Friday, July 30, 2010

Birding the Chiricahuas

Eric and I began our day along Stateline Road looking for Bendire's Thrashers. We drove all the way to the end of the road without finding one so we decided to try looking on Sulpher Canyon Road. Almost immediately after turning onto the road, we spotted 2 Bendire's that proceeded to land on the road offering us awesome views even if for just a second! As we drove back down the road, we had 2 more very interesting sightings. First, we came upon a Cactus Wren that had built its nest on top of some type of shrub. Next, there was a Swainson's Hawk perched on a telephone pole. Its stayed put as we slowly drove past and then allowed me to get some great photos as it sat there and preened!
Swainson's Hawk

Swainson's Hawk

We decided to try for Crissal Thrashers at some feeders and even though we spent several hours there, we struck out on this lifer. Since it was getting hot, we moved to higher ground in the Chiricahuas. Our first stop was at Barfoot Park. It was terribly slow and we saw very few birds other than Yellow-eyed Juncos. Our next stop was Rustler Park just down the road from Barfoot. Since Short-tailed Hawks had been reported from the lookout along the ridge we decided to make the 2 mile hike to the lookout tower. Just after starting our hike, I picked up my first lifer a Mexican Chickadee. While looking at the chickadee, a large dark object moved through my field of view. After finding it again, I was able to identify the bird as my lifer Zone-tailed Hawk!

Finally after 2 miles of hiking we reached the lookout tower. It only took a few minutes and we heard a Short-tailed Hawk. It took us a few more minutes but we finally saw one in flight. As we watched it, it rode a thermal and ended up right at our eye level!

Short-tailed Hawk

Once we finally got back down to Portal and the Portal Peak Lodge we were quite tired and had decided to take it easy for the night. That plan fell through when I got online and saw that there was still a pair of Elf Owls at a nest hole by the library. We walked over there just as it was getting dark. Luckily a local birder showed up and pointed out the nest hole. We watched as the male brought food to the nest. I recently learned that we saw the owls just in time as the young fledged only a few days after we left.

Portal Peak Lodge

Here are a few more of my favorite pictures from my time in Portal!

A tarantula on the road in Portal

Male Gambel's Quail

Male and Female Gambel's Quail

Desert Box Turtle on the road

Eric moving the turtle off the road.

1 comment:

Chris W said...

There's often Prairie Falcon, Say's Phoebe and many other desert birds along Stateline Road.

Did you visit Dave Jasper's feeders? The Crissal never comes in to the feeders this time of year and esp not that time of day. You gotta walk up along the road, through the desert a bit and listen for the call.

The Elf Owls fledged late this year. You guys got lucky... tho, with a bit of knowledge of where they go, they're fairly simple to find.

Well done on Mexican Chickadee. They can be bitchy to find.