Thursday, 5 May 2016

Arizona Day 7: Hunter Canyon to Portal

Today we were heading to Portal in the Chiricahua Mountains, but not before calling in to Hunter Canyon where a Rufous-capped Warbler had been reported. It was a bit tricky to find this place as its not signposted off the main road out of Sierra Vista but we got there eventually and then began walking up the trail. It was quite a rough trail and took a while to reach the trees where the bird had been reported the day before. We were really feeling the altitude this morning for some reason but it was just around 6,000 feet so not too high but we were battling a high wind and uneven and in places steep trail. Well, within a few minutes the Rufous-capped Warbler appeared in the creek below us and began singing and what a beautiful vision of red, yellow and olive it was. No photos unfortunately but just go look in the Sibley Guide to see what a cracker it is. Not a lifer, as I’ve seen one in Texas but a really cool bird. The same spot also had another Buff-breasted Flycatcher, as well as Cassin’s Finch, Cassin’s Vireo, Greater Pewee, Dusky Flycatcher, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Virginia’s, Black-throated Grey and Townsend’s Warblers and other common Sky Island goodies.

Buff-breasted Flycatcher

So that was us done here and we walked back to the car, seeing a few Bell’s Vireos along the way. From here we headed to Portal, a journey of a couple of hours and one thing I noticed was the wind seemed to be picking up with gale force gusts once we reached the open plains. I screeched to a halt at one point as some movement along the fence adjacent to the road looked interesting. There’s absolutely no traffic here so a quick turnaround and we were looking at a bunch of Lark Buntings – a bird I haven’t seen for many years. A little further on we pulled in to look at one of those Historical Markers that are dotted around the country – this one marked the place of Geronimo’s surrender.

Anyway, we drove on to Portal, checked in to our cabins behind the café, ate lunch and then had to drive some 20 miles to fill up with gas. Along the way a few White-throated Swifts flew over but we were soon back in Portal and despite the wind headed up the road to check out the area. We stopped at Paradise and then up to Barfoot Park, which is just under something like 10,000 feet but there was a distinct lack of Mexican Chickadees (a bird we were fated not to find) although there was a dearth of any kind of bird due to the foul weather apart from a few Violet-green Swallows.

So on returning to the cabins we had dinner and then walked around after dark, seeing a Great Horned Owl perched at the top of a large tree. A drive up the road resulted in two different Ringtails (also known as Ring-tailed Cat), a member of the raccoon family, a Striped Skunk, and a cute Gray Fox. But no owls were calling so we called it a day and returned to the cabins.

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