The Huachuca Mountains

This morning was an early start.  Arizona doesn’t have daylight savings time so the sun rises at 5:30 AM.  I was in the car with Stuart Healy  headed to Carr Canyon before that.  The plan was to work the high altitude birds of the Huachuca Mts. first, then hike up Sheelite Canyon.

Buff-breasted Flycatcher at Carr Canyon (Photo by John Vanderpoel)

The action was fast and furious as my Dad used to say.  We had located two of the diminutive Buff-breasted Flycatchers almost immediately after we opened the car door.  Birds were calling and singing all around us. Greater Pewee, Plumbeous Vireo, Olive and Grace’s Warbler all making their presence known.  I was jazzed.  Eight new year birds before we moved the car! We added two more including Dusky-capped by 6:30 AM.

We headed down the canyon around 8:00 AM and drove into Ft. Huachuca, an active army base.  The next stop was Sheelite Canyon in hopes of the Spotted Owl.  That’s right the same Spotted Owl that caused such an uproar in the Northwest between loggers and environmentalists.  My brothers and I had tried for it in Sheelite in 2006 and failed.  Lynn Barber had failed twice before finally finding one on her third try. I couldn’t afford to fail on a “Big Year” attempt so I stepped out of character and hired a local guide.  Stuart knows Sheelite better than anyone now that the legendary Smitty has passed on.  He knows the likely roost trees and where they should be roosting during different times of the year.  And 5/8 of a mile up the rocky canyon this knowledge paid off.  There 10 yards in front of us perched 20′ up in an oak tree Spotted Owl in Sheelite Canyon (Photo by John Vanderpoel)

Spotted Owls stay put once you find them which allowed me to shimmy up the slope till I could get a fairly unobstructive view.  We added Painted Redstart and Hepatic Tanager as well.  I’m on a hot streak.  Let’s keep this baby rolling. Stay tuned.

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3 Responses to The Huachuca Mountains

  1. Ken Baird says:

    John,
    Bill and I were at a TEAM ATE stockholders meeting last night and your “big year” came up. I hadn’t heard anything about what you were doing since StorageTek, so it was interesting to hear about your “quest”. Bill told me about this site – very cool.

    Good luck with this, Ken

  2. Deanna Campbell says:

    Awesome, John! I saw my first Spotted Owl with Stuart Healy way back on my first Arizona trip! Good to hear he’s still at it. Smart move! Keep it rolling! Deanna

  3. John Vanderpoel says:

    Hello Ken,

    Thanks for commenting. It’s been a long time in Storage Tek. Glad you like the blog.

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