Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Almost Spring in the Chiricahua Mountains & Surrounding Valleys

Our arrival back to the eastern side of the Chiricahuas greeted us with record warm temperatures at the end of February, visits from friends and lots of adventures...

Winn Falls was still flowing with melting snow pack
New Friends

Old Friends

Cave Creek Canyon in Portal

This trail head accessed through Cave Creek Ranch is a new place to explore...

Male Acorn Woodpecker working on a nesting spot

Male Acorn Woodpecker with brown secondaries and upper tail coverts- this is a trait seen in a small population here in Cave Creek.

This male Acorn Woodpecker has the more traditional black secondaries and upper tail coverts

Female Arizona Woodpecker

Male Arizona Woodpecker

Female Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Bewick's Wren

This Canyon Wren was hanging around the creek near the Sunny Flats Campground

This Black Phoebe was flycatching over South Fork

Bridled Titmouse calling... they are often times found with a mixed flock of foraging birds

This is a southwestern subspecies of the Brown Creeper- this subspecies has more black than brown coloring

The Cliff Chipmunk can make a call similar to a Northern Pygmy Owl

This is either a first winter or winter adult Chipping Sparrow. At first we thought this might be an immature White-crowned Sparrow but were corrected by someone via our Flickr photo site.
Another view of the winter Chipping Sparrow. Many of the Chipping Sparrows we are seeing are in breeding plumage so this plumage really fooled us.

We saw FOUR subspecies of Dark-eyed Juncos at the Cave Creek Ranch!

This is the gray-headed subspecies

Showing us its gray head

Male Oregon Dark-eyed Junco- you can tell it is the male because of the black head- the female has a gray head

Pink-sided subspecies

Red-backed Dark-eyed Junco

Showing us its beautiful red back

We had wonderful views of this red subspecies of the Fox Sparrow at Cave Creek Ranch. This red subspecies is considered rare for this area.

Hoary Comma butterflies seen on South Fork- my butterfly app indicates it has a vast range but appears rarely and in small numbers.

Hutton's Vireo

We think this is a female Hooded Oriole seen at Cave Creek Ranch. The female Scott's Oriole is duller below and the Hooded female has more of a down-curved bill than the Scott's. 

Male Scott's Oriole singing from the tree tops in the town of Portal:-)
This Lincoln's Sparrow was hanging out at Cave Creek Ranch with the rest of the crew.

You can tell this is an immature Mexican Jay due to the pale base of the bill

This Red-tailed Hawk was flying low through the woods along South Fork.

This male Spotted Towhee was digging in the leaf litter looking for goodies

The clicking of my camera got his attention

This White-nosed Coati scrambled up a tree as we walked down South Fork trail. We understand that the males travel solo so this maybe a male since it was traveling alone. Apparently the females travel in large groups.

This male Yellow-rumped Audubon's Warbler was checking out the feeders at the popular Cave Creek Ranch

This White-breasted Nuthatch was "hanging" around

The Willow Tank is critical habitat located near Portal in the San Simon Valley. Since it is some of the only water in the area it is a bird and wildlife magnet.

We were fortunate to see this American Pipit feeding along the water's edge

Gambel's Quail

Scaled Quail

Great-tailed Grackle

Male Northern Cardinal

Male Pyrrhuloxia

Prairie Falcon

Female Red-winged Blackbird

First year male Red-winged Blackbird

We had two different subspecies of Savannah Sparrow at Willow Tank
The Rostratus subspecies of the Savannah Sparrow has a larger bill and less yellow on the head than other subspecies

The Savannah subspecies of the Savannah Sparrow has a darker eyeline and more extensive streaking

The Lark Buntings winter in the area. They are starting to come into the breeding plumage

Female Lark Bunting

Male Lark Bunting starting to molt

Male Lark Bunting even further along in the transition to their beautiful black with white wing patches

Red-tailed Hawk and Common Raven having territory issues?

Red-tailed Hawk with a snack

Red-tailed Hawk enjoying the new blind at Willow Tank

The southwestern Song Sparrow

Vesper Sparrow

Adult White-crowned Sparrow
Immature White-crowned Sparrows

Immature White-crowned Sparrow

Road to Paradise near Portal area 

We think this might be an immature Northern Goshawk or Cooper's looks so "beefy" for a Cooper's Hawk...any ideas?? There is an apache subspecies of Northern Goshawk....maybe that is this subspecies

Abert's Towhee at local feeders
Male Rufous Hummingbird

Finally we got fabulous looks at male Black-chinned Sparrows...

Black-throated Sparrow
Male Cassin's Finch
Female Cassin's Finch
Male House Finch

Male House Finch of a different color

Female House Finch

Chihuahuan Raven
Golden Eagle

Sage Thrasher

Verdin in the air

Southeast Arizona's Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area is one of the best places to see large numbers of Sandhill Cranes, with population estimates of over 30,000 in winter time. The Draw is in the Sulphur Springs Valley, which is part of the Chihuahuan desert grassland habitat that is surrounded by the mountainous sky islands.

This Northern Harrier had just trapped a meal as we were arriving into the Draw

American Avocet
Female & male Cinnamon Teal
Male Cinnamon Teal
Male Green-winged Teal

Male Northern Shoveler

Male Northern Shoveler coming into breeding plumage

Female Northern Shoveler

We saw this Cooper's Hawk make a meal of a bird, we think was a Black Phoebe
We identified this bird as an Eastern Meadowlark because we heard it can look so similar to the Western Meadowlark that it makes it impossible to tell the difference unless you hear them sing because their call and song are very different
The stars of the show....started coming back into the Draw from their morning feed around 11 is very special sight to behold

On our way to Tucson we had a wonderful surprise at Granite Gap...5 male Bighorn Sheep. They have been reintroduced into the area and seem to be doing well:-)

The World is Full of Beauty & Wonder,
Turtle & Hawk


  1. Your Goshawk sure looks like a Goshawk - the tail is especially long and the primaries have the spread I expect to see. I wish I could give you something ornithological ly definitive, but, to quote Sandy Komito, I know the bird because I know the bird. Really nice collection of species and excellent info - we missed the cool variation on Acorn Woody plumage. Hey, there is a new race of Hairy Woodpeckers emerging from San Francisco north with yellow outer retrices - Beth got good documentation in GG Park a couple years back. Always gotta look twice at even birds I think I know.

    1. Thanks for the feedback- we have had a few raptor folks say the same thing:-) One of our favorite mentors has always encouraged that look twice idea & glass every bird because you never know:)