Monday, June 20, 2016

Spring Migration in the Huachuca Mountains and San Pedro Valley

Huachuca Mountains are a "sky island" of forest surrounded by a "sea" of desert scrub and grasslands. The southern slopes drain into Mexico, the eastern slopes to the San Pedro River. There are several deep, moist canyons harboring a variety of montane and riparian habitats. Because they are the intersection of northern and southern zones, there is extraordinary animal and plant diversity. Birders can see species such as Elegant Trogons, several hummingbirds, Spotted Owl and Buff-breasted Flycatchers. We were fortunate to spend time in Huachuca Canyon, Hunter Canyon and the San Pedro River. Please enjoy a glimpse into springtime in the Huachuca Mountains and the Upper San Pedro River Valley.

Huachuca Canyon is located in Ft. Huachuca, an active military base. This necessitated us getting background checks in order to secure passes to access the canyons for birding and hiking.

Male Summer Tanager with a meal

Dusky-capped Flycatcher

Hunter Canyon is located south of Huachuca Canyon and like many of the sky islands has suffered major fire damage in the past 10 years.

Male Scott's Oriole doing battle with reflective foes

The Victor!!
Black-chinned Sparrow up singing

Common Chicory

Yellow Columbine was found along the cool, shady creek

Greater Pewee

The San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area ( San Pedro RNCA) protects nearly forty miles of the San Pedro River, a stream originating in the Mexican highlands. Now ungrazed for over 20 years, the lush riparian vegetation is a haven for an impressive array of birds. Groundwater pumping threatens the river's survival. There is currently a large development on the books that is in the courts due to the negative impact it would have on local ecosystems and water table.

We spent a number of days along the San Pedro River, consistently seeing over 70 different bird species per day. We witnessed the arrival of many of the migrating species either stopping for a day or 2 to rest and feed or those setting up nesting locations. We never knew what we were going to be seeing:-)

This Gray Hawk was the first thing to greet us- it flew in and sat on this dead tree stump along the river. Gray Hawks are now a common nester along the San Pedro River.

Abert's Towhee can be found along creeks and out in the desertscrub

Bee balls seem to be a more common occurrence during migration

Dusky Flycatcher ?

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Cassin's Kingbirds were everywhere!

Male Hepatic Tanager- note the gray cheek

Female Hepatic Tanager also has a defining gray cheek patch

Western Wood-Pewee

Yellow Columbine

Male Western Tanager

Southwestern Song Sparrow

Swainson's Thrush

Western Kingbird

Western Screech Owls are permanent residents.

Lark Sparrow

Curve-billed Thrasher on the nest

Male Northern Cardinal

Male MacGillivray's Warbler

Banded male Summer Tanager

I saw this banded male Summer Tanager a few day's later along the river. Is is the same bird?

This first year male Summer Tanager has a mottled appearance

Vaux's Swift flying over the pond

Male Bullock's Oriole

Female Bullock's Oriole
More Dusky Flycatchers ?

Common Ground-Dove

Gray Hawk hunting along the San Pedro River

Mourning Cloak Butterfly

Male Bullock's Oriole chowing on the caterpillar cocoons. The Yellow-billed Cuckoos will be coming into the San Pedro River around the first of June to breed. Their favorite food is these caterpillar cocoons.

Brown-crested Flycatcher

Male Vermillion Flycatcher

We found this Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet by following their distinctive call

Yellow-breasted Chats' vocalizations could be heard all along the river. They are easy to hear but not easy to see:-)

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

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