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Saturday, September 2, 2017

Rare Bird search in Arizona - Part 3

The ubiquitous Acorn Woodpecker
           This morning commenced with a Canyon Wren boisterously singing right outside our bedroom window; an amiable way to wake up. We started out today in Madera Canyon with a energetic walk around the Kubo Cabins and were entertained by Painted Redstarts and a Rivoli's (Magnificent) Hummingbird.
Painted Redstart
Rivoli's Hummingbird
            We then motored (as the English would say) to the top of the canyon and decided to hike up to the Carrie Nation Trail. In the meantime, at the trail head parking lot, the border patrol pulls up with two trucks. A woman and man get out of the truck and the woman threw a M16 machine gun over her shoulder while wearing a kevlar vest and they both started up another trail. By this time we were used to seeing the border patrol so we thought nothing of it.

Border Patrol arrives at trailhead

          We started up the Mt Baldy trail and came to the junction of the Carrie Nation trail and started climbing. We were soon lending an ear to the squeaky toy call of the Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher just ahead. After chasing the family of flycatcher up and down the trail we finally were able to get some photos. This is one cool looking flycatcher.
Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher

            Our main objective however, was to find the Elegant Trogon, which nest up here at around 8000 feet elevation. Following the thrill of observing the flycatcher family's interactions we were then treated to the ventriloquial call of the Elegant Trogon. We meandered up the trail a little further to where I thought the call was emanating and saw a large bird take flight from the trees. It landed further up the trail and we chased it but every time we heard the bird and get close the bird would take flight. I got several great looks at the bird in flight with its bright red belly and long squared off tail but Sharon never did get to see it. We also had a good look at a Blue-throated Hummingbird.

Internet photo of Elegant Trogon
          Leaving the top of the canyon we stopped by the Santa Rita Lodge one more time to take in the feeders. They had an unusual horizontal hummingbird feeder there I had never seen before.

           Around the feeders we spotted Black-chinned, Broad-billed and Rivoli's Humminbirds plus an Arizona Woodpecker and lots of Mexican Jays along with Black-headed Grosbeaks. Much to my chagrin we didn't find a Scott's Oriole,

Black-headed Grosbeak

Broad-billed Hummingbird
Arizona Woodpecker

Mexican Jay
           A little further down the canyon we stopped on Proctor road and were able to get Botteri's Sparrows and found a cute little waterfall.

Proctor Falls

Searching for lizards
Got One!

Desert Flowers

One of many Blooming Barrel Cacti

          As we got lower in elevation we came to Florida (flor-ee-da) Wash where we quickly stopped and heard Botteri's Sparrow on both sides of the road and saw a few. We then headed out of Madera Canyon and went to Florida Canyon where we found the Rufous-capped Warbler a few years back. It was still present but we didn't want to do the hike as it was now noonish and quite temperate. Instead we decided to search for the Black-capped Gnatcatcher which was a complete waste of time.
          Our destination for the evening was the Ramsey Canyon Inn B&B which is located south of Sierra Vista. In order to get there we took the short cut through the mountains following Box Canyon Road. This is a 14 mile long dirt road. In Arizona, you quickly get used to driving on dirt roads. After an hour and a half ride we arrived at the Ramsey Canyon Inn, got our room and started birding the grounds which had a few hummingbird feeders. The Inn is adjacent to the Nature Concservancy's Ramsey Canyon Preserve. Also, if anyone is interested, the B&B is for sale for a mere $1,200,000.
Female Broad-billed Hummingbird

Rivoli's Hummingbird in rear

          Our room at the Inn was called the Rufous. Every afternoon the owner makes a pie for the guests and today's pie was plum and apricot pie. It was quite flavorsome.

           Our main purpose of coming to Ramsey Canyon was in pursuit of the Tufted Flycatcher located in the next canyon south of here. That would be Carr Canyon. The location of the flycatcher was in Reef Townsite campground. I had checked the site several times on google earth and the distance was only about 5-6 miles after entering on the dirt road. I figured it looked like an easy drive. But I never figured the elevation change into the drive. I thought the campsite would be on the same level as the entrance to the canyon, about 4000 feet. Well, what a surprise. The GPS told us it would take 40 minutes to go 5 miles. Something had to be wrong. 
            Well, after coming to the dirt road it looked pretty smooth for the first two miles. Then it started getting windy and started climbing in elevation. After about 3 miles the road changed from dirt to large stones with big ruts and divots. The last mile we were stilling climbing and doing lots of hair pin turns. That last mile took us about fifteen minutes. Finally we arrived just outside the campground entrance and were met by a giant gully across the whole width of the road. We debated rather to park here and walk to the campground or lumber through the trench. We slowly trudged ahead and once the front tires were in the gully there was no turning back. Trying to get out of the gully we could hear the front bumper grinding on the stones, but we made it out. Of course, we had to come back out the same way. 

Near campground - city of Sierra Vista in background

Near campground - city of Sierra Vista in background
          Finally in the campground we started our search. It was around five o'clock in the afternoon when we started our exploration. Unfortunately, storm clouds were out in the distance, but they didn't appear to be heading our way. So we continued our search but to no avail. We kept watching the high clouds but they appeared to be going away from us. Suddenly, through a pass in the mountain close by, some quick moving low clouds came barreling in and the monsoons hit. We immediately started our slow descent down the mountain hoping that we wouldn't slide off the muddy road and off a cliff. But we needed to get down fast because on the way up we had crossed a couple of stream crossings and we needed to get through them before any flash flooding occurred.

Picnic Area in Campground where Tufted Flycatcher was seen most often
         Well as you can see we did make it back in one piece. But the disappointment of not finding the flycatcher was weighing on my mind. It wasn't in the plans to go back tomorrow morning but I just knew that we had to make that trek again. Well, we will have to wait until tomorrow to see what the plans will be. Stay tuned.

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