Huachuca Mts. &
other SE AZ birding magnets
Carol, David, and I toured some of the hummingbird hot-spots in SE
Arizona, and also did a little "owling", "sparrowing",
and "flycatchering". In between the birdwatching we looked at butterflies,
and a few mammals.
species--bird list is at the bottom of the page
thumbnail pictures for full-sized photos.
I met Carol & David right at 10:00am at the Tucson airport.
We picked up the rental van, loaded up my scope & bags, and headed
out to see some birds. Our first stop was the Hwy 80 bridge
over the San Pedro River just south of Benson. Ten
Mississippi Kites of varying ages perched in a couple of large,
partially dead cottonwoods. At that stop we also saw our
first Gila Woodpecker, Lesser Goldfinches, and a female Vermilion
Flycatcher--a great start!
Carol & David
From there we headed south to Carr Canyon in the Huachuca Mts. We
were welcomed by Mexican Jays, Western Wood Pewee, Black-headed Grosbeak,
and Hepatic Tanager feeding along the flowing creek. These orange
fungi had sprouted following the summer rains.
We eased up the rocky mountainside and searched for the Aztec
Thrush in the large choke cherry across from the Reef Townsite
Campground. We found Yellow-eyed Junco, American Robin,
Buff-breasted Flycatcher, Hermit Thrush, and lots of Spotted
Towhees--but no Aztec Thrush.
Back down the mountain we went, and shifted over a couple of canyons to
Mary Jo Balator's B&B to watch the first of several hummingbird shows.
Among the many species buzzing around, we finally had excellent looks at
Lucifer Hummingbird--a SE AZ specialty.
In the grasslands along Ramsey Canyon we first heard, and then spotted,
Cassin's and Botteri's Sparrows. Here also was our first
Greater Roadrunner. Our next stop was the premier hummingbird
viewing spot in the nation--Beatty's
Miller Canyon Guest Ranch. We visited both the Public
and CAS viewing areas. The CAS was the more interesting, with high
numbers of Broad-tailed Hummers whizzing about. And of course,
beautiful male White-eared, Magnificent, and Blue-throated Hummingbirds.
This striking swallowtail was but one of the many butterflies.
We eventually tore ourselves away and headed back to Ramsey
At the Ramsey Canyon Nature Conservancy Preserve we hiked a bit,
watched (and heard) our first Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher,
identified this spiny lizard from the new AZ Reptiles & Amphibians
field guide, visited the feeders at the adjoining B&B (where we
picked up our first Violet-crowned Hummingbird), and then scurried
back to our van as the thunderstorm broke.
Yarrow's Spiny Lizard
The Painted Redstart is usually the most commonly spotted warbler in
SE AZ. It is both colorful and has a pretty little rolling
song. This trip was no exception, and we saw them at most of
our canyon-land stops. This individual was feeding in close
proximity to another redstart along the main trail at Ramsey Canyon.
At times it came within a few feet of us, but never pausing long
enough for a good photo.
Our next stop after a deli lunch break was Ft. Huachuca. At
Scheelite Canyon we donned our rain jackets and started the climb up along
the creek in search of the famed Spotted Owls. A Canyon Wren and
some Bridled Titmice called in the distance, but the rain had really
quieted the area down. Then, a mere 1/4 up the trail, as I was
adjusting my jacket, David called out "Look up to your right!" And
there it was--a magnificent Spotted Owl, slightly ruffled looking,
surveying the humans who had invaded its territory. After enjoying
the marvelous views and snapping a few pics, we headed back downhill.
Several minutes later we heard barking, and then quick as a flash, a
bulldog and a second half-breed were at our knees, barking furiously.
Garden Canyon Pictograph
Spotted Owl in Scheelite Canyon
Almost simultaneously, we heard a guy running
headlong down the trail and calling to his dogs. After a tense
couple of seconds he reached us, leashed the beasts, and apologized
profusely. Up the canyon, the pictograph site offered only ancient
painted eagle representations. Sawmill Canyon was also very
quiet. Not until we reached the low grasslands did we start seeing
birds again: Violet-green Swallows, Blue Grosbeak, Lazuli Bunting, Canyon
Towhee, and a Turkey in a tree.
|Following a tasty sushi dinner at Tokino's, we
headed back to Carr Canyon for some owling. Poorwills called
at the mouth of the canyon, and after parking past the stream
crossing we head a single Elf Owl, and subsequently a Western
Screech-Owl. But no amount of searching or patience revealed
these birds, or prompted them to call again. I caught several
glimpses of a Ringtail, but with no more owls to chase, we headed
On the way to Sonoita Creek, early Sunday morning, we had some nice birds
in the grasslands. A Cassin's Sparrow posed well, as did an early
Lark Bunting. At the Patton's we dropped in to get excellent looks
at the resident Violet-crowned Hummingbirds. This Gila Woodpecker
also flew in for a photographic opportunity.
At the Patagonia Roadside Rest we missed the Thick-billed Kingbird, but
did see a number of beautiful butterflies, including dozens of these Tiny
On to Page 2, Kino Spring and Madera Canyon