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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Rare bird search in Arizona - Part 4

Ramsey Canyon INN B&B
          We spent the night at the Ramsey Canyon Inn figuring that it would be adjacent to Carr Canyon where the Tufted Flycatcher was located. So, this morning our original plan was to move on to Fort Huachucha and bird in Hunter and Scheelite Canyons. Well, since we couldn't find the Tufted Flycatcher last evening our plans had to be alterqed in order to make another attempt at the flycatcher.
           The B&B offered a breakfast with our stay but we skipped that in order to get an early start up Carr Canyon to the campsite. Once again we climbed the rugged roadway to the summit, taking about 40 minutes in all. 
            This time when we arrived we were not alone. Several people were milling about in search of our quarry. Sharon started talking to an older gentleman named Lyn Hemlich. We found out he was from Fresno, CA a city we had recently visited on our way to northern California to visit Redwoods National Park. We found out that Lyn was an avid birder who travels to Arizona frequently. As we talked, he asked me what my life list was for the USA and I told him somewhere in the low 700's. So I asked him and he responded with 840. What? I was amazed and told him he must have been to Attu, Alaska. He said he was there during the miracle spring that all the Asian species showed up and was able to add dozens of life birds to his list.
Tufted Flycatcher
           As we were chatting two vans of birders pulled up into the campgrounds. It was the Tucson Audubon Festival this weekend and a group of them came here for the flycatcher. As Sharon and I were strolling around, our newly acquired friends, Ana and Jeff, were waving for us to come over to the Audubon group. They were looking at a Flycatcher that Lyn and I thought was the Tufted Flycatcher, however the trip leader was saying it was a Buff-breasted Flycatcher, which would be another life bird for me. I looked over at Lyn and I could tell he was thinking the same thing I was, that this bird is not a Buff-breasted but was indeed our target bird, the Tufted Flycatcher.
           After walking around for a while the group found another flycatcher and the leader identified it as a Tufted Flycatcher. After looking at my photos of this bird and the first one, we could tell it was the same bird. So Sharon and I were both happy to get a new ABA life bird, but not as thrilled as Lyn since it is getting really difficult for him to add a new species.
Tufted Flycatcher with very little tuft after molt - New Life Bird
             Afterwards we strolled around the campground for another half hour and were able to find a Zone-tailed Hawk, Anna's and Rufous Hummingbirds, Acorn Woodpecker, Mexican Jays, Cordilleran Flycatcher and Western Wood-Pewee. Also making an appearance were Hutton's Vireo, Bewick's and Rock Wrens, Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay, Painted Redstart, Grace's and Black-throated Gray Warblers and Greater Pewee, singing it's Jose Maria song.
Greater Pewee
Unknown insect - any ideas

Spreading  Fleabane
          On our mountain descent we spotted a Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS) which is an American low-level airborne ground surveillance system that uses aerostats (moored balloons) as radar platforms.
Tethered Aerostat Radar Balloon
          After saying goodbye to Lyn, we descended the mountain and headed south to Ash Canyon, home of the Lucifer's Hummingbird. For a small charge of $5 you are invited to sit in this woman's yard and watch all the hummingbirds and other species come to her feeders. Curved-billed Thrasher was one of the first birds we added once we found a comfortable seat.

Broad-billed Hummingbird

Not a great photo of a Lucifer's Hummingbird-note decurved bill

Anna's Hummingbird

Gila Woodpecker
            Leaving Ash Canyon we drove north to Fort Huachuca Army base. After getting passes at the gate we went to the playground area, where on our last visit here, we saw the Sinaloa Wren, a Mexican rarity. This time, when I got out of the car it was so hot that I walked around for about a minute, got back in the car and left. That same thing happened when we stopped at San Pedro Riparian Area. 
           Since it was a scorching 107 degrees we just decided to drive on and get a little closer to tomorrow's destination, the Chiricahua National Monument. We would spend the night in Tombstone which is a neat little town where they have reenactments of the gunfight at the OK Corral. We got our motel and then went into town for dinner at "Big Nose Kate's Saloon". Big Nose Kate was Doc Holiday's girlfriend at that time.
Tombstone Arizona

Wyatt Earp doing the Boot Scootin' Boogie

Statue of Wyatt Earp

            So after dinner and dance we headed out to some back roads looking for Poorwills or Mexican Whip-poor-wills. We found neither, but did run across this guy.

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake - tail on the left
                So we called it a night and headed back to the motel.

           See you tomorrow.

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.