This morning we explored Carr Canyon in the Huachuca Mountains. The weather was spectacular
throughout the day with sunny skies and warm temperatures. We reached elevations of over 7000 feet and it was comfortably cool at this elevation. Along the way up occupants of the van shouted out ‘bluebird’ so I screeched to a halt and we eventually saw a lovely male ‘Azure’ Eastern Bluebird very well. Also in Lower Carr Canyon was Scott’s Oriole, Canyon Towhee, Bridled Titmouse and several other species. We bumped up the rugged road up to the Reef Townsite Campground where we spent quite a bit of time. Buff-breasted Flycatchers, the
Huachuca Mountain’s signature bird, were quite common here and we even watched one pair as they built a nest up in the fork of a pine tree. Bird of the day for many, a Williamson’s Sapsucker, was also seen here very well as she foraged on the conifers. Warbler viewing was fantastic as well with Red-faced, Olive, Grace’s,
Virginia’s, Yellow-rumped, Townsend’s, Black-throated Gray warblers and Painted Redstart noted. New for the trip list was Red-breasted Nuthatch, pointed out by Janet. We watched a group of ravens involved in a very nasty battle. Two of the birds, which were Common Ravens, fell from the sky locked together, and crashed to the ground. The noisy battle ensued and other ravens came in to join. Overhead, a Zone-tailed Hawk sailed by. We had a picnic lunch and then began our descent of
the mountain. Along the way down we found a gorgeous Sonoran Mountain Kingsnake slithering across the road.
For a couple of hours this afternoon we watched feeders at the Ash Canyon B & B where we had hoped to find a Lucifer Hummingbird. Luck was not on our side and she never did show up, though we did see Broad-billed, Anna’s, Black-chinned and Magnificent hummingbirds here. Other patrons of the feeders included Canyon Towhee, Curve-billed Thrasher, loads of House Finches, Pine Siskins and Lesser Goldfinches as well as Mexican Jays, Wild Turkeys
and White-breasted Nuthatches. We saw Ladder-backed, Gila and Acorn woodpeckers together in the same tree and we were entertained by Scott’s Orioles of various ages and sexes as they came in to the jam feeders. Also at the jam was a Yellow-breasted Chat. It was quite peaceful sitting in the shade watching the feeders and we left feeling content even though we had not seen the hummingbird.
After dinner we headed out for a little nocturnal exploring, beginning in lower Carr Canyon. We were very delighted to find a Common Poorwill hunting on the road and we watched as it sat illuminated by the vans headlights. Farther up the canyon we had a stunning view of a Whiskered Screech-Owl while two others called nearby. Elf Owl was also heard this evening. We finished off in Ramsey Canyon where we heard a calling Mexican Whip-poor-will and yet another Whiskered Screech-Owl. A successful night to say the least.
After picking up our picnic lunches we headed back to the Huachuca Mountains for some birding in Miller Canyon. Along we way Tim spotted a Greater Roadrunner just as I finished saying ‘Watch for roadrunners along this stretch of road’. We hiked up Miller Canyon with high hopes of finding a roosting Spotted Owl, but had no luck today unfortunately.
Feeders at Beatty’s Guest Ranch had Broad-billed, Broad-tailed, Magnificent and Black-chinned hummingbirds, but it was a tad quiet here today.
On our way east from Sierra Vista we popped into the local sewage ponds and finally ticked off ‘ Mexican’ Mallard for our lists. While this bird is considered just a subspecies of Mallard as far as the American Ornithologists Union (A.O.U.) is concerned, the list that Limosa follows considers it a full species, so the ‘Brits’ were happy. A quick stop at the San Pedro River House provided us with great views of Common Ground-Doves and a roosting Western
We carried on to the border town of Douglas where we filled up with gas before our journey took us into the ‘outback’ at Portal. Along the way to Portal we did see several interesting birds including Loggerhead Shrike, Swainson’s Hawk, Black-throated Sparrow, Chihuahuan Raven, our first Northern Harrier, and about a million Mourning Doves. Along Stateline Road I surprised the group with a family of Great Horned Owls I had heard about in an old hay barn. There were two adults and one large chick in the barn, all sat atop the bails of hay.
