The Forest Re-opens! Birding the Chiricahua Mountains

18 July 2011

Morgan Jackson and I spent a pleasant morning in Cave Creek Canyon, five days after this portion of the Coronado National Forest officially reopened.  We explored Stewart Campground (open to day use only) where we found nothing unusual, but enjoyed watching a Painted Redstart gathering nesting food for young ones.  In the past few years, this area has played host to a Berylline Hummingbird, but we didn't find one today.

Walking up the South Fork road (open to foot traffic only), we were delighted to find a SULPHUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHER.  I haven't been able to look for this species since May 9, when the Horseshoe 2 Fire shut down these mountains to visitation.  A male ELEGANT TROGON was also very cooperative, only perhaps 150 yards from where we parked.

Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, which was oddly silent today, looking around for the next tasty morsel.

Elegant Trogon, looking dapper as ever - only about 6 inches off the ground, immediately adjacent to the road!

Driving up FR 42, all of the areas immediately adjacent to the road underwent a low- to medium-intensity ground fire, and the only completely blackened areas from high-intensity crown fires were visible on some of the highest ridge-tops.  (I'm not eager to drive through that area in person, but I've seen photos of a lot of greenery still left in prime Mexican Chickadee and Olive Warbler habitat.  All is not lost!)  We watched a ZONE-TAILED HAWK soaring over the ridge about halfway between where the road leaves North Fork and where the road crosses East Turkey Creek.  Crews were working to repair the road where it washed out at East Turkey Creek, but we still managed to locate YELLOW-EYED JUNCOS feeding fledgings.

So, lots of good stuff on a casual morning of birding in the Chiricahua Mountains!

John Yerger
Portal, AZ
Adventure Birding Company
Specializing in flexible, personalized guiding in SE Arizona

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