Monday, May 19, 2014

May 17 (Day 137, part 2) - Getting high for Mexican chickadee and Olive warbler

It's good to be back online! Sonia did an incredible job in my absence last night, and I hoped everyone enjoyed her guest spot as much as I did.

As Sonia posted yesterday, I swapped my touring bike for a heavy duty mountain bike. How this swap occurred is a great story and a perfect example of the type of enthusiasm that I hope Biking for Birds will generate. The mountain bike was provided by new friends Ron and Janet Beck. Ron actually did a Cochise County, AZ green big year last year where he tallied 301 species. Ron heard about my adventure way back in January. He contacted me and told me that he would provide whatever help and support I needed during my 2-3 weeks in Southeastern Arizona. He and Janet succeeded in planning a Chiricahuas camping trip around this weekend so that they could do some bike birding with me. They brought their own bikes plus an incredibly nice third mountain bike for me. This bike was used to climb the 10-mile dirt road that lead us from 5,400 feet of elevation at the research station to 8,500 feet at Rustler Park at the top of the Chiricahuas. I probably could have made the journey on my bike, but it would have been completely miserable. The mountain bike gave me the chance to ride in style as I tried track to down my 2 high elevation targets: Mexican Chickadee and Olive warbler.

Since I also have to write the Day 138 report tonight as well, I'll just say that we were able to locate both of these species. I have seen these birds on previous trips up to Rustler Park, but significant forest fires in both 2011 and 2012 have significantly shifted the birding landscapes in this area. Olive warbler in particular has been much more difficult to find since 2012. I was not able to carry the camera up the mountain, but I did grab a few landscape shots with my phone to give everyone an impression of the Chiricahuas.

In the US, the top of the Chiricahuas is the best place
to see Mexican chickadee. Note the tiny pink dot
in Southeastern Arizona. The birds in NM aren't 
easily accessed, even for those with cars.

Olive warbler has a slight wider range, but 
it's still very restricted in the US!

Here's the road we biked to the top

Remaining Olive warbler habitat

View from up high

Fire damage at Onion Saddle

Fire damage at Rustler park (camping area is
actually closed  - we birded just outside the park)

The day was a rousing success from both birding and biking standpoints. In addition to my main target species, we also located a number of other higher elevation birds. These were:

413 - Townsend's warbler 
414 - Olive-sided flycatcher
415 - Mexican chickadee
416 - Greater pewee (H)
416 - Pygmy nuthatch
417 - Olive warbler (1 female)
418 - Sulfur-bellied flycatcher (seen back at mid elevations of 5400')

It was really great to knock out the chickadee and the warbler today. This means I can focus on a few more mid-elevation birds tomorrow.

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