went back to my room to work on the journal while everyone else watched the kids dance...(there was an optional owl walk that night, too, but since it was potentially going to include scrambling down a stream in the dark, I opted out of that, although in hindsight I wish I had gone, cuz they evidently got a knockout Whiskered Screech Owl right next to the road!)

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