Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Chiricahua, Sonorita, and Patagonia, AZ

March 27th

Oh give me a home....

Willcox AZ is where I got off I-10 toward the Chiricahua National Monument on Hwy 186.  In Willcox I saw this sign..

bird viewing area!

Of course I had to stop and see. And sure glad I did....I happened to be there to see a flock of about 15 White Fronted Geese land there turns out to be rare that was cool...

Lots of Northern Shovelers,American Wigeons, Coots, Black Necked Stilts, American Avocets, 
A couple of Greater Scaup and at least one ringed neck duck...

am. wigeon

When I reached the Coronado National Forest and the Chiricahua National Monument I was not able to camp in Bonita Campground as planned,  it was full...I can't do the reservation thing because I never know when I will actually be arriving and I may change my plan and take a completely different I normally just do hit or miss...sometimes I hit it just right other times not so good.  Along the way to check for myself,  I saw the weirdest raccoon I'd ever seen just disappear off the road into the thicket. WTH?
So we ended up driving down a washboard  Pinery Canyon Rd to a National Forest boondock spot.  The dogs enjoyed some time off leash running around and we turned in early. Boy it got COLD!! 


March 28

Nearly froze...woke up to frost on the ground...but we made breakfast there then back to tour the Monument.  We stopped at the Erickson's Pioneer Cemetery containing the burials of the Swedish Immigrant family who settled here in 1888.  

It was their daughter Lillian and her husband Ed Riggs who turned the old homestead into a guest ranch in the 1920's and it operated until 1973, Faraway Ranch.  I went to check it out...a dude ranch...they would bring visitors up to admire the beautiful landscapes of the "Chiricahua" or Standing Rock as named by the Apache who once called this land their home.   The Riggs helped and worked with the Forest Service to create and protect this land. 

had an Acorn Woodpecker at the homestead 

And in the parking area a Mexican Jay wanted a drink at the fountain...

We spotted Arizona White Tailed deer along the road...

This area was Cochise's last strong hold. I can just imagine him hiding in the Rhyolite Canyon.

After I strolled around the ranch grounds I drove up to the Visitors Center and got my Passport Stamped and bought one Collector's Coin.  There was a sign in there "Have you seen me?" And it was the weird raccoon I had seen only it's not a raccoon at all it is a Coatimundi! WOW That's what I saw! This is the northern most point of their range.  

We went to explore more of the park, driving up the Bonita Canyon Road that winds 8 miles up.  We stopped at Massai Nature Trail where I took a short hike and saw some amazing balanced rock there...Chiricahua Peak is 9,763 ft.  On the way down we lunched  at the Sugarloaf Mountain Trailhead and the dogs got a walk. 

And on the way back down I spotted another Coatimundi! This time I was ready with my camera.  

they are in the raccoon family

I really didn't want to face the washboard road again so we left, the campground continued to be filled to capacity...we drove south to hwy 181 west to 191 south to Elfrida, and took the cut off road to the town of Tombstone, yeah that one, a tourist trap  they take History and clone it into something more than it was... shouldn't it be left authentic?  It was like a Hollywood Set. 

Spotted these lark buntings on the road..

I filled my tank there snapped this photo of a Wyatt Earp bronze and got the hell outta there going north a little ways up to Hwy 82 toward Sonoita and Patagonia.  Stopped for the afternoon and night at Patagonia Lakes State Park.  We had an electric site not far from the water but the campground was packed.

   The afternoon was spent dog walking, eating, showering, some birding and then relaxing in the shade till bedtime.  Spotted this Phainopepla  by the lake picking through the berries on this tree.  

and this Bewick's wren bugging in the tree by our site..

March 29
In the morning I took the Birders Trail that runs alongside a cottonwood/willow thicket by the Sonoita Creek.  Had a Vermillion Flycatcher, a Yellow Warbler and along with a couple from Ontario we all heard and later saw the Bell's Vireo.  Yes! A lifer.  Also had my first Broad Billed Hummer there! He was sitting up in the tree.  

