Wild West Birding, Arizona – Part 2

April 25 – Sadly, we have to leave Portal today, but not before a little more birding. Again, it was a chilly start as we headed back to Cave Ck to try and find Elegant Trogon. We had no luck whatsoever with the trogon, and from talking to the many other birders in the canyon, nobody had any luck this morning. Luck, however was on my side, as I looked up to check a routine warbler and discovered it my first North American SLATE-THROATED REDSTART! I couldn’t believe my eyes. I’d found my very own Mexican vagrant. A few of the folks in the group also got to see the redstart before it disappeared. No photos were taken unfortunately, as the sighting lasted about 10 seconds. The bird was good in South Fork this morning, despite the lack of ‘Christmas Birds’ or trogons. We had a close up female Williamson’s Sapsucker tapping away on a trunk at eye level, and our first Red-naped Sapsucker of the trip. Several tour participants got onto a nice Red-faced Warbler up in the trees. Painted Redstarts were common, along with a few Grace’s Warblers. Canyon Wrens sang from the cliffs above and we added a new mammal to the trip list, Mexican Fox Squirrel.

Mexican Fox Squirrel
A Mexican Fox Squirrel was seen at Cave Creek Canyon, in South Fork, April 2014. Chris Charlesworth.

After breakfast we headed back out to Paradise to try one more time for Black-chinned Sparrow and Juniper Titmouse. No luck on either, but consolation prizes included two gorgeous Scott’s Orioles and a cheeky little Rufous-crowned Sparrow.

Along Stateline Road, where Arizona is on the west and New Mexico on the east side of the road, the wind was blowing a gale. Unfortunately no Crissal or Bendire’s thrashers would dare be seen in this wind. We did see a distant Loggerhead Shrike, as well as Verdin, Black-throated Sparrow and a very large, but very dead Gopher Snake.

The drive from Rodeo, New Mexico to Douglas was broken up by the excitement of our first Greater Roadrunner sighting. I almost smucked the roadrunner and spotted it as it flew away about 2 feet from my front right tire. I turned the van around and we found it again slinking through the bushes alongside the road. Yipee! Roadrunner pressure was off me.

We had lunch in Causey Park in Douglas, just a little city park with a few picnic tables and a baseball diamond. I was surprised how many birds were actually here, including our first Vermilion Flycatcher, a Lazuli Bunting, Pyrrhuloxia, Swainson’s Hawk and a low-flying Zone-tailed Hawk!

Our final stop of the day was at the San Pedro River, east of Sierra Vista. Here, we had brief encounters with Gray Hawk. In the giant cottonwoods were Summer Tanager, Vermilion Flycatcher, Cassin’s Kingbird, Gila Woodpecker and Black Phoebe. A small group of Bushtits, including a ‘black-eared’ individual were frenetically dashing about in the mesquite trees. We arrived in Sierra Vista in the late afternoon, ready for an hour and a half of R&R!

April 26 -Still on a high from yesterday’s Slate-throated Redstart, which incidentally, another group relocated in the late afternoon on April 25, we set out for a day of birding the canyons of the Huachuca Mountains. Miller Canyon and Beatty’s Guest Ranch was our first stop. The forecast was correct and the winds were howling today at an incredible rate. In the canyon, we were a bit sheltered. We watched the hummingbird feeders where Broad-tailed, Broad-billed, Black-chinned, Magnificent and Anna’s hummingbirds came in to visit.

Male Broad-billed Hummingbird at Beatty’s Guest House, Miller Canyon, AZ. April 2014. Chris Charlesworth.

After getting very detailed directions from Tom Beatty Sr. we headed up into the lower reaches of the canyon in search of the resident Spotted Owl. With a bit of effort, and with the help of a couple of other birders who knew just where it was, we had fantastic views of the Spotted Owl as it roosted in an oak tree.

“Mexican” Spotted Owl at Miller Canyon, AZ. April 2014. Chris Charlesworth.

Numerous flycatchers were about in the canyon as we walked back down, including several Hammond’s Flycatchers, Dusky-capped Flycatchers and a nice Greater Pewee. In addition to birds, there were a couple of new butterflies for us including Mexican Yellow and Silver-spotted Skipper.

Silver-spotted Skipper
Silver-spotted Skipper, one of several butterfly species noted in Miller Canyon, AZ. April 2014. Chris Charlesworth.

The rest of the afternoon was spent at Ramsey Canyon Preserve, where again the wind played havoc with us. A hike up the canyon was very pleasant nonetheless, and when the trees stopped blowing we did see some good stuff. Best bird for me was a female Hermit Warbler, amongst a group of Townsend’s Warblers. A Red-faced Warbler put in a brief appearance, and we got our first views of Hutton’s Vireos. Back down at the feeders, things were hopping! A gorgeous male Hepatic Tanager came and sat in front of me, and luckily I had my camera ready.

Male Hepatic Tanager, Ramsey Canyon Preserve. Arizona. April 2014. Chris Charlesworth.

A male Blue-throated Hummingbird came in to feeders, while Mexican Jays, Bridled Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Acorn Woodpecker and a female Arizona Woodpecker put on a nice show for my group as well.

Female Arizona Woodpecker. Ramsey Canyon Preserve. Arizona. April 2014. Chris Charlesworth.

Chris Charlesworth



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