Arizona - The Chiricahuas

The Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona deserve their own page.  The range is rich in my memory.  But, to date, my wanderings have been in the northern part of the range; the Chiricahua National Monument, Portal, Paradise, Rustle Park…. Or to put another way; Elegant Trogons, Yellow-eyed Juncos, Blue-throated Hummingbirds, and Coatimundi…

The following “road video” starts in the town of Portal on the east side of the Chiricahuas and heads toward the crest.  In addition, to this road video, there are two others; Arizona - Chiricahua National Monument and Arizona - Chiricahua Transit.

The following photo galleries on the website also depict the Chiricahua Mountains of Arizona; Flora of Arizona and (in part) The Birds of Arizona.  The Bird Videos - Canada and the United States page on has an index to the volumes 5 & 6 of Birding the Western U.S. and Canada - those volumes include material from Arizona (see United States & Canada page on this website). 

October 9, 2017 - A Slow Time In the Chiricahuas and a Bit of Irish Music

Last week we decided to take a long week-end (a term without meaning when you are retired) and head for one of our favorite places, the Chiricahua Mountains.  The Chiricahuas can be a (long) day trip from our home in New Mexico but having a bit more time on the ground relative to driving time is always good.  October is not prime birding time in the Chiricahuas and that is why, in part, that I wanted to go.  What does a slow time in the Chiricahuas actually mean?

Friday morning we had a leisurely start, had some pastry and coffee in Silver City (across the Black Range from us - about an hour and a half drive) and were at the American Museum of Natural History’s Southwestern Research Station in the Chiricahuas by lunch.  Among other things, the Research Station has a great group of hummingbird feeders, benches for leisurely watching, and an accommodating attitude.  We ate our sandwiches and watched hummingbirds (like the Blue-throated Hummingbird shown above and Anna’s Hummingbird, both at Chiricahua Photos) until we tired of the activity and then headed up to the crest of the mountains to Rustler Park - for Yellow-eyed Juncos (photo below and at Chiricahua Photos).  Not many flowers were in bloom, although Deer Brush was represented by several blooming individuals.


It was approaching dusk as we headed back down the mountain to our room in Rodeo, New Mexico.  When we stay in Rodeo we stay at the Mountain Valley Lodge.  Breakfast Saturday morning at the local cafe and we were off to walk the Basin Trail, doing a loop out of the Herb Martyr campground.  The trail was good for Yarrow’s Spiny Lizard  (see below) and Arizona Sister (see video below lizard photo).  These and other photographs have been added to the Chiricahua Photos gallery.

In the afternoon, we were at the Portal Cafe for Irish music.  For several years, Irish Music Week has been held in Portal.  A week long music camp with world-class instructors from throughout the United States ends with a concert by the instructors (photo below).  A real treat.  


We ended the day at Willow Tank, just inside Arizona, west of the Stateline Road.  “Tank” is a term used in the American Southwest (and in many former British colonies - Sri Lanka and India, for instance) for a stock pond or reservoir.  Tanks are usually built by constructing dikes above ground level.  The dikes are built of the mud/dirt excavated from the interior of the walled area.  Vegetation has been allowed to grow within the tank, bird blinds have been erected, benches placed along the dike etc. (photo below).  Making for a great migrant trap in the desert.

Sunday Morning we started the day at Willow Tank.  After a short stop to remove a Desert Box Turtle (photo below) we then headed south to Douglas and up the west side of the Chiricahuas to Wilcox and then northwest through Mule Creek to Silver City and home.

Video taken on this trip has been added to the following Video Portfolios: Blue-throated Hummingbird, Anna’s Hummingbird, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Yellow-headed Blackbird, American Coot, and Brown-headed Cowbird, have been added to the Birds of the United States and Canada; video of Arizona Sister and Water Strider have been added to the Insects, Arthropods, and Other Critters of This Type; and Yarrow’s Spiny Lizard has been added to the Reptiles & Amphibians.  



While traveling down from the crest of the Chiricahua Mountains in Arizona my son and I came upon an ant swarm.  They were all over the ground and rocks and filled the air.  Birds were everywhere; Western Tanagers, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Steller’s Jays, and Chipping Sparrows predominated.  They were having a feast.

In the middle of the feast, there was a great deal of mating going on.  Death, feast, copulation, excitement, movement -- all captured in a circle 30 feet across.  Everywhere you looked there were major events of life happening; tragedy, bliss, and gluttony all at once. It is something that I will not forget - in part, because my son and I shared the experience.

© Robert Barnes 2017-2018