Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Arizona again, with success

Saturday, May 22, 2010

After running the truck's AC in Las Vegas, it had developed a ragged idle, but I didn't pay a lot of attention to it. Mostly I just wanted to get to Tucson and see my ex brother-in-law David and his wife Romenia, There were birds possible in Tucson as well, and up Mount Lemmon also.

Out of Kingman and drive pretty directly to Tucson, just stopping for food. Once there it was gonna be a while before the folks got home so I went by the Broadway-Shannon Dessert to look for Rufous-winged Sparrow. But the place had been covered with condos. Very little undisturbed habitat, so no luck. I found David's house and took a big nap, a hot soaker bath, a fine meal by Romenia with lots of fresh salad, and wifi. It was terribly like civilization. David is a lawyer for the Salt River Reservation and Romenia has worked for the airlines for years and loves her work. The house was a new acquisition, and fairly new, nice stucco with good space in a subdivision on the west edge of town. Had a great backyard, with plantings from the previous owner to attract hummers and other critters. After I got home I sent them a nice Hummer ID book. I took it easy and indulged for a day.

Sunday, May 23

Great breakfast omelet, and sitting on the back ramada watching birds in the plantings and on the roofs of the surrounding houses. I took a ride all the way up Mount Lemmon to Summerhaven, making some of the free stops, and furtively poking into a couple of campgrounds, which cost $8 just to park and walk around. Scouted out the Flammulated Owl area in Bear Canyon, a campground and three picnic areas all close together. Went back into town for supper and good talk, and then as dusk approached went back up the mountain to work the area I'd scouted earlier. I tried walking the area as it got dark driving the short hops from one to the next, and then when it was full dark tried the tapes, but it was a big and disappointing dip (that's brit for a miss). So back down in the dark and south on the Interstate to Madera Canyon, actually the parking area at Florida Wash, which is right at the trailhead and blessedly free, also dark and quiet. It was pretty late when I got to sleep

Monday, May 24

I was up the wash before the sun and hiked up to the burn area where The Rufous-capped Warbler had been seen. The bottom of the wash is narrow with short sight-lines, so I climbed up the east side so I'd have a good view of the opposite side as the sun got into the valley. No trail, not even a cattle track, bad footing and pots of hazardous rocks. And I have just a tiny bit of dizziness sometimes after real effort, so when I finally found a flat surface sitting spot it was relief. It took over an hour after sunrise before the bright light actually got to the bottom of the wash, but what a mellow morning, just sitting and looking around, watching sky and occasional critters, until the target bird showed up. Good thing I'd taken up a good viewpoint since it only called briefly once or twice. If I'd been down in there it's unlikely I would have found it, but from up high I got a few decent albeit not close looks. I drove up into Madera Canyon proper to the Kubo B&B, where there had been a Berylline Hummer, but after an hour I gave up.

I drove down the Interstate to the turnoff for California Gulch, some chance of the Owl, but mainly to find a Five-striped Sparrow. The road is decent but narrow and winding as far back as Arivaca. Made a short stop at the cienega, then continued on a rapidly worsening dirt county road for miles and miles until the turnoff onto a Forest Road to the gulch. It was three or four times worse, extremely rough, deep waterlogged spots, and I was getting worried that if the engine, which had noticeable problems, should give out, it might be a day or two before somebody found me, and God Knows how we could tow it out. I chickened, and was genuinely relieved to get back to the Interstate.

Drove south to Nogales, then back north up to Sierra Vista, and from there south again to Miller Canyon. Met both of the Toms at Beatty's and, after some small talk, the elder invited me up to the guest-house hummer viewing place, very nice small open building with good seats and lots of feeders. Got a great look at a Berylline Hummer, and also a White-eared, which I'd seen before in Texas, but still a damned good bird. At that point I had two lifers for the day, and sleeping easy at the little parking area at bottom of the entrance road was easy, after the obligatory paranoia about being surrounded by drug smugglers. They and the ordinary refugees from Mexico are a regular occurrence there, and Tom Beatty told me of the troubles they caused, mostly disconnecting the irrigation to take baths. There are regular rescue missions by the Federales too, to save thirst or accident damaged folks.

Tuesday, May 25

In the morning I drove up to Benson and found the Sewage Ponds, which had some new tics, and it was even better when I headed further east to the Willcox Playa. Had the good fortune to meet a couple of local women birders who turned me on to some details in the surrounding country club, and I was having such a good time that I drove off leaving my spotting scope set up in the middle of the road. Fortunately they caught up with me as I came off a side road and sent me back to where it stood unmolested. Wilcox Playa is a "don't miss" any time of year since it's such an obvious wetland in otherwise hard dessert.

The next stage was amazing. I had intended to go to Glenwood and back to Beth's again, and took an innocuous looking road, on the map, that headed north from Clifton and Morenci through Apache National Forest to Alpine. I had mentioned my intent to go that way to the folks at Wilcox, and they had sorta rolled their eyes and cautioned me about it taking a while. I found out that road was the old US 666, called the Devil's Backbone. It started out in Clifton looking sorta southwestern mining habitat, great multi-colored cliffs and lots of machinery, and then morphed in Morenci into the most amazing industrial landscape I've ever seen. And I have lived in Silver City and that area, which some locals call Mordor. The road went on for miles and miles as the ten mph highway twisted and climbed through and under and over tracks and great pipes and haul roads along the edge of immense pits, until I passed the last almost dried-up reservoir and broke into th forest at about 8000 feet. Made several of stops in there, playing my "crack-for-birds owl tape", getting great results, but never could get any Grey Jays or Clark's Nutcrackers, which should have been find-able at that altitude and habitat. As I was finally on the last run into Alpine, a Clark's flew across the road ahead of me. I want to spend a couple of days camping and birding along that whole area. Got to Glenwood later than I'd expected, but still light, found Beth's house, and stayed there in the truck.

I was done with Arizona for this trip, starting at 148 tics and adding 65 more made 213 at the end of the trip. On a later trip in September I added another 17 and made it to 42%.


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