After early morning photo editing, we crossed the border into Arizona and the town of Portal. Some of the best birding in the United States is in the Chiricahua Mountains, Portal, and at Cave Creek Ranch. According to Richard Cachor Taylor’s Location Checklist to the Birds of the Chiricahua Mountains, “…the Chiricahua checklist presently stands at 375 species, not including 13 species still considered hypothetical — about half of all the birds regularly occurring on this continent north of Mexico.”This area is the most biodiverse landmass on the continent of North America, and the bird life reflects that. Cave Creek Canyon is the largest and best watered canyon in the Chiricahuas, and Cave Creek Ranch sits in the mouth of the canyon.
Our first stop was at the Rodriguez place, hoping to find birds galore to photograph. Mr. Rodriguez was at the feeding area when we arrived, and said that most of “his” birds left a couple of months ago. While we saw Gambel’s Quail, an occasional Mexican Jay, and a Pyrrhuloxia (aka Desert Cardinal), birds were scarce, no photos were made and processed. Next, Cave Creek Canyon beckoned, and the mountains, evergreens, and high desert proved once again that it was my “”happy place. Stops were made along the road where Dan had spotted birds on his previous trips. Birds were scarce; only an Acorn Woodpecker, American Snout butterfly, and Gould’s Turkey were photographed.
Cave Creek Ranch was next on the itinerary. From their website: “Located in the Chiricahua Mountains of Southeastern Arizona, Cave Creek Ranch occupies 7 secluded acres alongside famous Cave Creek, and offers spectacular views of the rhyolite cliffs of Cave Creek Canyon.” Birds were scarce here, too. An Acorn Woodpecker and White-winged Dove made the photo album.
And then about 2:50 PM, this beautiful, brightly colored bird swooped in to feed on the Pyracantha berries. It was the Elegant Trogan, a bird I’ve been chasing for three years. The elusive bird did not pose long enough for a good photograph, but the “lifer” was recorded. What a way to end the day.