Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Arizona Day 6: Ramsey Canyon

So today was the day we went to Ramsey Canyon and our best shot at Elegant Trogon. This site isn’t open to visitors until 8am so we drove around the lower roads through a small housing area (rather surreptitiously I have to say) mainly to fill in some time but also to see if there was anything about. Carpets of Lark Sparrows and some Chipping Sparrows were feeding on the lawns in people’s gardens and a pair of Western Kingbirds were calling from the telegraph wires as well but nothing spectacular was on offer. However, as we rounded a corner a pair of Greater Roadrunners appeared and one of them ran in front of our car, whilst the other one ran into a field next to us. I managed some decent photos (at last) as one bird paused his ‘run’ and didn’t seem to know what to do. So he ran up a lone tree in the middle of the field and looked rather lost before re-joining his mate. This was probably the closest and most prolonged view of this cool bird I’ve ever had and a nice way to start what would be a great day’s birding.

Greater Roadrunner
Then we drove up to the entrance gate and joined a small queue waiting to get in. We’d heard that there was limited parking so wanted to make sure of our spot and after a few minutes the gates opened actually around 20 minutes early and we drove in. Having already got our ticket back at Sonoita Creek a few days ago we skipped the delights of the tempting retail outlet and began walking. The path is really easy, well maintained and not steep at all – in fact a joy to be here. We hadn’t walked long before an Elegant Trogon began calling and we were quickly at the right spot trying to see it. It was calling up the densely forested hillside above us and we spent a while trying to locate it without any luck. 

Really poor photos of Elegant Trogon
Fortunately it began to move and we eventually tracked it down when it somehow began calling behind us, so we crossed the tiny stream and had decent if not that close looks across a grassy clearing. Luckily it then flew right at us and landed high overhead, although rubbish for photos it was a great relief to finally nail this bird. Oh yes baby! Apparently you are not allowed to walk off the trails and we got 'told off' by some dude who thought he was Wyatt Earp i'd imagine...!

After our good fortune we continued walking higher and left the stream with its huge trees for the steeper trail and headed toward where a Tufted Flycatcher had been reported. It was much steeper and the day was warming up, and to be honest this bird wasn’t a lifer for any of us so we decided on the softer option of birding the lower slopes. A good move as it turned out as we found the stream area to be very active with our first Dusky Flycatcher showing quite well, along with Hepatic Tanager, Audubon’s, Black-throated Grey, Townsend’s and Red-faced Warblers all appearing. 

Acorn Woodpecker

Audubon's Warbler

American Robin
Both Greater Pewee and Buff-breasted Flycatcher were seen on several occasions and seemingly commoner and more easy to see here than other canyons we had visited. Or maybe it was the fact there was no wind today. Anyway we checked out some side trails for a reported Flame-coloured Tanager but only managed to find Bushtit, American Robin, Hermit Thrush and other common species. That was until a Mountain Pygmy Owl began calling and after a little search we got really lucky with excellent close views as it stared angrily back at us from a nearby conifer. Wow! This species is split by the IOC and different to Northern Pygmy Owl i've seen in California - so a key bird to get in SE Arizona.

Mountain Pygmy Owl
With the lure of a well stacked shop we headed down the trail, but our luck was in when our one and only Hermit Warbler was seen at the top of a nearby tree - thanks to the couple of bird photographers that put us on to it.

Hermit Warbler
So we returned to Sierra Vista for lunch before heading to Tombstone. 

Now I am culturally shallow but it was too good an opportunity to resist and it was pretty cool to visit the O.K Corral and Boot Hill, oh and to have a beer in a saloon. Yeehaaa!

Western Screech Owl

Leaving here we drove to San Pedro House, despite my SatNav trying to send us in the wrong direction and some old fashioned map reading got us to the right spot. My intention was to stay until dark and try and call in a Western Screech-Owl, but luck was really on our side today as there was already a bunch of other birders here scoping one of these beauties at a day roost high up in a big tree. The feeders here were alive with common birds, but also Green-tailed Towhee, Pyrrhuloxia and Curve-billed Thrasher

Green-tailed Towhee
A walk along the trails revealed yet another Rufous-winged Sparrow, as well as many Black-throated Sparrows but on returning to the feeders we saw our first Common Ground Dove and Western Tanagers of the trip. 

Rufous-winged Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow
And with the sun dipping towards the horizon we returned to the motel.

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