Saturday, September 17, 2011

SE Arizona - Day 6 & 7

For our final morning in Portal, we followed a tip from John on where on the property would be a good place to find a Horned Lizard. As luck would have it, we actually managed to find one and boy are these lizards cool!

Texas Horned Lizard:
 Texas Horned Lizard

Texas Horned Lizard

Breakfast was again spent on the back porch watching the birds fly in and out from feeder to feeder.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker:
Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Our original plan for today was to spend the day at the Chiracahua National Monument but due to the early summer fires not enough of the monument had re-opened to make the trip worthwhile. So, instead we planned to take a road trip south to Douglas and then head west through Bisbee and onto Sierra Vista. To start off the trip, we made another stop at the Desert Museum in hopes that the critters would be out since it was early in the morning. We chose wisely:

Zebra-tailed Lizard:
Zebra-tailed Lizard

Ornate Box Turtle:
Ornate Box Turtle

Great Plains Toad:
Great Plains Toad

The road trip to Sierra Vista was relatively wildlife free although we did see a group of around six Pronghorn in the desert between Portal and Douglas. We arrived in Sierra Vista for lunch and spent the afternoon exploring the roads in and around Ramsey Canyon. We were a little disappointed that compared to Madera Canyon this area was small and to top it off private houses pretty much lined the entire road up the canyon. So, other than the main road and a dirt road into a state park area, the choices were limited for wildlife viewing. Adding more fuel to that disappointment was confirming that the Nature Conservancy preserve at Ramsey Canyon was closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Not great timing when those were the only two nights of our stay. In any case, we actually had some pretty good luck with wildlife that first afternoon.

Arizona Gray Squirrel:
Arizona Gray Squirrel

Black-tailed Jackrabbit:
Black-tailed Jackrabbit

Another Arizona Gray Squirrel (they were everywhere):
Arizona Gray Squirrel

After dark, we set off for a drive down the road and into Brown Canyon Ranch state park area. We had a little bit of luck including one surprised raccoon but it was too dark for a good photo. We did meet the caretaker of the ranch. His name is Tommy and besides knowing his astronomy he had lots of interesting stories.

Woodhouse's Toad:
Woodhouse's Toad

Giant Centipede (about 5 inches long):
Giant Centipede (About 5 inches Long)

Mexican Spadefoot:
Mexican Spadefoot

The entire reason for our stay in Ramsey Canyon was to spend time at the Nature Conservancy Preserve. When we booked our stay, they hadn't announced the closures, but we did know about them before our arrival so we had some options to pursue. However, the option we ended up taking which was hiking up into the nearby Brown's Canyon wasn't on our initial list. This turned out to be a great hike because we saw lots of nature, trekked through a variety of habitats, and only saw 2 other people that whole morning.

Say's Phoebe:
Say's Phoebe

Vermilion Flycatcher:
Vermilion Flycatcher

After lunch we were going to sneak into the Ramsey Canyon Preserve anyway. We were members after all. As luck would have it, just as we were headed that way, an employee pulled up to the gate, let us in, and agreed to look the other way as we hiked up into the canyon. The preserve itself is pretty small. Just a 1/2 mile trail before another 1/2 steep climb up the canyon before you drop down into another small and lush canyon. Since we were taking it really slow looking for snakes and other possible critters, this mile plus took a couple hours so we turned around before reaching some of the higher elevation habitats. We did manage to find a couple critters but overall it was pretty disappointing:

Yet another squirrel:
Arizona Gray Squirrel

Ramsey Canyon

We took another night drive after dinner but came up empty. We thought about going out again later in the evening but we felt lazy after the day of hiking and retired early instead.

The next morning we were up early to maximize our time in the Preserve before having to high tail it back to Phoenix for our 7PM flight. Since we actually entered the preserve legally today, we spent time in the gift shop and talked to some of the volunteers there. They had a wealth of knowledge about the area wildlife so it took a while to finally get going with the hike. The first 1/2 mile was pretty empty of wildlife so before scaling the steep climb up we decided to leave the preserve since it seemed quiet and head over to the San Pedro Riparian area East of Sierra Vista. We had good luck there last time and thought we would try it again. Here are the last shots from Ramsey Canyon:

Yes, another squirrel!
Arizona Gray Squirrel

Rock Squirrel (Hey, at least this is a different kind of squirrel):
Rock Squirrel

Yarrow's Spiny Lizard:
Yarrow's Spiny Lizard

White-tailed Deer Fawn:
White-tailed Deer Fawn

The San Pedro Riparian area was a good choice. Even though it was late morning by the time we got there and we only had about an hour there before we had to leave, we saw lots of birds, lizards, and even some frogs. During our next visit we will need to allow more time to explore this area.

Arizona Sister:
Arizona Sister

American Bullfrog's (They were everywhere in the river):
American Bullfrog

View from San Pedro:
San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area

Overall, it was a very good week in SE Arizona. While the temperature was 107 when we reached Phoenix, I don't think we ever had it higher than 90 degrees in the 3 places that we explored because of their higher elevations. We ended up seeing some of the same wildlife that we saw before but we also saw lots of new birds, reptiles and even mammals. Here's a list of the new critters that we saw and photographed on this trip.

New Birds:
Hermit Warbler
Bullock's Oriole
Blue Grosbeak
Vermillion Flycatcher
Canyon Wren
Black-headed Grosbeak
Yellow-headed Vireo
Plumbeous Vireo
Wilson's Warbler
Ash-throated Flycatcher
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Pygmy Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Warbling Vireo
Townsend's Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler
Cordilleran Flycatcher
Rufous-crowned Sparrow
Rufous Hummingbird
Lesser Nighthawk
Hutton's Vireo

New Herps:
Mexican Spadefoot
American Bullfrog
Couch's Spadefoot
Great Plains Toad
Woodhouse's Toad
Yarrow's Spiny Lizard
Clark's Spiny Lizard
Sonoran Whipsnake
Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake
Desert Grassland Whiptail
Elegant Earless Lizard
Greater Earless Lizard
Mountain Spiny Lizard
Striped Plateau Lizard
Texas Horned Lizard
Zebra-tailed Lizard
Ornate Tree Lizard

Mammals (New in blue):
Rock Squirrel
Lesser Long-nosed Bat
Arizona Gray Squirrel
Ord's Kangaroo Rat
Mexican Fox Squirrel
Cliff Chipmunk

Black-tailed Jackrabbit
Antelope Jackrabbit
Desert Cottontail
Collared Peccary (Javelina)
Black Bear
Gray Fox
White-tailed Deer
Northern Raccoon


John W. Wall said...

Fantastic set of wildlife images, Alan. Thanks for the virtual tour. Glad to see so much variety -- all except for the centipede which creeped me out. :)

Unknown said...

Great shots! Do you recall whereabouts in SE Arizona you saw the Arizona Gray Squirrels that were "everywhere"? (lol) I'm looking to photograph them when I'm in Arizona later this month and am only finding "vague" areas (like near the Mogollon Rim) Was it a specific trail head or a park or... ? Thank you!