Yesterday I went out with Peg Abbott of Naturalist Journeys on an all day birding adventures. Four of us birded from down in the South Fork of Cave Creek Canyon at about 4,800′ up to the heights of Rustler Park at about 8,500′. The Chiricahua Mountains are rich with a wide array of bird life and the species change as elevation changes. We traveled by car but took several mile to two mile walks looking for a few harder to find species. By the end of the day I was worn out but it was worth it. We saw a lot of great things.
First up were two different owls. In one spot we saw the Northern Pygmy Owl and in another nearby location we saw the Whiskered Screech Owl. The Whiskered Screech Owl is a Mexican bird and only has a small range in the U.S. so this was a rare find. You can see its picture below. I took that with an iPhone through a spotting scope. That is one very well camouflaged bird. After a short drive we did some more road birding and found a bunch of things. Most interesting to me was a pair of nesting Painted Redstarts. These birds nest underground and we spied them working on their nest.
Up high on the crest of the Chiricahuas we looked for an Olive Warbler. It took a couple of stops and some walking and waiting but we were rewarded with an up close eye to eye visit by this spectacular and tiny bird. The Olive Warbler feeds and nests in a yellowy orange mistletoe found up high. The face of the bird is the same color as the mistletoe. I have no picture. You can see it HERE.
We also traipsed and meandered looking for the Red-Faced Warbler but we had no luck. Instead we found a ton of Yellow Eyed Juncos and American Robins. On our way home, foot weary and hungry, we ran into a small group of turkeys. The Tom was in full spring display mode and waltzed around gobbling like R2D2 chasing after his hoped for lady friends. My birding companions said the best part of the day was watching me go bonkers for the turkeys. I had my hand out the sun roof on my iPhone while it played a gobble to keep the male roused and randy. I squealed with delight as he fanned his tail feathers and strutted about with his glossy blue head and red chin. I do love them so. HERE is what they look like. One of my companions got some great shots. I hope to post them here soon. I left my camera in the car all day so I could practice my binocular and identification skills. Getting your bins up to your eyes in time to see a fast moving warbler takes practice. I have particularly poor aim and have to reorient myself over and over again. By the time I find the spot the bird has moved on. But practice makes perfect and I did see some improvement. The secret is to never take your eyes off he spot as you raise the binoculars. It’s harder than it sounds.
Later that evening I collapsed. Today I headed out for a short hike with the Portal Rodeo Hiking Club. Two days of intense activity in a row has me half asleep now. Our six person, four dog group hiked to Humming Bird Springs on the east flank of false Portal Peak. It was an easy 2 hour walk there and back. The ocotillo are in full bloom thanks to a wettish winter and some rain a few days ago. Despite my weariness it is great to be back out hiking with friends and seeing all the natural diversity Portal has to offer. On the way home I saw this large yellowy velvet ant. Remember the velvet ants is really a mite. The largest mite in the world. This one was running and would not agree to pose.