Bell's Vireo

vermillion fc

I didn't get to hike the whole trail as the dogs waited in the van not too quietly...I drove to Paton Hummingbird Center not far away.  This is a place created by  private citizens on their property! They have lots of feeders set up for hummers and some seed feeders and suet too.   Had more Broad Bills, the Black Chinned, the Anna's (lifer) and the Violet Crowned (lifer)Hummingbirds...blown away  
feeder viewing

black chinned 

Also on the ground a Gambel's Quail (lifer)!  

In the thicket's we had Rufous Crowned Sparrows

And a Common Yellowthroat at the water.  

An Inca Dove on the ground...

A Gila Woodpecker was at the suet as well as 2 Ladder Backed Woodpeckers. 


Ladder backed wp

Acorn Woodpeckers were around, and a Green Tailed Towhee was on the ground with a Spotted Towhee! 

green tailed towhee

Rufous Winged Sparrow

The dirt road behind the property is called Blue Heaven Road.  Down this road is the Audubon Sonorita Preserve.  I had hiked up a hillside across the road from Paton trying to see a Gray Hawk that I was told went by soon before...didn't find him so I drove down the road for the Preserve.  I found the Gray perched in a tree back off the road a ways, got out and walked up to a point where I could try for a shot...Lifer again! 

vilolet crowned hummer

Anyways I watched the hummers and tried for and got pretty good shots of the Anna's and the Violet Crowned female.  I didn't hike the trails but a returning party had nothing to report that I wanted to go look for.


The dogs and I lunched here but I took my lunch by the van.... took the dogs out for a walk...before we headed South to Nogales and then north on I-19 to Madera Canyon.  All in all a very good day!!

Broad Billed Hummer

Sorry for packing so much into each post I want to get back to real time! Up Next My weekend at
Madera Canyon!

Every day is a new Adventure.


  1. You sure did see a lot of great places. I would have told you were the real Boot Hill is if I had known you would pass through tombstone. It is off the beating path but the road is all paved. I'm so happy you found some new lifers for your list. I have never seen a violet hummer and I can't tell you how long it's been since I went to Patagonia. It didn't even have electric back then. Rhyolite Canyon is awesome and I really need to go check it out. There really is so much to see right in my own back yard.

    1. I agree Jo sometimes we forget all the great stuff that is right at our fingertips... I,d like to stop and spend like a month birding in Patagonia it is in the center of a birding paradise I was there a bit early for migrants timing is everything!

  2. This account brought back many fond memories for me. It have done this route several times. The birding in southeast Arizona is about as good as it gets,

    1. Hi David I've had my eye on this area a while and like I said above I was a bit early due to the cold spring we had this year...but I was rewarded for my efforts also. I do wish I could have stayed a while longer. Maybe there will be time on the way back who knows.

  3. You saw some fabulous birds and great to get the lifers. I've heard of coatimundi but just as coati, you can see how they get mistaken for a weird raccoon!

    1. Coati is what the ranger staff called it so a nick name I guess I had no idea what I was seeing at first.

  4. Hello, Wow! Just seeing all the hummers would make my day. Wonderful bird sighting. The Coati are cool critters, I saw them in Costa Rica. This road trip is on my list of things I want to do. Great photos, thank for sharing. Happy Thursday, enjoy your day and weekend!

    1. It took me forever to get there but I felt it was an area where I would see lots of new birds and the coati was a bonus!

  5. That coatimundi was a good spot, I didnt realise that they were in the US. Some more lifers too. Plenty of woodpeckers too. Yes I can imagine Cochise in those canyons, what a great place to hide.

    1. This region had so much to see it was really exciting for me.

  6. Love the hummingbirds, didn't know about that place, but a lot of the rest was familiar territory..... you sure got some miles in on this trip. As always impressed with your photography (congrats on the lifer) ... pretty cool that these people created this haven for the hummers, wish I'd known about it.

  7. I thought I replied but I don't see it here...I've been using my small phone to make comments...I don't recall how I found this spot but it may have been on google maps.they are expanding I saw lots of volunteers working


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