Last year we found June to be a wonderful time to bird the Chiricahuas because many critters are fledging babies and busily feeding, so there is lots of calling, singing and wing flapping....this June did not disappoint:-)
The Tucson Audubon's Guide to Finding Birds in Southeast Arizona provides an excellent description of why there is such a diversity of breeding birds. "The Chiricahua Mountains are a massive forested "sky island" mountain range with moist habitats, surrounded by a "sea" of arid lands ... The Chiricahuas are a region in themselves, with habitats ranging from semi-desert grassland and arid Chihuahuan desert scrub ... to forests of Engelmann spruce and alpine fir at the summits .... The great size of the range (nearly 40 miles long and 20 miles wide) and its nearness to the Sierra Madre ranges in Mexico means that a wide variety of bird, animal and plant life found nowhere else in the U.S. can be seen here."
Nesting time is very stressful for birds. There are lots of predators watching for nests and young fledglings, so we are always careful not draw attention to nests. Any of the photos of nests below were taken quickly and from a distance so as not to disrupt the parents and draw attention from nearby predators.
Western Kingbird at Rodriquez feeders on valley floor- these kingbirds are one of the first to fledge their young
We caught glimpses of this immature Gray Hawk while participating in the Global Birding Day... historical data indicates it is rare for Gray Hawks to nest in the Chiricahuas.
This Peregrine Falcon was probably bringing this bird back to the nest to feed young...they nest in the cliffs along the canyon walls
This Painted Redstart was about to go in the creek for a bath
Western Wood-Pewee on the nest near Ash Springs
Plumbeous Vireos can be heard calling from almost every other tree during breeding season!
We had an amazing Owling experience!
This is an Elf Owl on the nest...we were fortunate to go out with a local raptor expert who knows where many of the nests in the Cave Creek Canyon are located. We went out owling with him a few days before the owls were expected to fledge their young. Once they leave the nest they are not as predictable to locate. This Elf Owl was very cooperative and peered around for a good 5 minutes before retreating back into its cavity. This little owl is only about 6"!
Bridled Titmouse are fairly common. We were lucky to catch this Bridled Titmouse family with the young begging for food
We were fortunate to get great views of this immature Great Horned Owl
Same owl about a week later
There were quite a few Cassin's Kingbirds nesting at Slaughter Ranch
This male Varied Bunting looks like he just took a bath
Montezuma Quail breed in the canyon riparian areas.We saw this male Montezuma Quail with its female partner coming to the stream to drink along Greenhouse Creek.
Wow- the male Magnificent Hummingbird breeds here. Like all hummingbirds, the male has nothing to do with either nest building or raising young. The female takes care of all that...he just focuses on looking pretty!
This House Wren is feeding its babies in the cavity
This is one of the only places in the U.S. that Dusky-capped Flycatchers can be seen and heard so easily. We typically hear them along the trails in the Chiricahuas. They have a very soft, mournful song.
We think the photo below is a nest of Elegant Trogons in an Arizona Sycamore cavity. Pictured is the female underside to the right of the cavity.
Female Elegant Trogon
Male Elegant Trogon outside of the nest cavity
White-breasted Nuthatches busy fledging their young
A Slate-throated Redstart is not a typical breeder of the U.S. To this point, they are considered a rare visitor. This May produced the first known nesting Slate-throateds in the U.S. ; the result was 3 fledglings. Local ornithologists are still debating whether the male was a Painted Redstart, i.e. a hybrid pair. There are a number of passionate birders following the progress of the fledglings closely to see how their plumage appears. The last we heard, folks thought the fledglings had enough white in the wings to make them think they are hybrids. No matter what, it has been wonderful to witness the birds' progress and citizen science at work.
The day we visited the site this worn adult was working overtime to feed its 3 babies. We did not get looks at the young but it appeared that the adult bird was foraging for food and then would visit 1 of 3 locations where the young were well hidden.
The World is Full of Beauty & Wonder,
Turtle & Hawk
PS- we will be remote for the next month or so....enjoy your summer!