Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Arizona Feathers, Scales, Tails, Shells, and More (Part 3)

Introduction to this Post:

It's way late for me to be publishing this post since it is part three of six days spent in Southeast Arizona last July. Click here for Part 1 of that trip and here for Part 2 of that trip if you want to get the full report of the trip. We encountered so many fascinating creatures during the trip.


Day 4 (July 25th)

I started day four on my own. Eric was between rounds of chemotherapy during our trip so he needed to pace himself and recharge appropriately to manage his energy levels. The sunrise was vibrant following the rains that poured through the night before. The phone image doesn't really do justice to what I was able to observe that morning.

I drove around a few locations hoping to find some Scaled Quail and a rare Painted Bunting that had been reported near Portal in recent days. I didn't have luck with either of those species, but I did find quite a few Botteri's Sparrows, another life bird for the trip. A couple of roadrunners were also getting an early start on the day as I headed back to the lodge to pick up Eric.

Shortly after picking up Eric and cruising along Stateline Road we located a small covey of Scaled Quail.

Scaled Quail Cochise County, Arizona, USA

Scaled Quail Cochise County, Arizona, USA
We enjoyed the landscapes that morning as the sun brought them to light. The Chiricahua Mountains were never far away.

After spending a little time with the Scaled Quail we made our way over to Cave Creek Canyon where I captured this panoramic image with my phone before entering the canyon.

A local birder was kind enough to point us toward a Whiskered Screech-owl roost where we had our first daylight views of the species.

Whiskered Screech-Owl Cochise County, Arizona, USA
I got my first views and images of an Elegant Trogon in the canyon as well. I had a terrible vantage point (directly below), rain was falling, and the sky was gray, but I captured what I could for that life bird experience.

Elegant Trogon Cochise County, Arizona, USA
I watched it catch and eat what appeared to be a beetle.

Elegant Trogon Cochise County, Arizona, USA
Here is an image with a brighter exposure to show a little more detail of the beetle for the entomologists who care to identify it to a species level.
Elegant Trogon Cochise County, Arizona, USA
We returned to the lodge for lunch and to allow Eric to rest a little more. I went out for a short look after the rain stopped and turned up a few more images of the Trogon and a Roadrunner.

Elegant Trogon Cochise County, Arizona, USA

Elegant Trogon Cochise County, Arizona, USA
We were invited to a private residence during the afternoon hours where we were treated to both male and female Lucifer Hummingbirds. It was pretty exciting to see both the male and female for a species I was seeing for the first time in my life.

Female Lucifer Hummingbird Cochise County, Arizona, USA

Male Lucifer Hummingbird Cochise County, Arizona, USA
Broad-billed Hummingbirds were also visiting the feeders at the residence.

Broad-billed Hummingbird Cochise County, Arizona, USA

Broad-billed Hummingbird Chochise County, Arizona, USA
We discovered a Desert Box Turtle in the road on our way back to the lodge.

Desert Box Turtle Cochise County, Arizona, USA
Day 5 (July 26th)

The highlight during day five of our trip to Southeast Arizona came while we were standing on a ridge on Mount Lemon. A zone-tailed Hawk put on a show for us. I was getting used to a new lens so I was a little disappointed with the soft results of this fascinating raptor in flight, but here is one image from that unforgettable experience.

Zone-tailed Hawk Mount Lemon, Arizona, USA
We checked into a hotel in Oro Valley that evening. Wind and rain put a damper on our owling plans for the evening so we spent time checking in with our wives by phone.

The Final Morning (July 27th)

We started the morning of our last day at Catalina State Park. The sun was up quickly and the heat began to take a toll on Eric so he asked me to take him back to the hotel. When I returned to the park I put most of my attention toward reptiles and took the birds as they came along the way.

Desert Spiny and Greater Earless were by far the most common species I found that morning.

Desert Spiny Lizard (Orange-headed Subspecies) Oro Valley, Arizona, USA
The female Greater Earless Lizard below appears to be gravid ("pregnant" for lizards).

Female Greater Earless Lizard Oro Valley, Arizona, USA

Male Greater Earless Lizard Oro Valley, Arizona, USA

Male Greater Earless Lizard Oro Valley, Arizona, USA

Male Greater Earless Lizard Oro Valley, Arizona, USA
As I was leaving the park I noticed a long reddish snake crossing the wash about 50 feet ahead. I captured the image below just as it was entering a brushy area. I did this simply for documentation purposes so I could try to identify it later.

Fortunately, I was able to relocate the snake momentarily as it put its head up from a hiding place. I referred to my reptile guide later to confirm it was a Coachwhip.

Another snake I observed in the wash was a California Kingsnake.

One lizard I discovered before leaving the park was a new one for me, a Regal Horned Lizard. These guys are about 4 inches long with a dainty tail included and blend in with their habitat quite well. I found this one only because it moved as I was walking along a trail.

Regal Horned Lizard Oro Valley, Arizona, USA

Regal Horned Lizard Oro Valley, Arizona, USA

Regal Horned Lizard Oro Valley, Arizona, USA
Several Great Horned Owls flushed from a tree and landed on nearby rocks as I made my way along a trail.

Prairie Dogs were common in the grassy areas of Catalina State Park.

I had only a couple of hours in Catalina State Park. I'm sure there was much more to discover, but it was finally time to head back to the hotel to prepare for a drive to the airport and our return flight. It was a fantastic trip that provided unique experiences I will remember for years to come. My curiosity for reptiles was satisfied enough to make me want to learn more. I am eager to explore and learn more about the reptiles of the American Southwest. I can't wait for another adventure in the varied habitats of the Sonoran Desert.

1 comment:

  1. Looks like it was a great trip. There are many birds there I would love to see!