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.
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.