March 10: Off to Portal. A 2 hour drive east & south to the base of the Chiricahua Mtns. It was a very cold morning -1 in Benson (+2 in Calgary). We came across some very cold little Gambel’s Quails along the road, trying to warm up in the sun, all poofed up (if you’ll excuse the expression!):
This little town boasts an abundant number of hummingbirds – as well as other species which visit various feeders. It is so nice that people allow birders in their yards in some places or to wander along the nearby road. Patience & hard work obviously pay off, as Bill was finally able to get a decent shot of the Painted Redstart. Another half hour holding his huge 12 lb. camera, watching the darned thing flit about in the trees above us, here it is!
Also had some good views of Mexican Jay. Even though we’ve sent one before, we thought this was extra pretty:
We dropped into Dave Jensen’s yard, just outside town – another person who welcomes birders. Finally got a nice photo of a Black-throated Sparrow. We think this sparrow is one of the smartest-looking ones in NA – just like he’s dressed up for a fancy costume ball with mask & tux!
Hidden among the bushes was a common bird for us in Calgary – but we don’t see many down here – Spotted Towhee.
Outside town along the NM border we followed our bird finding book advice to Willow Tank – a man-made pond, which didn’t contain much water. However, we found 2 new birds for our list (which, by the way stands at 210!). A flock of Chestnut-Collared Longspurs landed at the pond. Then a Prairie Falcon flew by with something dark in its talons (maybe a longspur?)! On the way back up the road we found a Sage Sparrow (another very smart-looking sparrow, but no photo this time.
Our last stop was up Cave Creek – touted as aledgedly the best birding spot in America (perhaps we were too early?). We didn’t see much, and certainly nothing out of the ordinary. However, the surrounding Chiricahua Mts were very impressive with amazing formations. I called this the voodoo formation!
March 12: How hilarious! We got up to visit San Pedro & were there before 8 AM. Bill had a conference call scheduled for 1:30 so we thought at least we could get a morning walk in. Well we did, but luckily we realized that AZ doesn’t go for daylight savings time (thanks to our financial advisor who is setting up another conf call for Bill) – so we called 10 minutes late. No wonder it was still so cold in the morning – we wore our warm jackets & gloves (it really being 7 AM). Our AZ car rental gives a warning which says “cold outside temperature” – HA! That’s when it’s near 32 F!
We did however, have an excellent walk & by the end we were in our t-shirt sleeves. We finally had a chance to photograph the Vermillion Flycatcher. Here’s the lovely female with a blush of peach on her belly.
We were a bit worried we may not capture a male, since he was nearly gobbled up by a horrible monster!
He did however, emerge a victor in the end, holding it down by the nose! Yay!
For some reason, we can’t resist the Black Phoebes which flycatch along the stream. They are in good numbers and we see them everywhere around here. So here’s another nice photo of one.
Near the pond are these beautiful trees, which Bill has shot many times, but a hint of green now shows.
In the pond a Great Blue Heron waited patiently for a meal.
On the way back to the visitor centre he photographed one of the numerous sparrows we see here – Chipping – a lovely rufous-capped bird. They are very common at home.
At the centre, we got a photo of some Common Ground Doves – aren’t they pretty?
There are some very large trees at the centre. These lovely trunks show their lines of age.
March 13: Arose at 4:45 AM to try to arrive at the Chiricahua National Monument near sunrise (almost a 2 hr drive). It was impossible (although if we’d left the clocks on DS time, perhaps we would’ve made it?). Nonetheless, it was a beautiful day and these mountains are definitely awesome! My friend John recently did a trail ride with his friends here & also declared them awesome! Here is a very small taste of 3 different areas. No wonder they declared this a National Monument!
We also found a nesting site for White-throated Swifts & Violet-green Swallows. Bill tried very hard to get a shot of either but they swoop around high wall faces so fast, it is impossible! However, we found a male Arizona Woodpecker (photo of female on a previous blog) with a red crescent on his head.
A man at the visitor centre told us about the Whitewater Wash area near Elfrida which we visited on the way home. The numbers of Sandhill Cranes put Cibola (in CA) to shame! Here are just a few including a few Snow Geese at the front.
An elegant Great Egret fished in one of the sloughs.
We chatted with some people who were birding there & told us about the Great Horned Owl in the open barn structure at the parking lot – so we have added another owl to our list! His mate is on a nest on a platform in the rafters.
March 14: Back to Patagonia, an area we visited from Amado last month. When we arrived at the Nature Conservancy lands we found a Broad-billed Hummingbird at the feeder. Isn’t he something?
We didn’t stay too long nor find anything new – headed down the road to the Lake to look once again for the Elegant Trogon. Saw our first spring flowers – not sure what they are, but a fat black bee was enjoying them!
This is the 6th time we’ve walked these lands looking for an Elegant Trogon & luckily ran across an incoming birder on the trail who told us approximately where to find him. We had to cross the stream, but there are a few good places where logs have been laid across – as the water is higher than earlier due to some rain. Is he not just gorgeous! For anyone who doesn’t know, he is just over a foot long with a 16″ wingspan, so a big bird! He sat for the longest time while about half a dozen of us took photos & stared in awe!
It was the hottest day we’ve had on this trip so far – 32 in the shade! We really sweated for this bird & as all my friends & family know, I don’t usually complain about the cold – just the heat! The only time I’m willing to suffer heat is for birds! It was a wonderful ending to the day. Home to our air conditioned RV & the kitties! This blog has had some of our most special photos so far! Only 2 more weeks before we leave!