The Final Days of Camp Chiricahua

Lifers Denoted by Bold

On the final full day of Camp Chiricahua, we woke up early in Patagonia to head towards Florida (pronounced Floreeda) Canyon. This was a spot I had been hoping to visit all trip as it was holding both black-capped gnatcatchers and rufous-capped warblers.

Dawn in Patagonia

Dawn in Patagonia

Once it got light outside, the ride to the canyon was very pretty and we watched and listened along the back roads for five-striped sparrow although we were not successful.

When we arrived at Florida, we ate breakfast at the vans before beginning the strenuous hike up the canyon.

We had arrived early in the morning but it was still scorching hot in the canyon. It was also a really tough uphill hike through rough terrain. Nevertheless, it was successful for before too long we came across a pair of black-capped gnatcatchers that flitted in the trees over our heads for a few seconds. Re-energized by the bird sighting, we continued up the canyon hoping for our second target. Eventually the rufous-capped warbler too was seen and even gave great (although slightly distant) looks as it sang away on the far side of the canyon. Both of these birds were amazing to see as they are both ABA Area rarities and were real treats to observe. With the sun rising even higher into the sky we made our way back down canyon towards the shelter of the vans. On the way down we stopped for a varied bunting (a bird that I will never get tired of no matter how many times I see them for they are simply stunning) and to hear a northern beardless-tyrannulet calling although we were unable to obtain a look at that diminutive flycatcher.

Departing the hot but rarity-filled and beautiful canyon, we made our way towards the next stop of the day which was to be Madera Canyon. We were a bit anxious about this stop as it would be our last birding stop of the trip and consequently our last chance at elegant trogon for they had been avoiding us the whole trip.

When we arrived at the canyon, we stopped to bird quickly while lunch was being prepared by the leaders. We were all hoping to find a trogon in the 15 minutes that we had to bird although we were all unsuccessful.

After lunch we headed further up the canyon to a few feeders that had had plain-capped starthroats feeding at them. In our time at the feeders we were able to see not one, but two plain-capped starthroats (our second and third of the trip!). A bit further upslope, we decided to take a hike in hopes of trogon for there was a trogon nest along the canyon. It was yet another very steep, hot hike up a canyon and before we had gone too far, we were all covered in sweat and had more or less lost all hope of every coming away with the most characteristic of Southeastern Arizonan birds. The morale wasn’t helped much by us getting lost well up the canyon and having to turn around and backtrack until we found the trail again. We eventually did find the nest and sat down to wait and see if it was occupied and if one of the trogons would come back.

Trogon Nest Hole

Trogon Nest Hole

We only had limited time however and that time soon came and went without a trogon making an appearance. Our last chance was not entirely squandered however for a whiles hike away from the nest hole, we clearly heard the bark of an elegant trogon not too far from where we stood. The energy we had lost was immediately restored to our aching limbs and we scrambled forward along the trail, desperate that our quarry would present itself. Trogon luck was not entirely on our side however for while some of us (myself included!) did get fairly brief and obscured views at an elegant trogon, many others didn’t as the bird soon took flight and vanished into the sun-dappled forest.

The mood on the walk back down the canyon was an odd one as half of us were elated at our success and yet were simultaneously attempting to console the other half who were despondent at their lack of success. It was not to be helped however as we were expected in Tucson for dinner and had to leave our last birding destination of the trip behind us.

It would prove not to be entirely our last birding of the trip however for we saw on eBird that there was a small park which had a few recent neotropic cormorant sightings. We pulled into the parking lot with only a few minutes before the sun began to set and were quickly able to get our scopes on a large flock of neotrops resting on the water.

Sunset in Tucson

Sunset in Tucson

We stayed to watch the sun set before moving on to Jennie Duberstein’s house where we were to eat dinner that night. There we had a lovely pizza dinner while reminiscing about our time in Arizona before we all went to the hotel where we were staying, pleased with the trip, but unhappy that it was over.

Early the next morning, I was driven to my flight at the Tucson Airport which promptly returned me to Pittsburgh, for the trip of a lifetime was at its end.

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