30 Oct Day-trip to Paradise
Posted from the Seattle, WA, October 30, 2015
Fall is sort of a benign time in the high desert SW. No hot windy duststorms like sometimes in spring, and none of the cold that traditionally at least used to come with winter–knock on wood there’s snow in the high country this year. Summer is the greatest season but it can be awfully hot and I don’t like getting caught too far from shelter when the monsoon is really going, especially since I heard about the type of lighting strike that doesn’t kill you but leaves you in a permanent bad mood. I don’t need that.
All the landscapes are turning from the bright emeralds of a great monsoon season to warm browns. Here’s the White Cliffs above the house.
Some Pyrrhuloxias were hanging around the house, which was a relief since they had been absent for several years.
Then there’s the ever-present free-loading Coues’ White-tail Deer that wildlife biologist-in-residence CD Littlefield makes sure get cracked corn every day. Two siblings here.
On Tuesday a Northern Harrier came up to hunt the Canyon floor, which they do occasionally. This is from the house. The baby Golden Eagle came diving across the valley on Monday.
On the 29th we woke up to the sound of this Canyon Wren singing right outside the door. Here he or she (they both sing I believe, even in winter) is on spider-patrol on the veranda.
On Wednesday, Oct 28, 2015 we headed down the canyon for the Chiricahuas Mountains. In the San Simon Valley before we got to Route 80 we’d already seen 10 Loggerhead Shrikes, a Red-tailed Hawk, Lark Sparrows, many of the Lillians subspecies Eastern Meadowlark and a Greater Road-runner when we encountered this Prairie Falcon. She got immediately divebombed by a Northern Harrier, darn missed that shot.
On State-line Road we found this Long-billed Curlew, which we’d never had before in the Valley, what a great bird.
Our idea was to head up very high in the Chiricahuas and find a Mexican Chickadee. I’ve never seen one, neither has Delia. We ran into road work in Cave Creek and decided to head over to Paradise, Arizona instead. We passed over Cave Creek at one point, it’s still got a good flow as did Turkey Creek in Paradise.
As we approached Paradise, Delia spotted a sentry Montezuma Quail psoted on the side of the road–it appeared a large covey of Montezuma were attempting to cross the road. We don’t know why they wanted to cross the road, but we have a good idea why they retreated into the brush–my poor photographic skills annoyed them. There’s at least 7 Quail in the picture, btw. Folks in Portal who have been seriously birding the area for 20 and more years say they’ve seen more Montezuma this year than in all the years previous combined. Amazing, and again, what a great bird. They have an incredible sense of smell that allows them to find food in a hard-scrabble landscape.
In Paradise we visited the famous graveyard and here Delia stands beside the gravestone of a respected and well-loved guy who we’d met and my parents-in-law would visit occasionally.
In Paradise we found this Empidonax Flycatcher. I took a shot rather than try to ID it with binoculars, figuring I’d start arguing with myself and have nothing if I went by memory. Check the tear drop white eye-ring, green back and short primary projections. These factors mean it can only be one of two: Pacific-Slope or Cordilleran, and in this habitat and geography, Cordilleran is much more likely. We’re counting it. A little upslope from here we heard an Elegant Trogon calling.
This is as high as we got in the high Chiricahuas. Not very. As we dropped back into Cave Creek Canyon we pulled off the road and I jumped out of the car without my camera to check out a flock of Bridled Titmice. Suddenly we heard a loud querulous call note heading in our direction. The best shots always get away! A huge female adult Northern Goshawk came flapping out of the woods between me and Delia. It took our breath away. Gorgeous with a blue-gray back and a black cheek patch, she winged over the Cave Creek Bridge about a foot off the ground and 20ft. from an astonished Delia. It’s been over a decade since I’ve seen a Goshawk, this view was worth the wait!
Last night, the 30th, we got an 1.26 inches of rain. This is the storm petering out looking West to the Chiricahuas. We better make sure the road’s ok.
On the way down checking the road, it was apparent the sky had cleared enough to create a thermal. Three different species of birds were using the thermal, and all three hate each other. Here is the young-of-the-year Golden Eagle that was raised on the Red Cliffs this year and one of the Red-tailed Hawks.
The Reds ignored the Eagle, but a Raven that was also using the thermal put a minute or so into bombing it. That’s no Crow, Raven’s are the size of Red-tails, and look how much bigger the Eagle is.
The road looked good but the rain came up again and we all headed back. CD got going too fast walking with his shovel and landed his face into a rock. I told him red just wasn’t his color. He’ll be over for dinner and we’ll see if it’s life-threatening.
The Southwest may be beautiful, but I guess we haven’t discovered the Fountain of Youth.
cold like winter t