Chiricahua Mtns. (3/13-16)
17 Mar 2010, 4:36 PM,
Chiricahua Mtns. (3/13-16)
From 3/13 to 3/16/10 my family and I went camping at Sunny Flat Campground down in the Chiricahua Mountains. The weather was windy and much colder than past visits during Spring, especially at night. The mountains have obviously received lots of snow this winter, as Cave Creek was gushing with water (which also made it hard to hear birds). On our last day we hiked a little ways up the Basin Trail from Herb Martyr picnic area/campground and on one of the distant cliffs we saw a large waterfall pouring out (would this be Winn Falls?). Besides the Basin Trail, we birded Portal and the Southwestern Research Station (SWRS), and walked the trail between Sunny Flat and Idlewilde Campgrounds and the South Fork trail up to Maple Camp a couple of times during our stay. Unfortunately we didn't have time to get over to Paradise.

Bird diversity and numbers seemed down overall compared to our visit last spring. No sign of trogons yet. Despite the ban on bird feeders in Cave Creek Canyon, we still had a male Magnificent Hummingbird come into camp to investigate red-colored items we had and at least one Blue-throated Hummingbird was calling from one of the other campsites. We also occasionally heard a loud hummer buzz/trill that we assumed to be that of fly-by Broat-tailed Hummingbirds. The only owls we detected were a Western Screech-Owl and a Northern (Mountain) Pygmy-Owl that my parents heard calling at different times just before dawn the one morning. The most unusual bird in Sunny Flat was a non-breeding plumage Black-chinned Sparrow hanging with a mixed junco flock (I can't remember if I've seen this species before down here). I also saw my FOS Turkey Vulture soaring along the cliffs in the canyon. In the way of non-bird sightings, we had a Ringtail scurry up a tree in our campsite when our dog started running at it. This was only the second Ringtail any of us have seen (our first in AZ). Oddly, we did not see any Chiricahua Fox Squirrels in the canyon this trip.

In Portal, noteworthy birds included single Black-chinned and Rufous Hummingbird (both FOS for us), a "Red-backed" Dark-eyed Junco in the yard with the tall cypresses and ocotillo fence (our one SE AZ birding guide shows this form as rare down south), American Goldfinches, and a female Cassin's Finch.

Here is our full list for the trip with some notes for particular species:

Turkey Vulture
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Gambel's Quail
Mourning Dove
White-winged Dove
Blue-throated Hummingbird
Magnificent Hummingbird
Black-chinned Hummingbird
Broad-tailed Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird
White-throated Swift
Western Screech-Owl (1 in Sunny Flat CG)
Northern (Mountain) Pygmy-Owl (1 in Sunny Flat CG)
Acorn Woodpecker
Red-naped Sapsucker
Arizona Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Mexican Jay
Western Scrub-Jay (Portal)
Common Raven
Chihuahuan Raven (Portal Rd.)
Hutton's Vireo
Bridled Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Bewick's Wren
Cactus Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Townsend's Solitaire (1 in Portal)
American Robin (30+ along Basin Trail)
Hermit Thrush
Western Bluebird (Sunny Flat CG)
Curve-billed Thrasher
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Painted Redstart (only a few detected in the canyon)
Canyon Towhee
Spotted Towhee
Black-chinned Sparrow (1 in Sunny Flat CG)
Black-throated Sparrow (Portal Rd.)
Lincoln's Sparrow (Portal, SWRS, Sunny Flat CG)
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco (Gray-headed, Pink-sided, Oregon, 1 Red-backed)
Yellow-eyed Junco (Portal, Sunny Flat CG)
Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia (1 in Portal)
Lesser Goldfinch
American Goldfinch (4 near bridge in Portal)
Cassin's Finch (1 female in Portal)
House Finch
House Sparrow

Good birding!!!
Eric Hough

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