Thursday, May 3, 2012

Cave Canyon, east slope of the Santa Rita Mts.

Tucson Audubon Society Field Trip Report
by Tim Helentjaris
April 28, 2012

We hiked up this trail, ~2-3 miles, and then eventually returned by the same route.  The trail follows the perennial stream gradually up this drainage, eventually to Florida Saddle, although we quit near before reaching the upper basin and switchbacks, near the Rock Candy Mountain mine and just past the official wilderness boundary.

Hepatic Tanager by Richard Carlson

As we were driving in, a male WILD TURKEY was strutting on the road, he decided to “lead us up the road”, for quite some distance before figuring out it might be easier to just step off.  At the trailhead, we observed a pair of HEPATIC TANAGERS, foraging together, an obvious breeding pair.  Walking along the trail, we also observed BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLERS, heard numerous BEWICK’S WRENS and DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHERS.  The birding was slow for some time along the trail until we reached an upper camping area.  Along the way, we were treated to several wildflowers, including some nice Yellow Columbines along the stream, as well as one strange and unidentified aquatic plant growing in the deeper pools.  We began to see a few more birds in the upper reaches of this trail, including a beautiful male SCOTT’S ORIOLE and a pair of BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHERS clearly investigating a nest cavity in a tall snag.  The latter were seen at greater than 6200 ft. elevation, which seems a bit high for this species and in an area that while lush with vegetation could hardly be described as “riparian”.  During the trip we were also able to clearly study some other species, such as HUTTON’S VIREOS, which only began to sing later in the morning but once started, carried on incessantly.

Bewick's Wren by Jamie Chavez

Brown-crested Flycatcher by Carla Kishinami

Hutton's Vireo by Guy Monty
The numbers of birds and species were less than expected, a common complaint these last few weeks from a number of birders and locations in southeastern Arizona.  This presents somewhat of a conundrum, as recent participants in the Birdathon have put up some impressive number of species.  Not sure how to explain this?  We did see many of the residents for this habitat, but also saw few woodpeckers and migrant warblers and no hummingbirds.  Still it was a beautiful day up in the mountains on a great trail, and while the sightings were fewer than expected, we did have time to carefully observe and study some of them and no one complained, far from it.

There was one funny incident on the way back.  I had just turned onto SR83 and was heading north back to Tucson.  One of the folks in the car thought they saw an owl in a tree by the road.  I checked ahead and in my mirror for traffic and executed a U-turn.  We drove slowly back along SR83 to the south, just off the road, looking in the trees for the owl with no success.  I then looked in my rear view mirror, only to see a white sedan coming up behind me with red lights flashing.  I was depressed to think I was going to get a ticket for some infraction, when I then noticed that it was a Border Patrol vehicle.  I immediately figured it out that I had been heading towards the station just north of Sonoita when I execute my sudden U-turn and headed away.  The officers at the station, familiar with this maneuver, immediately guessed that we were making a run for it.  Luckily the young officer came up and talked to us and called off the SWAT team response once he heard we were birders.  I was embarrassed for making them initiate a pursuit, but all of us had a good laugh when we pulled through the station, having livened up their otherwise boring day.  Just goes to show, not surprisingly, that being so focused upon the birds can get you into trouble.

1 comment:

  1. This is a fun report. The conditions of the habitat, how many species, fun comments about some of them, and your oops problem. Glad all had a good time, and the Border Patrol understood your reason for acting suspiciously.
    Thanks. Donna Lusthoff

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