Saturday, April 7, 2007

Fort Hauchuca and Ash Canyon

Met the limited group at the Houghton/I-10 meeting place. The first bird of the day was a Cooper’s Hawk that flew above us in the parking area. We waited around for a couple who didn’t show up by 7:10, so we left and made our way directly to Fort Hauchuca’s Garden Canyon. As we entered we saw a pair of Wild Turkeys (a state bird for me) and a few Swainson’s Hawks. A short stop at the picnic grounds yielded my first lifer of the day, a Hutton’s Vireo*. At first I thought it was a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, but it seemed much less “caffeinated” which made sense once our leader, Dick Carlson id’d it for us. The two species do look amazingly alike!

On our way to the Sawmill Canyon area we stopped to watch a full adult Golden Eagle soaring above the canyon. The light was just right to see the gold color on the shoulders of this enormous bird. Once we were in Sawmill, we caught sight of a number of passerines, including Buff-breasted Flycatcher*, Townsend’s Warbler*, and Black-throated Gray Warbler among the warming pine trees. The smell was also mesmerizing as the birds flitted among the tree branches. On the way back to the picnic area we stopped for a family of Steller’s Jays, a pair of Cassin’s Kingbirds, and good looks at several Lucy’s Warblers, however the picnic area itself was dominated by House Finches and Lesser Goldfinches.

After lunch, several of us suffered the hike up Scheelite Canyon for a change to see the Spotted Owls* (Mexican subspecies). We just about gave up after ½ an hour of searching when one person in our group decided to explore a faint side trail on her own. Personally, I didn’t think this was a good idea, but she very quickly found one of the owls and it was quite tolerant of us watching it for a long time. Also in the canyon was a singing Canyon Wren which is one of the most beautiful songs I know. I think only the thrushes sing more beautifully than this little wren whose voice echoes down canyon walls. We also spotted a group of Mexican Jays and we heard a Band-tailed Pigeon, but unfortunately, didn’t get to see it.

While we were stopped to look at some of the pictographs (much like Petrogylphs, but painted on the rock instead of being chipped into the rock), we saw a small flock of white-throated Swifts fly overhead. Before leaving the Fort we took a good look at the Golden Eagle’s nest which is contained in a hole on the side of an extremely steep cliffside. We then made our way to the Ash Canyon Bed & Breakfast. This amazing little place was hopping with birdlife, especially hummers. We watched seven species of hummingbirds at the feeders – Broad-billed, Magnificent, Lucifer*, Black-chinned, Anna’s, Calliope*, and Rufous. The Lucifer’s bill was so distinct that I think I will definitely be able to id that one next time I see it. The Black-chinned shone purple when the light hit him just right. Each one was so beautiful! At the B&B, we had several other species, including Scott’s* and Bullock’s* Orioles, Ladder-backed and Gila Woodpeckers, as well as the Whiskered Screech Owl that has taken to sitting in the nearby nest box. I didn’t see much except his face, so I don’t think I want to count that on my life list as yet. A Curve-billed Thrasher singing in a small nearby tree rounded out the day. Although our leader didn’t think we had a good quantity of species, we all agreed we had excellent quality of species!

Total life list is now: 398(!) – Dang! I even went back and checked every single bird on my list and recounted one more time.

Postscript to DG: Don't know if you still read this or not, but wanted you to know you were right about those two people the other week!

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