This past week (July 24-28, 2017) my dad and I camped in Cave Creek Canyon in the Chiricahua Mountains (Cochise County), with trips mostly around the east side of the mountains up to the crest, and in the southern San Simon Valley. Before I get to sightings, to add to Tom Arny’s report on recent flooding events from the monsoon storms, on Thursday night (July 27) the mountains received steady rain that led to moderate flash flooding, including Cave Creek Canyon. The creek level was still below the bridge at Stewart Campground on Thursday night and Friday morning, but there was a shallow overflow from one of the post-Hurricane Odile-created creek channels across the road between Stewart and Idlewilde Campgrounds yesterday morning. Overnight in Stewart Campground a small oak tree weakened by fungus snapped in half and fell near our tent during the heavy rain. When we met with John Yerger in Portal yesterday morning, he said that the ford through Cave Creek on Foothills Rd. was impassable at the time. The water level in the creek had already been up earlier in the week from subsequent storms and on Tuesday morning while hiking about 0.5-1 mile up South Fork from the trailhead (to the big pool area among boulders), wading across the creek was required at each crossing on the trail as rock crossings were washed out or submerged. The creek level at that time had been ankle-calf deep, with larger pools being a few feet deep. Driving to and from the Chiricahua Mountains we encountered rain-induced rockfalls on the highways that we had to dodge during torrential bouts of rain (including the Salt River Canyon and along Hwy. 180 south of Luna, NM). Be sure to monitor weather forecasts and radar before any trips in the region while the monsoon season continues!
Lots of common breeding residents are feeding young right now and some migrants, including HERMIT WARBLERS, are starting to appear with mixed nuthatch/chickadee/warbler flocks working the higher elevation ridges, a WARBLING VIREO was at Stewart Campground, and a female LARK BUNTING at Willow Tank. We mostly dipped on owl species, but my dad described hearing a WHISKERED SCREECH-OWL calling briefly in Cave Creek Canyon on July 24. HERMIT THRUSHES seem to be more widespread in Cave Creek Canyon than during previous summer visits, with several singing around the campgrounds each morning. BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRDS also seem to be increasing locally. We didn’t observe any unusual species on the trip, but here is a list of select observations and some SEAZ specialties with dates and locations:
—MONTEZUMA QUAIL: one heard calling near the Southwestern Research Station (SWRS) in the early afternoon on July 27.
—AMERICAN COOTS: half a dozen birds including two juveniles at Willow Tank on July 27.
—BAND-TAILED PIGEONS: several singing around Barfoot Park and along the Transmountain Rd. (Forest Rd. 42) on July 26.
—INCA DOVES: several singing near the Portal store.
—BLUE-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS: common in the campgrounds in Cave Creek Canyon, in South Fork, and at the Southwestern Research Station (SWRS).
—MAGNIFICENT HUMMINGBIRDS: at least one male and female visiting Stewart Campground through the week, at least one male and one female at the George Walker House on July 26, one female at Dave Jasper’s feeders in Portal on July 27.
—BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRDS: one immature at Stewart Campground all week, a few around Portal (3 female/immature types at House #5 on July 25), a few (one adult male, 2 immature males, one female) at the George Walker House in Paradise on July 26, one male at Dave Jasper’s feeders in Portal on July 27, one immature at the Rodrigues’ feeders in Portal on July 27.
—ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRD: one singing male briefly visiting Stewart Campground on July 26.
—CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRD: one at a private residence in Portal on July 27.
—ELEGANT TROGONS: at least two heard calling and a male seen a few crossings above the trailhead in South Fork Canyon on July 25.
—ARIZONA WOODPECKERS: a few around South Fork on July 25, a couple at Stewart Campground through the week, one at George Walker House in Paradise on July 26.
—SULPHUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHERS: several family groups feeding in the campgrounds in Cave Creek Canyon, in South Fork, and upstream towards the Southwestern Research Station (SWRS).
—BELL’S VIREOS: 1-2 singing between the bridge and store areas in Portal, one at the Rodrigues’ feeders in Portal on July 27.
—WARBLING VIREO: one at Stewart Campground on July 25.
—MEXICAN CHICKADEES: a few family groups foraging low and easy to see at Barfoot Park and along the road up to Barfoot and Rustler Parks on July 26.
—JUNIPER TITMICE: 4+ along E. Turkey Creek-Paradise Rd. within a mile or so of the George Walker House in Paradise on July 26.
—RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES: a few calling at Barfoot Park on July 26.
—PYGMY NUTHATCHES: several family groups foraging in the pines around Barfoot Park on July 26.
—CRISSAL THRASHERS: a couple calling along the desertscrub slopes above Portal-Paradise Rd. on the evening of July 25.
—RED CROSSBILLS: several singing and calling around Barfoot Park and along the Transmountain Rd. (Forest Rd. 42) on July 26.
—OLIVE WARBLERS: 5+ at Barfoot Park on July 26.
—LUCY’S WARBLER: one at the Rodrigues' feeders in Portal on July 27.
—YELLOW WARBLERS: a couple singing at Southwestern Research Station (SWRS) on July 27.
—HERMIT WARBLERS: 5+ (mostly females/immature birds) at Barfoot Park on July 26, one below the E. Turkey Creek/Transmountain Rd. (Forest Rd. 42) junction on the road towards Paradise on July 26.
—RED-FACED WARBLERS: one in South Fork on July 25, one at Barfoot Park on July 26.
—RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW: one visiting the seed feeders at House #5 in Portal on July 25, many heard singing and calling throughout the mountains during the week.
—BOTTERI’S SPARROW: one singing along Portal Rd. at the wide curve just before reaching Portal on July 24.
—CASSIN’S SPARROWS: several singing along Portal Rd., including a few between Portal and the mouth of Cave Creek Canyon throughout the week, a couple singing at late morning at Willow Tank on July 27.
—LARK BUNTING: one female at Willow Tank on July 27.
—LARK SPARROWS: a couple at the Southwestern Research Station (SWRS) grounds on July 27, several seen along Stateline Rd. on July 27.
—YELLOW-EYED JUNCOS: a couple at John Hands Campground on July 27, abundant throughout the Barfoot and Rustler Park areas on July 26.
—PYRRHULOXIAS: a family group at Dave Jasper’s feeders in Portal on July 27, one at Willow Tank on July 27.
—LAZULI BUNTING: one female at House #5 in Portal on July 25.
—BRONZED COWBIRDS: one female at House #5 in Portal on July 25, 2+ at Dave Jasper’s feeders in Portal on July 27.