Lifers Denoted by Bold
The fifth day of Camp Chiricahua was a bit quieter than some of the others. We mostly stayed around the generally area of the Chiricahuas where we were staying. Regardless, we still had some fantastic birding (as is to be expected in the Chiricahuas) and I got a number of lifers. The main target of the day was elegant trogon, one of the most saught-after birds in SE AZ. However, before going to the South Fork of Cave Creek Canyon where we planned on looking for trogon, we stopped along Herb Martyr Road just above the research station.
Hutton’s vireos called from the brush and a few black-throated grey warblers gave nice looks but the real highlights weren’t birds. First, someone found a vinegaroon under a rock. These awesome if creepy looking invertabrates were something I was really hoping to see while in Arizona. Despite their slightly terrifying looks and large size, they are actually fairly harmless.
Another highlight came in the form of a tiger centipede which was found juts up slope of the road.
Eventually however, we moved on, towards the south fork of Cave Creek. This is, without a doubt, one of the greatest and most famous birding locations in the entirety of the ABA Area. Not only is it fantastic in birds, but the landscape is also fantastic. As we began to walk down the road running through it, we began to discover why it was so famous.
The first good bird we found were a few bridled titmice in some of the Arizona sycamores lining the creek.
Even better than that though was the Arizona woodpecker which we found on a dead log just along the side of the road. This was one of the birds I was most hoping to see while in Arizona and the looks we got at it were more than I could have ever wanted.
Unfortunately however, we were unable to locate any trogons.
Moving on, back down the mountains, we decided to head towards Portal. However, we got badly sidetracked by another Montezuma quail along the roadside! This bird is usually one of the hardest to locate species in SE AZ and by this point in the trip, we had seen more Montezumas than Gambels’!
When we eventually reached Portal, we stopped at the general store to buy a few things, including, most importantly, ice cream, and then settled down to eat the ice cream while watching some nearby hummingbird feeders. Besides the usual suspects, we were happy to come across two Calliope hummingbirds, one of the more difficult to locate hummingbird species in AZ at the time of year we were there.
Eventually, as it was getting close to evening, we headed back up towards the research station. We were amazed (though the shock was beginning to wear off) to find two more Montezuma quail eating along the road just outside the research station. We couldn’t believe our luck!
Getting back to the station for dinner, we were chuffed to find that others at the research station had also noticed the tons of quail around and had (jokingly) changed the menu accordingly.
Departing the station for that night’s night drive, we encountered another striped skunk (an immature this time) intently digging just off the road.
When we got down into the foothills, we found that the creek running through the road we were planning on taking had overflowed in the recent rain and was completely impassable. Despite that, we were able to find some interesting things.
A few bark scorpions made appearances (and we were able to look at them under a black light which was cool), and I was more than pleased to find an Arizona pocket mouse (a life mammal for me).
We eventually had to return to the research station to get some sleep before heading towards Paradise and the Chiricahua highlands the next day.