Saturday, May 6, 2017

What Happens in Southeastern Arizona

On this past Wednesday, May 3rd, I was faced with a challenging decision.  Do I explore Gila County's Sierra Ancha Mountains that are rarely birded OR do I go to southeastern Arizona to enjoy an epic rarity as well as a supporting cast of awesome southeastern Arizona birds?  I didn't make my decision until I got to the junction of 1-10 east and the US 60.  At the last second, I stayed in the lane of the 10 and headed straight for southeastern Arizona's Huachuca Mountains.  I decided that I would put the Sierra Ancha Mountains off until Friday, only two days later when I'd actually have more time to prepare for them.  Once going south, I made a beeline to Carr Canyon Road.  And once on that road, I went up the steep and rugged road up into Carr Canyon.  This road is commonly revered by many due to it's rather scary heights and drops, but if the road conditions are dry, I love this road.

In 2015, I saw my life Tufted Flycatcher in Ramsey Canyon.  Tons of birders were on site, and after waiting for about twenty minutes I heard the bird coming in and most of the other birders got on the Tufted Flycatcher.  My views of the bird were only okay as it stayed up high in the conifers.  To top it all off, a grouchy woman yelled at me for whispering.  The Flycatcher showed up a few more times, giving me okay looks.  Since 2015, Tufted Flycatchers have shown up in Arizona, especially at Ramsey Canyon, where there have been a likely pair now for the last two years.  The birds are back this year to make that a third straight year.  But recently, a pair of Tufted Flycatchers have found Carr Canyon within the area of Reef Townsite Campground.  They have been cooperative for many and I decided I really wanted to get a good look at one of them after having minimal views and pictures of my original Tufted Flycatcher.  The day before I went, Matt Brown went up the Carr Canyon Road from Reef Townsite Campground and found one of the Tufted Flycatchers, maybe even both of them, just 0.3 mile past Reef Townsite.  As I got up there, I decided to check that spot first.  When I got to the spot, I immediately heard the Tufted Flycatcher giving it's distinctive song, "turee-treeeee".  I listed and within a minute, the Tufted Flycatcher landed above and right by me!

I was beyond thrilled.  After my previous Tufted Flycatcher past, this was a 180 degree upgrade.  Good grief!  Tufted Flycatchers are mainly a Mexican songbird, other than, well....Arizona.  With there being two potential pairs in the Huachucas, who knows what other canyons these flycatchers can possibly be in also?  And one can't forget all of the side drainages in places also.

After the Tufted flew in for the original time, I spent another hour with it and the other birds in the area.  The Tufted Flycatcher constantly quarreled with numerous Buff-breasted Flycatchers that were around.  It is likely that the two species were competing for territory space.  At one point, I believe I did have a second Tufted Flycatcher, but because the birds were rapidly moving, I wasn't able to say for sure.  A few others in the previous day did have two birds at this spot.  The Tufted constantly vocalized, whether giving it's song or two of it's different call notes.  I patiently waited for views, and at another point, I got lucky again.  When the Tufted Flycatcher landed close to me and in good photo range for the second time of the day, it was practically eye level with me.  I snapped photographs and enjoyed binocular views.  It just sat there for me for about a minute!

This was a common view I had of the Tufted Flycatcher as it would perch up high most of the time.  It would also commonly sally the air for any flying insects.

I'm sure I'll cross paths again with this neat bird.  Hopefully next time though, it will be at a different location for the fun of it.

In the Carr Canyon area, I also found a Painted Redstart nest.  These birds are always fun to see and provided entertainment when the Tufted Flycatcher was down slope.

If I would have gotten my eyes on the Northern Goshawk I was hearing, then I really would have felt spoiled.  The raptor I did see was a fly-over Zone-tailed Hawk.

Migrant Townsend's Warblers were abundant in Carr Canyon.

At Carr Canyon I had over 40 species of birds in about three hours of birding.  What a great place it is.  One of the birds that was present were at least 4 different Greater Pewees, singing their classic song, "Jose Maria".  This is one of my favorite Arizona birds, and hearing their song is something I look forward to every southeastern Arizona trip during spring and summer.

The distinctive Buff-breasted Flycatcher was everywhere in Carr Canyon,  I enjoyed hearing and seeing them, but the best I could do was photograph one of their nests by the Reef Townsite Campground.

And last but not least, here's a Yellow-eyed Junco.  One of southeastern Arizona's characteristic birds.

There's more to be written about on this day of May 3rd, 2017 as I had more ground to cover in southeastern Arizona.  Stay tuned for that as well as a handful of other posts, which will include a mega rarity.  The birding keeps on being awesome in 2017!

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