SE Arizona Birding, Day 3 – Huachucas to the Chiricahuas

This is the third post about a birding trip that Anna, myself, and two of our friends took to SE Arizona last week; here are links for the first day and second day. Our third day of birding in SE AZ, July 30th, started with a quick look around the base of Ramsey Canyon, where we had stayed the night before; Bridled Titmice and Rufous Hummingbird were around the yard of the cabin. We checked the parking area of the Nature Conservancy Preserve, but since the preserve doesn’t open till 8am, we couldn’t go up into the canyon. Our target was better looks at Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers, but none were around.

One of our main targets for the morning was Buff-breasted Flycatcher, which would be a lifer for all four of us. There had been lots of recent reports of this small, beautiful flycatcher in Fort Huachuca’s Sawmill Canyon, so we wanted to get there early, so our chances would be better. We arrived at the Sawmill Canyon parking area, just as three other birders were walking back to their cars, having just birded Sawmill. They told us they had just had a flock of Buff-breasted Flycatchers about 45 minutes prior to talking to us, about 150m down the trail. I had been unsure of our chances of actually seeing one of these little empids, but now I was feeling much better, and figured it was going to be a sure thing. As we made our way up the trail, we could hear lots of Western Wood-Pewees and Plumbeous Vireos. Mark and Chris were able to get great looks at their lifer Yellow-eyed Junco, calling from the limb of a Chihuahuan Pine. We spent quite a bit of time searching in the area where the previous birders had mentioned they saw the flycatchers, but we didn’t see or hear anything. A foraging family group of Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers attracted our attention, and we watched them move through the area, collecting food and giving it to the young birds in the flock. Still, no Buff-breasted Flycatchers. We decided we should move on to our next stop. This wouldn’t be the last time we missed out on a target bird this day.

Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher - Sawmill Canyon

Our next stop was Scheelite Canyon, to try for the Spotted Owls that have made this canyon famous. Long story short, we missed them too. we spent at least 2 hours, with all four of us, searching each and every tree in the lower part of the canyon, focusing most of our attention in the area between the ‘Dragon’ rock and the large slab of bedrock. However, we were able to pick up Red-faced Warbler, Canyon Wren, and Band-tailed Pigeon for Mark and Chris’s life lists.

After a quick stop for breakfast, we headed over to Ash Canyon B&B. Mary Jo’s yard was wonderful, as usual, with loads of hummingbirds as well as a nice assortment of other birds such as Curve-billed Thrasher, Scott’s Oriole, Wild Turkey, Bewick’s Wren, Blue Grosbeak, and a young male Lazuli Bunting. I had seen reports of a Lucifer X Costa’s Hummingbird hybrid as well as a Black-chinned X unknown Hummingbird hybrid visiting the Ash Canyon feeders, so I was excited once we got there to actually see the Lucifer X Costa’s, although we never did pick out the Black-chinned X unknown. However, Anna was able to spot another hybrid! This one I posted about already at this link, with more photos and info. It appears this third hybrid is a Black-chinned X Broad-billed Hummingbird; a previously unreported hybrid combination. Mary Jo believes it may be an individual that had come to her feeders last year, but was never determined what hybrid it was.

The four of us got great looks at both the male and female Lucifer Hummingbirds (our 11th hummingbird species of the trip!) visiting the feeders, and then spent a little while talking to Mary Jo about hybrid hummingbird, and then went on our way.

Lucifer Hummingbird (female) - Ash Canyon B&B

Ladder-backed Woodpecker (juvenile) - Ash Canyon B&B

We needed to be in Paradise, Arizona that night, so we began driving towards the Chiricahuas. On the way, we stopped for Chris’s lifer Swainson’s Hawk (a beautiful adult light type male) and also Chris and Mark’s lifer Black-throated Sparrows. We searched Stateline Rd for Bendire’s Thrasher with no success. We had dinner in Rodeo, New Mexico and then as it began to get dark, headed up the mountain roads toward Paradise. About 4 miles from Paradise, I flushed a Common Poorwill off the road, so we pulled over and listened to two of them calling for a few minutes. Around 8:30pm, we made it to our cabin for the night, the George Walker House. This cabin was absolutely beautiful, and the four of us were also able to witness an amazing event at the hummingbird feeder; hundreds of bats coming in to drink! I had never see anything like this, and it was so awesome getting to watch as bats flew all over the yard, sometimes two or three would attempt to drink from the feeders at once. There were two species present the Lesser Long-nosed Bat and the Mexican Long-tongued Bat.

Black-throated Sparrow - Stateline Rd

Lesser Long-nosed Bat - George Walker House

Mexican Long-tongued Bat - George Walker House