Saturday, 26 September 2015

S.E.Arizona (13)

...after an early night in the superb George Walker House (maybe you'd like to take the inside tour?) I was up with the lark, back down the mountain and onto Stateline Road...once again! It was a beautiful morning...again...

6 am
I knew my chances of seeing the "difficult Thrashers" (Bendire's and Crissal) was slim at this time of year (I was determined to give it a good go) and so it proved as I just couldn't find either in 2 hours. One of the few disappointments of the trip. A sighting that more than made up for it though was this evocative Scaled Quail in the early morning light, definitely worth getting up for...

Again, a fairly common bird in the right habitat but this was the only one I saw during my trip. A lovely species which fits it's habitat perfectly.

Driving the roads looking for Thrashers had created another problem, a distinct lack of petrol! The desert isn't a great place to be short. Even in a country like America there are large areas where there are few facilities. I love it, as you get a real feeling of adventure and "away from it all" BUT there are problems sometimes.

We'd dined in Rodeo NM the previous evening (at the only option) but I wasn't looking for a "gas station" as I (wrongly) presumed Portal would have one. I drove down the short main road and didn't find one! It wasn't an area were you might stumble across one believe me. I had a major problem. There was a bar open which was serving interesting place! The owner told me that the nearest gas station was at Animas NM some 20 miles away. I was running on fumes by now but it was the only option. A tense 20 minutes later I'd made the town but couldn't find it. There was no-one around on this Sunday morning. I decided I couldn't drive any further...maybe literally! Another tense 20 minutes passed before an old timer came by and took me to the Station...PHEW!

On the way back to Paradise (you've got to love it) I noticed a movement while taking one of the sharp bends. I pulled the car over and went back to have a look. I'm glad I did as it turned out to be a cracking male Western Tanager...

It was roasting by now so I wasn't hanging around but I was pleased to get some decent shots...

Once back at the house I joined Louise, Jackie and her husband Winston on their the dogs. Winston didn't remember me either! He told us that there were 2 major washes on the west side of the mountain but he reckoned they'd be OK by now. He took us over 3 minor washes on the way up before saying goodbye. Once again I'd like to mention the hospitality of this wonderful couple. It certainly made this section of the holiday much more enjoyable.

I wanted to try some high altitude birding in the Rustler and Barfoot Park area. As we approached the summit I could hear rumbling! That was

There was no way we were going to hang around now! We had to get off the mountain...FAST!

Louise set off down the west side. It was getting darker by the minute. It then started to rain. Rain as heavy as I'd ever seen. The thunder crashed around us and lightening flashed. The streams started to fill up at an alarming rate. We carried on down. It was at this point that I remembered Winston mentioning the 2 large washes? I feared we would struggle to get across and so it turned out as we rounded a bend and saw a torrent of water crossing the road!!

It was still torrential. What to do?  We had to go back up!

It took us another 30 minutes to reach the top and thankfully the rain had eased. The next question was...could we get back across the 3 washes on the east side?

It was touch and go but we made it. The third one was dodgy but we agreed we didn't want to spend the night on the mountain, so I gave it a go...plenty of acceleration and the car bounced across the swollen wash!

A nice relaxing holiday drive!!! Louise was a always.

Still time to bird!

I remembered a comment from a US birder regarding a local and difficult species that can be found with luck on the Portal/Paradise road. It was only a short detour, the weather had cleared and we didn't have to cross any more washes. Lets give it a go!

I didn't have any specifics, so we just tried a few stops along the way within the first couple of miles. WAS hot! I gave myself an hour as we still had a 2 hour drive back to Green Valley. At the last stop I walked a short distance up a trail from the road. Nothing in 20 minutes. I then noticed a small bird some way off (c80yds) fly across and perch briefly...

A heavily cropped view...

It's always dangerous when you are in an area of a target bird. You can fall into the trap of suggestion. I try not to do this. I see (just) a pale bill, grey head and underparts and brown back? I also see a long tail. I can't see any streaking on the back but it's a fair way off. It's also in the right chaparral habitat as already mentioned. I'm thinking Black-chinned Sparrow? Comments welcome!

We trickled down the rest of the mountain and made our way back to the interstate via Paradise and San Simon.

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