Spring in Cave Creek Canyon, Portal, AZ
The several weeks since my last blog post have flown by! Since it has been awhile, I have quite a few photos to share. This area is so beautiful that I had a difficult time narrowing down to these selections!
On April 15th I drove to Portal, AZ and Cave Creek Canyon. During the winter, I spent two and half months here volunteering at the Visitor Information Center (VIC). My big plans for this summer were to meet some friends in Montana late May. From there we would cross the US-Canada border bound for Alaska. Obviously those plans were cancelled. I decided to return to the Canyon for the spring. I had planned to stay at an RV park; however there was an open RV site at the VIC which was graciously offered to me. Although the VIC is currently closed to the public, it is being staffed on a reduced hours basis to answer phone calls, do lawn maintenance and so forth. In exchange for my full hookup site, I am on duty two or three days a week. We may open on a limited basis sometime in June.
For higher resolution photos, visit Cave Creek Canyon Photo Album
The spring migration was slower than normal here but there are still many birds. A couple that regularly visit my nectar feeder are Blue-throated Mountain Gem hummingbird and Scott’s Oriole.
The Elegant Trogon that this area is most known for arrives around April 15-20. My first sighting this year was this male on April 16th. The trogon draws many visitors to the Canyon during normal times, but very few people are here this year.
The trail up the canyon of the South Fork of Cave Creek is beautiful and also one of the best birding trails in the spring. When I am birding I usually have my long zoom lens on the camera which isn’t suitable for landscape photos. A couple days ago, I took the long lens off and hiked up the canyon with the intent of photographing the stunning canyon walls and the creek that much of the trail follows. I should have done this earlier when there was more water in the creek. It is now quite low and dry in many spots.
Many cavity nesting birds use the Sycamores in the canyon, including woodpeckers, flickers, owls, and the Elegant Trogons.
These Chiricahua Mountains receive roughly 20 inches of precipitation annually. As a result, the riparian areas are very lush once all the trees and shrubs have their leaves. It is beautiful, but makes bird photography a challenge as many of the birds stay high in the canopy and move about quickly. I do have a few bird photos to share though.
The mountains are also home to the large Chiricahua Fox Squirrel. They are up to two feet long and I have been told they are the only tree squirrel in the Chiricahua Mountains. There are some ground squirrels and at least one chipmunk.
Just over the mountains from Cave Creek Canyon is West Turkey Creek Canyon. A pair of Crescent-chested Warblers came up from Mexico to the canyon. This is a rare visitor to Arizona. Early one morning I drove the 46 miles to West Turkey Creek, which took two hours over the narrow, windy mountain road. They are beautiful and it was well worth the trip!
Another bird I see around the VIC is the Hooded Oriole.
There are several flycatcher species here and some look very similar. I wasn’t sure if this next photo is Ash-throated or Dusky-capped Flycatcher. I posted the photo on the What’s This Bird Facebook Group and received a response that it is Dusky-capped. So I’ll go with that and if anyone disagrees, let me know 🙂
I have been told by locals that there are also fewer butterflies than average. The Arizona Sister is the one I see most and is quite lovely.
With the uncertainty around the lifting of travel restrictions and closures, I’m planning to stay here in the beautiful Chiricahua Mountains for the time being. I am at 5,000 feet elevation, so the temps are more pleasant than the lower elevation of Tucson or Phoenix areas. There will be some hot days in the high 90’s though, especially in June before the monsoon rains begin.
I will close with this photo of the moon and Mars (or Venus?) over the ridge to the west of my RV site.