- Southeast Arizona Birding Guide, Richard Fray - https://arizonabirder.com -

SW Wings Festival: Huachuca Mountains

Another great field trip for the Southwest Wings Birding Festival in Sierra Vista. Today’s tour was ‘The Huachuca Mountains’, so we opted to visit Huachuca Canyon in the morning, which proved to be an excellent choice, and the wonderful Ash Canyon B&B in the afternoon, which is always a good choice. We tallied an impressive 82 species with several memorable moments.

Huachuca Canyon:

We birded first around the 0 mile mark and the picnic area that has been home to a Sinaloa Wren off and on for a couple of years. We didn’t find the wren, but did see a nice range of birds in this reliably productive area, including a brief VIOLET-CROWNED HUMMINGBIRD, RUFOUS-CROWNED and a few early migrant CHIPPING SPARROWS, and a splendid juvenile GRAY HAWK. They’re strikingly different from the adults, and rather handsome.

Gray Hawk [1]

Driving up to the 1.7 mile mark, we walked another mile up canyon and found our main target, ELEGANT TROGON. In all we saw and heard at least five individuals, both males and females, and got particularly good looks at one stunning male.

Elegant Trogon [2]

Elegant Trogon [3]

Elegant Trogon [4]

SULPHUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHERS were vocal and prominent, and several pairs had fledged young to feed.

Juvenile Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher [5]

When we got back to the van at the 1.7 mile mark, I noticed a static, dumpy shape up in a tree that I assumed to be another baby Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher. I nearly didn’t bother raising my binoculars, but I’m glad I did, as it triggered an amazing chain of events. The shape turned out to be a silent, glaring NORTHERN PYGMY-OWL.

Northern Pygmy-Owl (Mountain Pygmy-Owl) [6]

Northern Pygmy-Owl (Mountain Pygmy-Owl) [7]

One of the group moved to the side of the van for a different angle on the owl, and discovered this fantastic BLACK-TAILED RATTLESNAKE coiled up in the grass and rattling his disapproval.

Black-tailed Rattlesnake [8]

Black-tailed Rattlesnake [9]

Another member of the group moved through the grass to get a better angle to photograph the snake. Suddenly, a male MONTEZUMA QUAIL, which must have been cowering there all along as we gathered to view the snake, leaped out, did a brief broken wing display, then ran off up the hill.

Montezuma Quail [10]

By this point, the owl, presumably unhappy at being upstaged, began to fly around to different perches to regain our attention. It was a truly amazing few minutes!

Other birds found on an eventful visit included BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD, ARIZONA WOODPECKER, CORDILLERAN and DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER, a fairly low-elevation STELLER’S JAY, PLUMBEOUS, HUTTON’S and WARBLING VIREOS, BUSHTIT, BROWN CREEPER, HERMIT THRUSH, AMERICAN ROBIN, HEPATIC, SUMMER and WESTERN TANAGERS, BLACK-THROATED GRAY and WILSON’S WARBLERS, PAINTED REDSTART, SPOTTED TOWHEE, and YELLOW-EYED JUNCO.

Huachuca Canyon [11]

Arizona Gray Squirrel [12]

Arizona Gray Squirrel [13]

Painted Redstart [14]

Painted Redstart [15]

Western Tanagers [16]

Sierra Vista:

The usual summer SWAINSON’S HAWKS were on poles and wires at the side of the road.

Ash Canyon B&B:

The star of the show at this wonderful birding hot spot was a sparkling male LUCIFER HUMMINGBIRD.

Lucifer Hummingbird [17]

Lucifer Hummingbird [18]

Lucifer Hummingbird [19]

Lucifer Hummingbird [20]

Lucifer Hummingbird [21]

Lucifer Hummingbird [22]

Lucifer Hummingbird [23]

Mary Jo said it was the busiest day of the year so far at her hummingbird feeders, with MAGNIFICENT, BLACK-CHINNED, ANNA’S, and BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRDS also coming in, along with the continuing male “COSTIFER” (Costa’s x Lucifer Hummingbird hybrid).

We were able to eat lunch and relax after our hike, while enjoying close encounters with species such as GRAY HAWK, BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER, BLACK-HEADED and BLUE GROSBEAK, CANYON TOWHEE, RUFOUS-CROWNED and LARK SPARROWS, BRONZED COWBIRD, and several gorgeous SCOTT’S ORIOLES, as well as the resident CLARK’S SPINY LIZARDS in their full splendor.

Clark's Spiny Lizard [24]

Clark's Spiny Lizard [25]

Clark's Spiny Lizard [26]

August and September are my favorite months to visit Ash Canyon B&B [27] (although it’s worth it any day of the year) and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Thanks for giving us this birding heaven, Mary Jo, and for your warm hospitality. It’s much appreciated!

Miller Canyon Rd:

We couldn’t rustle up a Scaled Quail but we found at least five GREATER ROADRUNNERS.

Black-tailed Jackrabbit [28]

Gambel's Quail [29]

Greater Roadrunner [30]

Hereford:

We dropped in at Pizzeria Mimosa, not for their outstanding Italian food (really) but to see the ‘MEXICAN’ CLIFF SWALLOWS nesting under the front porch, and BOTTERI’S SPARROW and ‘LILIAN’S’ EASTERN MEADOWLARK in the adjacent grassland. Thanks Vicki!