Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Mexican Chickadees On My Mind

I finally decided after many years of procrastination to try for the Mexican Chickadee in the Chiricahua Mountains.  My only excuse for not trying sooner is that the Catalina and Santa Rita Mountains are much closer to me and have similar birds.  But these tiny birds don't live in these mountain ranges.  They can only be seen in the US in the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona and the Animas Mountains of southwestern New Mexico.

I got an early start on Sunday morning and reached Lake Cochise in Willcox by 6 a.m.  I was hoping to find the Snowy Plover that had been there for a couple weeks.  No luck.  There were a few California and Ring-billed Gulls, rare this time of year and difficult to tell apart in similar plumage.

I did finally manage to get a mediocre photo of a Scaled Quail.

Scaled Quail
No offense to the quail, I wondered if that was going to be the highlight of the day.  Near the golf course Cassin's Kingbirds were singing sweet nothings to one another.

Cassin's Kingbird
Black-necked Stilts were chilling in the shallows.

Black-necked Stilt
The nice thing was I didn't have to get out of my car for these shots.  I was on a mission, on to the Chiricahuas!

Pinery Canyon
As the trees transitioned from oaks to pines, I slowed down and listened for the chickadee's buzzy call.  After the second one-lane bridge I thought I heard it.  I got out of the car and there it was!  I couldn't believe it.  As I watched I noticed there were at least three birds.  They were difficult to photograph, so I spent a while trying to get a good shot.  Unfortunately I never got a great one, but here are a few.

Mexican Chickadee
I feel extremely lucky to have seen them, I'm told they're tough to find this time of year.  As the birds moved on, I continued walking down the road.  Western Tanagers were singing all along the canyon.  Bridled Titmice were tough to photograph too.

Bridled Titmouse
I drove down the road and all was very quiet until something caught my attention crossing the road, a Montezuma Quail!

female Montezuma Quail
As the female crossed the road I looked ahead to see if there was a male with her.  There was, my luck continued!

male Montezuma Quail
This was only the second time I'd ever seen this species and this was a much better look than when I saw a pair in the Santa Ritas.  Satisfied with two awesome sightings, I headed out of the canyon.  I stopped at Lake Cochise again to check if anything new had arrived.  There were many more White-faced Ibis, now 34.  And 42 Long-billed Curlews had showed up, the most I'd ever seen.

Long-billed Curlew
It was another amazing day in Southeast Arizona!


  1. NIce; I was unsuccessful in my hunt for those chickadees. Jealousy overwhelms.

  2. Most excellent Jeremy, and with MOQU icing on the cake too! I've also not tried for the ChickadeeZ, for similar reasons, kinda like how so few New Yorkers have visited Ellis Island. Nice friggin' work!

  3. Jeremy, you had a good trek indeed. The gamble paid off! I feel the same way you felt about the Mexican Chickadee. It's a long haul from Tucson but there are some pretty amazing birds there....and Willcox never ceases to amaze me. Always something if only those black terns during migration would play nice:)