We arrived in Portal and checked into our rooms before heading to the little cafe for an excellent dinner.
Today was perhaps the best day of birding on the entire tour. We began before breakfast along Stateline Road, where in the mesquite scrub we had excellent views of a pair of Crissal Thrashers. Near the hay barn where the Great Horned Owls were again seen, we watched a Bendire’s Thrasher
scratch around in the dirt. What a great start to the day! Other birds seen this morning along Stateline / Gin Rd included Scaled Quail, Greater Roadrunner and Swainson’s Hawk. We tried along Paradise Rd for Black-chinned Sparrow with great success as well this morning, viewing two birds through the scope.
We returned to Portal for breakfast and then we made our way to the Paradise Cemetery. We strolled through the juniper woodlands looking for Juniper Titmouse and after a little bit of searching we did find one. In the distance the first of several Zone-tailed Hawks
soared overhead. Towards the settlement of Paradise we drove, and suddenly John Hunt yelled out ‘Stop!’ at the top of his lungs. He
had spotted Montezuma Quail and there were three of them, a male and two females, along the road side right beside the van. What a great score. Our day was turning out to be epic. We bumped along the road up the Chiricahuas until we got to Rustler Park where we took a walk through the mixed coniferous forest. It didn’t take me long to spot a few Mexican
Chickadees here and eventually several came down quite close to investigate us. Hairy Woodpecker was also new for the list here. Other species noted included Western Tanager, Northern Flicker, Steller’s Jay and Pygmy Nuthatch. After lunch we descended back towards Portal, stopping to admire the gorgeous scenery in Cave Creek Canyon along the way. We took a stroll through Portal, popping in at a garden with feeders where we sat in the shade and watched for a while. Two new hummingbirds were added to our trip list
here, Blue-throated and Rufous hummingbirds, and we were quite surprised to add a Barn Owl to the trip list as it flushed from a large sycamore tree in the yard. Other goodies that visited the feeders and fountain included Green-tailed Towhee, Lazuli Buntings, Yellow-rumped Warblers and Lincoln’s Sparrow. As we strolled back towards our hotel a group of Cedar Waxwings appeared for scope views and we had good looks at an Orange-crowned Warbler. Tim photographed a Blue Grosbeak, new for the trip list as well. In the evening, as we ate dinner, we saw a Lesser Nighthawk flying out the window of the cafe. Tim and Janet went for a stroll and found a Hog-nosed Skunk along a dry creek bed in Portal.
Our final morning in Arizona was spent exploring the little village / hamlet of Portal. It was fairly windy today, though birding was fairly productive in town. Band-tailed Pigeons were a new species for our trip list today, as was a male Indigo Bunting seen by John H. and myself. Thick-billed Kingbird, a fairly rare species in the Chiricahua Mountains, was seen today, along with Hooded Oriole, Bullock’s Oriole and a Northern Beardless Tyrannulet. Blue-throated Hummingbird was noted along a dry creek bed, and a male Pyrrhuloxia showed nicely as well. Reluctantly we left Portal and began the journey back to Phoenix. The first part of our trip took us through New Mexico, where we added a new species to the trip list, a Golden Eagle soaring above the road. We re-entered Arizona and were promptly greeted by highway patrol that has closed off one particular part of Interstate 10 due to a dust storm. Luckily the closure didn’t last long and we were on our way to Willcox. Once we arrived at the sewage ponds we quickly began ticking off new birds for the trip list. Semipalmated Plover, Wilson’s Phalarope, Gadwall and American Wigeon were all new for the list, boosting it up to 203. We had another Golden Eagle here as well. The drive back to Phoenix was broken up by a lunch stop in Tucson. We arrived at Sky Harbor Airport before 3:30 PM and I said goodbye the group. What an amazing trip this was.