Agua Caliente Park is in the north-east corner of the Tanque Verde Valley, on Roger Road, east of Soldier Trail. The 101-acre park began as a ranch and resort in 1873 promoting the health benefits of hot springs that ran at that time. In 1984 the ranch was acquired by Pima County with the help of a donation from Roy P. Drachman, and is named in his honor. It opened to the public in 1985.
The park is a wonderful place for birding. Pima County offers a "Wake Up with the Birds" walk every Thursday morning for a nominal $5 fee. Check their website for times. I visited the park twice this week, Tuesday the 17th, and again on the 18th, for the bird walk. The picture above captured on the 17th started as three images merged into one panoramic using Adobe Lightroom. Canon 6D, 24 mm.
Tuesday, May 17th
A male Vermilion Flycatcher resting on the lawn in between flying his routes. The frame below him, a female:
A Hooded Oriole photographed adjacent to the pond.
Red-winged blackbird, male, doing a split on the reeds at the pond:
Two Gila Woodpeckers, perched atop a saguaro in bloom, adjacent to the parking lot.
A Chiricahua Leopard Frog (my best guess) sitting at the edge of the pond. Many thanks to a 3-year old boy and his mom for finding a frog amid the mud!
Wake Up with the Birds, May 19th.
Shortly before 8 am a Cooper's Hawk came down to the pond to drink. Hung out long enough for a photo session, then took off. Did not leave his agent's name, so here is the photo sans model release.
A Vermilion Flycatcher, likely immature, still working on getting the red plumage in.
Cassin's Kingbird. Southern Arizona is in their summer breeding territory.
MacGillivray's Warbler. Described by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology as a "furtive bird of forest edges and thickets," I can attest to the fact that this bird was hard to spot, and moved back and forth in the grasses. Below is one of the better shots. Many thanks to our guide, and everyone who took the tour for their spotting acumen and knowledge of the birds. According to the Cornell website, this bird winters in Mexico and central america, summers in the Pacific Northwest and Canada, and stops by to visit us in migration. We wish him safe travel!
That's all for now! Have a great weekend.
As planned, we returned to Cave Creek Canyon and the Cave Creek Ranch to check out Portal and the environs in spring, and (in part) to search for the elusive Elegant Trogon, the only species of Trogon that lives in North America, and frequents the sycamore and oak forests that line the canyons in SE Arizona.
We arrived mid-day on Friday April 29th, and after getting settled at Cave Creek Ranch, we drove to the South Fork of the creek, listened for the characteristic Trogon call, and peered into the tall sycamores along with a half dozen other birders, binoculars and cameras ready, for the elusive Trogons.
Alas, no Trogons today!
However, the canyon was beautiful!
The Trogon's were no-shows, but we did spot other birds:
Above a Painted Redstart.
Below, two shots of a Green-tailed Towhee:
We returned to the Vista Point, a bit north and east of the South Fork turnoff, where after a short hike, we got excellent views of the canyon.
As we enjoyed this special spot in the canyon, a kettle of Turkey Vultures appeared in flight, the photo below one of the better in the series. Turkey Vultures are a great clean-up crew. They work weekends, holidays, and never send a bill for services rendered (pun intended).
Saturday, April 30th
Early Saturday morning, Reed Peters offered a one hour tour of the ranch grounds for the guests led by Elaine Moisan, a local naturalist. We spotted many birds, although getting good images was a challenge, given distance, speed (the birds were fast, I was slow) and dense spring foliage. Below are three reasonable images:
A pair of Cedar Waxwings
A Black Phoebe.
Ash-throated Flycatcher, posing in good light with a nice background.
Saturday, mid-morning we returned to South Fork, having heard that the elusive Elegant Trogan had been spotted. "Where's Waldo?"
A beautiful canyon, but alas, no Trogons today!
We drove back toward town, and visited a number of feeder locations which private homeowners open up to the public for viewing. When you visit check on current feeder locations and availability. Each location has a "tip jar" set up to collect cash to pay for seed. Owners provide some seating, but if you have a favorite folding chair, bring it along. Shade may be at a premium, so bring along a hat and water.
Below, two images of the Black-chinned Hummingbird, by my estimate, male above, female below:
It's fun to watch them feed and move their bodies and tails back and forth to balance as they hover. First image shot at 1/1600 sec., the second at 1/640.
Below, a Pyrrhuloxia
And below, a Lazuli Bunting, male. The buntings are striking, and in abundance in the Cave Creek area in April.
Sunday, May 1, 2016
Cave Creek Ranch has a collection of feeders for all guests, and for non-guests for a $5 fee. We started our last day in the canyon at 6:30 am at the feeders, spotting many birds, and capturing these images.
Above and below: Western Tanager, male.
Below, Lazuli Bunting in the morning sun:
Below, Gray Catbird:
A pair of woodpeckers:
Alas, where were the Elegant Trogons? Somewhere in Cave Creek Canyon for sure, but not where we happened to be on this trip. So do they really exist? Ah yes, I believe they do. Check out Tom Grey's website, and you will find two excellent photos and a brief history of his trek to Cave Creek Canyon in 2010 and 2011 in search of the elusive birds.
Sunday, May 1st, time to head back to Tucson. We drove north on Portal Road toward Interstate 10, the clouds creating striking shadows on the Chiricahua Mountains:
Below, Portal Road due north. Lots of land out here!
Henry Johnson, photographer and author of this site. For more detail, see About