Tonto National Forest, Salton Sea, & Southeast Arizona
27 Apr - 10 May 2008
 by Henry Detwiler

Two fantastic weeks of traveling from the Salton Sea to Southeast Arizona with 14 Swedish birders turned up an awesome assortment of birds!  Browse these four web pages to look at some of the trip images and read a summary of our adventures.

268 species seen!  Click here for bird checklist.
Click on thumbnail pictures for full-sized photos. border  

WEDNESDAY, May 7, 2008

Our first stop after leaving Sierra Vista was at Whitewater Draw.  Here we had glimpses of Barn Owl, a few ducks & shorebirds, and a prolonged look at a Virginia Rail feeding on the exposed shoreline.

Slaughter Ranch

Verdin at the Slaughter Ranch

Then it was off to the Slaughter Ranch, where a report of a Yellow Grosbeak several days prior had us looking intently all around the beautiful grounds.

Vermilion Flycatcher on nest

Although we had no luck with the grosbeak, we did see a number of tree-loving and waterfowl migrants in this very birdy oasis.  Vermilion Flycatchers were quite common, as were kingbirds, Black & Say's Phoebes, orioles, and Verdins.  Another birder spotted a Northern Parula and a Red-faced Warbler--both great birds for this location.  

We approached the Chiricahua Mountains from the south, and checked into our accommodations.  We were fortunate to be in the Chiricahuas the same week a Tufted Flycatcher had been spotted, so we took a quick trip up to Herb Martyr Campground to scout the layout of the flycatcher's stomping grounds. As in the other high canyons, butterflies and lizards were common here.  After dinner we took a hike down the South Fork trail and spotted a Whiskered Screech-Owl.  A distant Whip-poor-will was calling, but that was the extent of the night denizens.

Red-spotted Admiral

THURSDAY, May 8, 2008

Herb Martyr Campground
Looking for the Tufted Flycatcher

On Thursday morning we arrived early to get a jump on the Tufted Flycatcher.  Red Crossbills, resplendent Western Tanagers, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Townsend's & Yellow-rumped Warblers, and even more Cassin's Finches--but no Turfted Flycatcher. Pia found a juvenile horned lizard.  So after a couple of hours we headed on to South Fork--and half an hour after we left the Tufted Flycatcher returned!

Horned Lizard at Herb Martyr

We'd missed the Elegant Trogons in the Santa Ritas and the Huachucas, but along South Fork we had no trouble at all hearing and then seeing a pair of these flashy Arizona birding icons.  We followed their progress along the creek for several hundred yards, first getting fleeting, and then more satisfying looks. Pia got a wonderful unobstructed photo--I was happy to get this shot masked by leave and branches.

elegant trogon
Elegant Trogon along South Fork

Mexican Chickadee
Mexican Chickadee at Pinery Canyon
A bird seen virtually nowhere else in the U.S., except in the Chiricahuas, is the Mexican Chickadee.  We drove over Onion Saddle into Pinery Canyon and stopped at a likely spot.  Not two minutes later we had this handsome fellow under our belt.  A stop up at Barfoot Park netted us Pygmy and Red-breasted Nuthatches, but stiff winds kept most of the birds quiet and elusive, so we headed back down the mountain.
At Tony's Cave Creek Ranch we watched an endless procession of birds pass through his feeding station.  In addition to another two Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, we added a late (and rare) Golden-crowned Sparrow to our list of birds.  Other beauties there included Blue-throated & Broad-billed Hummingbirds, Acorn Woodpecker, Scott's Oriole, and Lesser Goldfinch.
rose-breasted grosbeak
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Cave Creek Ranch

Bendire's Thrasher

Bendire's Thrasher
Bendire's Thrasher

Despite a howling wind, we decided to try for the Bendire's Thrasher in the valley east of the Chiricahuas.  Several stops later, along Stateline Road, we had a pair of these thrashers respond to taped calls.  They weren't in the least bit shy, and we got good scope views.  Then, a few miles farther south we all got excellent looks at a Gopher Snake crossing the road.

Gopher Snake

Following dinner several of us set out after nocturnal animals and Poorwills.  We saw a herd of Javelinas in Portal and lots of rabbits along the roads, but no predators.  We heard numerous Poorwills at several stops, and the occupants of the second SUV saw one resting on the road in their headlights.  Early the next morning our SUV "chased" one down the gravel road.


FRIDAY, May 9, 2008
This was the last full day of birding for our group!  Most of us made one final try for the Tufted Flycatcher.  And we weren't alone--dozens of other birders wanted this bird, too.  So again we waited, and waited, and waited.  Lots of beautiful warblers, grosbeaks, tanagers, flycatchers, but no Tufted Flycatcher.  Then, minutes before we were about to move on, it was spotted in a big Arizona sycamore.  Some of our group saw it at that point; the rest of us ran up the ridge and over to the other stream, where, eventually, we all got to see the little cinnamon jewel.

Cattle Egret at Willcox

On the way back to Phoenix we stopped at Willcox, getting fine looks at both phalaropes, more ducks, and this egret staring down a cow. 

Stefan at Ah-So Restaurant
Our final stop of the afternoon was along the San Pedro River at Benson, in search of any early Mississippi Kites.  We spent half an hour driving and searching in vain.  I'd given up, but made one last stop to scope the canopy.  Lots of sharp eyes were scanning the river when Anders cried out to look at a pair of likely candidates. He'd found them!  That night we celebrated our good fortune with some tasty Japanese food at Ah-so.  It had been a fabulous two weeks!

Ah-So Restaurant

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