Monday, June 13, 2016

Ramsey Canyon - Tufted Flycatcher

Arizona is no stranger to rare visitors from Mexico. I had the chance to drive down and see two of those in early June, Tufted Flycatchers in Ramsey Canyon and Slate-Throated Redstart in the Chiricuhuas. I drove down in time to watch Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals and see my Penguins take an exciting win. After the game I drove up into Carr Canyon and camped the night at a nice little campground called Reef Townsite. I was up early so that I could get over to the Ramsey Canyon Preserve one canyon north. But first I had to take in the beautiful view of Sierra Vista and the rising Sun.
Sierra Vista from Carr Canyon - Cochise Canyon, Arizona
I made my way down and the short drive to Ramsey Canyon road. Unfortunately the gate was closed at 6am and weren't to open until 8am. So I either missed out on 2 hours of birding Carr Canyon, or 2 hours of extra sleep. I drove back into town and grabbed some coffee and breakfast before returning. I took my time driving up Ramsey Canyon and was treated to some nice birds along the way.
A Red-Tailed Hawk let me get a good photo through my sunroof.

Red-Tailed Hawk
Red-Tailed Hawk - Ramsey Canyon, Arizona
After short bit of driving what I thought was a Turkey Vulture flew low over the road, but after a quick double-check it turned into a Zone-Tailed Hawk! I pulled off of the road and jumped out and managed a few great shots as it circled low overhead with breakfast in claw.

Zone-Tailed Hawk
Zone-Tailed Hawk - Ramsey Canyon, Arizona
But before I went much further, I saw a pack? herd? of Javelinas crossing the road, my first time seeing them in the wild.
Javelinas - Ramsey Canyon, Arizona
I arrived back at the gate to Ramsey Canyon Preserve, which was still closed, and a queue formed behind me waiting for 8 o'clock.
Ramsey Canyon Preserve, Cochise County, Arizona
I paid my fee and began my hike up into the canyon to the Tufted Flycatcher nest-site, but first took my time seeing if a Flame-Colored Tanager was still around (it wasn't). The trail climbed 500 feet via a series of stairs and switch-backs, but I was rewarded with a nice view of the canyon from the top.

Upper Ramsey Canyon - Cochise Counry, Arizona
After a break at the overlook, I joined the Hamburg Trail which continued down a gentle hundred feet in elevation to join a small stream. But before it reached the bottom it began to get a bit birdy and I was rewarded with my first lifers of the day, Red-Faced Warblers.

Red-Faced Warbler
Red-Faced Warbler - Ramsey Canyon, Arizona
A Plumbeous Vireo was also present, these birds are usually up in the tree-tops, so it was nice to get an okay shot of one singing.

Plumbeous Vireo
Plumbeous Vireo - Ramsey Canyon, Arizona
At this point the trail followed a lovely stream under some trees, it finally cooled off a bit many butterflies were using the stream.
Hamburg Trail - Ramsey Canyon, Arizona
At one of the stream crossings I stopped to watch an immature Painted Redstart hunting along the water's edge.

Painted Redstart (Juvenile)
Painted Redstart - Ramsey Canyon, Arizona
I made my way a bit further up-stream, counting the times that the trail crossed the water so that I knew where the Tufted Flycatcher area was. I finally found it marked with a cairn of stacked rocks, and also some other birders already there. Just as I arrived they were looking and pointing a bit off of the trail, sure enough, there it was.

Tufted Flycatcher
Tufted Flycatcher - Ramsey Canyon, Arizona
It was the male out catching food to take back to it's mate on their nest hidden up the slope. It was working hard and we got loads of good looks at it.

Tufted Flycatcher
Tufted Flycatcher - Ramsey Canyon, Arizona

Tufted Flycatcher
Tufted Flycatcher - Ramsey Canyon, Arizona
The hike up really paid off seeing this great bird. I'm hoping that the nest works and that they make a new home in Arizona. I spent nearly an hour watching the bird, and trying to hear Elegant Trogons (to no avail) and decided to head back down. Just a bit further downstream I was lucky to catch some good looks at a new family of Red-Breasted Nuthatches, my first in Arizona.

Red-Breasted Nuthatch
Red-Breasted Nuthatch - Ramsey Canyon, Arizona
It wasn't just birds, the upper canyon had many butterflies, lizards and even deer. The Sky Islands of Arizona are home to a small type of White-Tailed Deer called Coues Deer. There were a few pairs of mothers and last year's offspring. These deer don't have young until Summer, so it was easy to age the smaller ones.
Coues (White-Tailed) Deer
Coues White-Tailed Deer - Ramsey Canyon, Arizona
What a great trip. I don't always get to twitch, and I've always wanted to see Sierra Vista and the Huachuca Mountains. But I wasn't done yet. My next post will have be part 2 of my trip, loads of Hummingbirds and another rare bird.

Trip details
     Sierra Vista is 2-3 hours from Phoenix off of I-10. It is home to an Army post and has many hotels and restaurants. It's not hard at all to drive from the town into any of the canyons for birding. This could be a cheaper alternative to one of the wonderful Birding B&Bs in the surrounding canyons. 

     I camped at the Reef Townsite campground up Carr Canyon. It's up a primitive dirt road with many switchbacks, but nothing that my Honda Odyssey couldn't take going slow. There were toilets up there, but no other services. You'll need to take all of the water that you plan on using. The campsites were nice, there were grated and flat spaces for tents and pull-through spots for RVs, although campers longer than 12 feet may not make it past the switchbacks. It's just $10 a night via honor system, bring a pen for the form.

     Ramsey Canyon Preserve is located at the end of Ramsey Canyon Road, just off of Route 92 south of Sierra Vista. Be forewarned that the gate is securely closed until 8am. And the entire preserve is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so plan accordingly. There is a cute little gift shop and restrooms at the visitor's center. There are many hummingbird feeders and some activities for kids in the lower part of the preserve. They have a guided bird walk on Thursdays  Also be sure to scan the feeders at the adjoining Ramsey Canyon Inn just before the gate. I saw Painted Redstarts and 3 or 4 types of hummingbirds there. 

Thanks for making it this far,


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