Saturday, April 28, 2018

Last Chances in the Choke Chiris

Before Great Black Hawk stole the national scene at South Padre Island, AZ boasted probably the biggest ABA rarity buzz with an absurdly confiding Fan-tailed Warbler and (likely returning) Slate-throated Redstart in the Chiricahuas. I have a proud, or at least prominent, history of dipping on Slate-throated, but the Fan-tailed was gorgeous and seemed like an easy tick. 
Curious to see how Butler's Bird Jr. would fare with longer car rides, since we will be doing some significant road-tripping this summer, the whole family headed for an overnight exploration of the Chiris.

By time we departed, the Fan-tail had not been seen for two days. This was known. What was known later on was that Butler's Birds Jr. does not like riding for more than two hours, and does not like hiking for more than about 30min. in a row, in large part due to being a little big for his carrier and, mostly, because he wants to taste all the rocks. I'll push birding on him but it may be geology that suits his fancy down the road. Pretty cute at any rate.

So, in line with expectations, we did not get to add our names to the list of people of have crushed the Fan-tailed Warbler. Also in line with expectations, we got to spend time with cool Hummingbirds. 

The Fan-tailed was actually being seen on a private residence in the area (what a yard bird!), and with its continued absence we soon relocated to South Fork, which afforded scenery and shade even if it was late in the afternoon for the better birding. The hikers below almost got t-boned by some Coule's Deer crossing the wash. Apparently deer do not habitually look both ways when startled.

The next morning I snuck out early to try for the Pinery Canyon Slate-throated Redstart. This location has hosted one or more nesting birds for the last three years, making Pinery Canyon to Slate-throats what Florida Canyon was to Rufous-capped Warblers 8 years ago--the beachhead for a northern invasion (one hopes). 
Finding the bird still takes some doing, and unfortunately I only had a couple of hours to scan and scour before rendezvousing with the Fam. The bird was eventually re-found that day around noon, but during my time in the area it was windy and the high temp was 37 F! 
This is the 4th time I have dipped on a Slate-throat. 

Oh! this bird get your hopes up!? Yeah, me too, but just another Painted. Who even cares about those anymore...

Why am I sharing this failure on the blog? Seeking absolution I guess. Maybe dipping on birds should just be the new theme. How's this for a new name idea--The Big Dipper: Not-So-Stellar Birding. Marketably clever eh?
Consolation was at least there on the mountain, although it needed to be substantial considering the amount of driving it takes to get up, over, and then down to Pinery Canyon. Some of the morning's first birds were hawk buddies up at 6800 feet and a Tom displaying to a hen off the side of the road.

Yellow-eyed Juncos were typically welcoming and kept the understory pretty teeming with movement, joined by roving rampaging hordes of Bushtits and Kinglets. House Wrens supplied steady background ambiance. 

This time of year, There Will Be Empids. There Will Be Consternation. There Will (probably) Be Blood (because I fall a lot when hiking and birding simultaneously).

I could not really justify dragging the Fam back to Pinery Canyon, up and down the nauseating road and dust to bird where there would not be clear trails, so we flipped ol' Slate-throat the bird and instead headed to the Chiricahua National Monument, because who doesn't love monoliths? 
Turns out rock watching is actually way easier than bird watching. There is much less potential for vagrancy.

Other than the expected Towhees and Bewick's Wrens ever-present in mid-elevation oak scrub, the birding was pretty muted at the CNM Park. However, there were many Mexican Jays, and they were very tame. If you want to crush MEJA and see awesome rock formations, go to this place.

Floored by the grandeur!