Saturday, July 7, 2012

Day 4: June 17 – Canyons and Solitude

Rising thousands of feet off the desert floor, the Chiricahua (Cheer-uh-COW-uh) Mountains are some of the best birding real estate north of Mexico. This place is legend. Any birder who takes this hobby/craziness seriously will get here eventually. Guaranteed.

Using all the bird books at our disposal and constantly checking the internet for the latest and greatest info (when I could get a signal), the bulk of the morning birding was done in Cave Creek Canyon.

Sadly, the Flame-colored Tanager had given up her nest and was not to be had. Yeah, and the Elegant Trogon was only heard barking down the road where a fellow told us moments later “It was sitting on the rock right there….”.   But so what. It was Cave Creek Canyon. 

Painted Redstarts flitting about.  Grace’s WarblerWestern Wood Pewees feeding the kidlings.  Blue-throated  Hummingbirds.  All great stuff for two folks from the Midwest.  But, before long, we needed to press on.

Rustler Park sits atop the Chiricahuas.  Don’t ask Natalie about the drive up there.  At 9,000 feet above sea level, this is the only public property in the United States where one can find Mexican Chickadee.  (As I understand it, they are found in New Mexico , but one does not have access to the mountain tops.) They look a lot like our Black-capped Chickadees of the Midwest, except they are often wearing sombreros and eat hot salsa (Mexican Hot salsa!). Okay. Not. But they do look a lot alike.  The better part of two hours was up there.  Cool temps (Remember, air cools about 5 degree Fahrenheit for every 1,000 feet of altitude gain). Lush and green fir trees.  A neat place.  It becomes even neater when your girlfriend spies a little ditty bopping around in the treetops.  Within minutes, we were gawking at a Mexican Chickadee.  Life bird # 658.

Yellow-eyed Junco, Red-faced Warbler, and Stellar’s Jay all put in great shows, too.

Our travels eventually took us down the opposite side of the mountains. Lodging was secured at the Chiricahua National Monument Campground. 

Granted it was June and beastly hot, but we were surprised at the lack of people.  The campground had maybe four other groups. That’s it.  We were far enough from each so as to not be bothered but we were close enough were we could secure help if trouble arose (like the return of the Roswell aliens for our beer).  For all intents and purposes, the whole Monument was ours.

An evening drive to Masai Point with the hopes of Montezuma Quail turned up nothing.  White-throated Swifts over head and Rock Wrens below? You can’t complain about that! The sunset was one for the books. We had it to ourselves.

The evening was spent with hopes of seeing the Mexican Whip-poor-will who was calling perhaps 50 feet of the park road. That didn’t work. We didn’t see the Elf Owl or Common Poorwill, but they were there.  They were taunting us as we drifted off to sleep.  

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