Sunday, September 13, 2015

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

Blue-throated Hummingbird feeding from Salvia
A couple weeks ago, we made a trek into Portal for several days. I needed a break from my home life.  We have a mentally ill man who lives across from us and has been harassing all the residents at El Presidio. We had to file a "no contact" order with the judge.  On Thursday, he attacked my partner and was served his papers.  Thankfully, no one was hurt.  Any more incidents from him and he'll be in jail permanently.  So we'll be watching:)

In Paradise, AZ at the George Walker House
So enough on the bad stuff. We headed to Portal, Arizona.  It has got to be one of THE BEST places to visit in Arizona.  It's off the beaten track but it's so worth the time and effort.  In fact, I have to admit that it's on my top ten favorite places to bird in Arizona.  The city of Portal is nestled within the wild and pristine mountains of the Chiricahua Mountains. 

Birders come here to search for Mexican rarities and of course, Mexican Chickadees. But you'll find lots of other things to keep your eyes and legs busy. 

Portal is unpredictable.  Rain, during the monsoon season, can flood campgrounds and roads quickly.  Several times this season, bridges and roads were closed off due to flooding.  The wildlife is outstanding.  There are snakes, bears, and lots of skunks!  This is one place where you'll need to be mindful of your surroundings.  

Remember, in Cave Creek canyon it's off limits to play audio devices.  Guest starring: Donna
And we had a blast.  We went with friends Magill and Muriel and discovered several other friends camping along the trails.  My buddy Donna from New Mexico was hanging out with her son picking up snakes and just getting some of that much needed fresh air. 

Forest fires get mixed reactions.  I think they are great!  At Rustler Park, there was a devastating burn several years ago, but today, new pine trees are growing and the wildflower show is OUTSTANDING.  Fire is natural and okay.  As long as they are not caused by idiot people.
For the birders who are reading this post.  September is a great time to visit Portal because warblers and hummingbirds are migrating in great numbers.  One of the few times we have Calliope Hummingbirds come through Southern Arizona is during the month of September.  During our visit, Calliopes were EVERYWHERE!  It's also the most reliable place for Blue-throated Hummingbirds. 

Calliope Hummingbirds are rare for Southern Arizona except during their fall migration
Now my buds Muriel and Magill were crazy.  This was a true birding trip.  They were mad birders trying to see how many birds they could find over the three day weekend.  We found 151 bird species in Cave Creek Canyon, Rustler and Barfoot Parks, the Southwestern Research Station, the George Walker House and the Canyon Creek Lodge.  I think I added 5 new bird species to my year list!   

Broad-tailed Hummingbird
On our way to and from from Portal, we stopped at Wilcox Lake to find some rarities. We had two Black-bellied Plovers wandering a part of the "lake" which was nice to observe.   

Long-billed Curlews
But I gotta say, I'm loving the road treks.  I think this time of year I become part landscape photographer and part bird detective.  The heat is beginning to let up a little and while birders here are very exhausted from the intensity of temps, they are starting to feel a tad better.  I write this because a lot of people have been talking about their drained energy levels.  I am not exempt from those discussions but thanks to my journal entries over the past several years, I know it's the heat that kills our spirit and energy.  Soon full birder power will be restored my friends. September is definitely not a month to sleep when it comes to the bird world.  Migration is at full strength and rarities are popping up left and right. 

Swainson's Hawk feeding at San Simon
Finally for today, I'd like to share this collage of chickadees.  There are several more in North America but here are the 3 that can be seen in Arizona.  Let me be specific.  The most common Chickadee for Arizona is the Mountain species(center).  The Mexican Chickadee(bottom) is only found in the Chiricahua mountains of Southern Arizona.  Popular places to find the birds are at Rustler and Barfoot Parks.  The Black-capped Chickadee is probably the most difficult one to find.  Why?  Well, let me tell you.  This is a fun challenge for down the road.  These birds come into Northern Arizona during the winter months BUT they are found in some very remote places. And birders love challenges!  Have you heard of Colorado City?  If you haven't, it's a city of the infamous polygamous Mormons who don't like outsiders.  There has been some talk between Arizona listers about going to visit this area in a larger group to find these birds together. Last year during a survey mission on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, I "met" several of these people in caravans driving the trails.  They waved and were polite people wearing clothing from the 80's.  Their hairdos were from the 70's.  And I was intrigued.  I always love exploring and understanding a new culture of humanity not touched by the Western Wal-mart and Starbucks world.  In any case, a plan is forming for a very exciting trek into the unknown. The Black-capped Chickadee is a common bird for most people in the US. But here in Arizona, it's a rare gem.  Now that sounds like an adventure!

Until next time friends.....


  1. Hi Chris, I am glad your crazy neighbor did not hurt Michael. That man needs to be put away for good. Great post , I love the hummers and the chickadees. Enjoy your new week and happy birding.

  2. great and fun images. Love them all in different ways. Especially the hummers :)

  3. What a great area for fun with friends and birding. We have three types of Chickadee here. The Blacked capped, the Mountain which we seldom see and the Chestnut-backed which I really like. Continued fun.

    1. The Chestnut-backed is on my list:) They are such fascinating birds!

  4. Goodness Chris. Take it easy with that loony and don't get involved. Your get away went very well. "Hhanging out with her son picking up snakes" sounds a little too casual for the average Joe but I guess you guys know exactly which ones to pick up. I must say the Bird Viewing Area sign would put me off a little, as if there might be too many birders stood around waiting for the birds rather than getting out there and looking for them!

    Those chickadees sound a real challenge - you're the guy to do it Chris.

    1. LOL:) Indeed. This buddy of mine, she is a reptile charmer. I've nicknamed her the Queen of Dragons because she loves picking up all the reptiles:) Smart lady about the herping. Me, well I'm a chicken #$&^:) I'll take pics from a distance and enjoy her stories. As for the loony.....he is something else. Believe you me, I try my best to stay away from that man. Chickadees are so much fun. They are common like your t!!s. Sorry can't type that word here at work or I'll be taken out by the police:)

  5. I really hope to see hummingbirds one day.

    1. If you ever come to Arizona, let me know. I'd be glad to show you around. Summer(June through September) is the best time for these beauties. Migration in September is BIG.

    2. I wonder, if I will ever see a hummingbird?
      Meanwhile we have sunbirds in that niche.

  6. The Hummingbirds are such amazing birds. Superb captures Chris.

  7. Always love your hummingbird pictures - so envious! It must be wonderful to see them in the wild. Stay safe and well away from the neighbour - glad no-one was hurt.

  8. OK, the birds are amazing, but the birders sure look like they were having fun. Glad there is a sign to help you all know where to be. :-P


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