Date: 7/4/18 6:33 pm
From: Eric Hough <thebirdwhisperer22...>
Subject: [AZNMbirds] SEAZ: Chiricahuas (late June highlights)
Back on June 24-27, 2018, my dad and I went camping in the Chiricahua Mountains (Cochise Co.). Besides birding around where we camped in Cave Creek Canyon, we also spent June 25 doing a loop down through Tex and Rucker Canyons on the southern side of the mountains, and West Turkey and Pinery Canyons on the west, and on June 26 spent the day in the higher elevations around Pinery Canyon, Barfoot and Rustler Parks. We dipped on the Slate-throated Redstart on both of our visits to Pinery Canyon (partially my fault for not taking the time to research ahead of time that the bird was hanging out quite a ways down from the old “campground” area; to others that might not know either, check eBird to see the specific hotspot that was created for the bird, don’t just go to Pinery Canyon). Oh well. Highlights from the trip included a vocal THICK-BILLED KINGBIRD, a singing male VARIED BUNTING, several BELL’S VIREOS, and a couple of YELLOW-BREASTED CHATS in the riparian area on the USFS side of Tex Canyon, a singing BOTTERI’S SPARROW a little ways up Tex Canyon Rd. in some grassland habitat, a flyover COMMON BLACK HAWK over the ridge between Tex and Rucker Canyons, two BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHERS at Cypress Campground in Rucker Canyon, a GRAY HAWK along lower Rucker Creek while driving along the segment of road through private lands, and MONTEZUMA QUAIL along West Turkey and Pinery Canyon roads. At the Southwestern Research Station (SWRS) I heard a Passerina species singing high up in the cottonwoods, but could not tell if it was a Blue Grosbeak or Varied Bunting (I don’t have enough regular experience with the latter to tell them apart).

Lots of birds were feeding nestlings and fledglings throughout the mountains, including WILD TURKEYS, ACORN WOODPECKERS, BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHERS, MEXICAN JAYS, BRIDLED TITMICE, MEXICAN CHICKADEES (at Rustler Park), PYGMY NUTHATCHES, BROWN CREEPERS, HOUSE WRENS, and YELLOW-EYED JUNCOS. Other usual species were encountered, plus an unexpected lone WILD TURKEY roaming through Stewart Campground the one morning, occasional flyover flocks of BAND-TAILED PIGEONS moving up and down Cave Creek Canyon, a low elevation HAIRY WOODPECKER in Stewart Campground, a mystery Empidonax flycatcher whitting in Stewart Campground briefly on one morning, and a few pairs of SULPHUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHERS between Stewart and Sunny Flat Campgrounds. In Portal we heard several BELL’S VIREOS singing between the store and the Rodrigues yard, plus a singing YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT. At our camp we heard a few MEXICAN WHIP-POOR-WILLS, a single WHISKERED SCREECH-OWL, and a pair of ELF OWLS each night as the near full moon rose over the canyon walls We also heard two mammals screaming back and forth to each other on two of the nights (thinking gray fox, but maybe bobcat or lion), with one of the animals spooking two turkeys from their roost above our campsite.

Since my family has been coming to the mountains almost annually since 1995, it seems that HERMIT THRUSHES have increased as summer residents in Cave Creek Canyon, along with WHITE-WINGED DOVES, BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRDS, and SUMMER TANAGERS in recent years. BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHERS used to be present along the main fork of Cave Creek upstream from the SWRS, but in recent years I haven’t detected any on visits to the Old Snowshed Trail. I was hoping the regrowth following the fire would favor the species, but they seem to be slow to return thus far. Not to mention the scarcity of Elegant Trogons following many years of drought combined with the Horseshoe 2 Fire. Has anyone else noticed these or other expansions/contractions?

Hoping that the “slightly above-average” prediction for monsoon moisture eventually comes true…it sure is taking its time materializing this year. :(

Good birding!

Eric Hough
Wickenburg, AZ
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