Fan-tailed Warbler

Fan-tailed Warbler

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Arizona's Last Frontier - Part 1

Greenlee County, in far eastern Arizona, was the only county that I had not yet visited in Arizona.  Guess that qualifies it as my Last Frontier in Arizona.  This county is the most under-birded county in the state and it is Arizona's second smallest county and the smallest in population.  This county borders New Mexico on the east and is sandwiched between Apache and Graham Counties on the north and south, and is located in a very remote area.  Highway 191 that runs north and south is a very good highway, but once one heads north from the mining town of Morenci, it is slow driving on a mountainous stretch that is full of twists and turns, but the vastness of the area is stunningly beautiful.  Deserts in the south and mountains in the north.  It may be Arizona's second smallest county, but it is still larger in area than the state of Rhode Island

Good birding buddy Tommy D., and I decided to do some birding in Greenlee County as it was a place I had always wanted to visit but had never made it there in the past.  Tommy has been there recently in the past and knew where a lot of hotspots were located.  We planned our visit to coincide with the Global Big Day where eBird takes a snapshot of all the bird sighting data on one day of the year throughout the world. Since it is a very under-birded location, all of our reports for May 13 would get Greenlee County represented in the Global Big Day.

The first full day was a trip to the northern part of the county and it was a very full day.  Highway 191 is a very good road, but it is not a road one can travel very fast on due to the many twists and curves and switchbacks.  Once you head north from Clifton, you travel through the mining community of Morenci where one of the world's largest reserves of copper is located.  This is an interesting ride and it is hard to imagine the enormity of this mine until you drive through in daylight.

This day was spent in the higher elevations and with that type of habitat, many of our birds and other critters consisted of the types of animals that favor those habitats.  At one point as we rounded a curve, we had a Black Bear in the middle of the road and it took off running and disappeared into the brush on the side before I could get my camera ready.  The photos below are indicative of what we found up north.  We even venture to the isolated community of Blue, Arizona, which has a post office, a school and a library and in 2000, it had a population of 36 people!

Red-faced Warbler

Swainson's Hawk - This was one of my first birds in Greenlee County and this photo was taken late in the afternoon as we arrived on Thursday.

 Small but fascinating Aker Lake where we had American Three-toed Woodpecker and Purple Martin.

 American Three-toed Woodpecker

Click HERE for a link to a video of the woodpecker and its drumming.

Purple Martin

 Arachne Checkerspot

 Arachne Checkerspot

Common Black Hawk - They were seen in several places.

 Common Ringlet

 Dainty Sulphur

 Dusky-capped Flycatcher -We found 2 of them at the Upper Blue Campground, which was further north than previously reported for this species.

Click HERE to a link to a video of the Dusky-capped Flycatcher where it can clearly be heard calling.

Golden-crowned Kinglet - Hannagan Meadow Campground

 Greater Pewee - Blue River

 Marine Blue Butterfly

 Mountain Bluebird - Near Aker Lake

Friday was a very long day due to the distance we traveled and the many stops we made.  We were secretly hoping for Dusky Grouse in one o the many places we visited.  Habitat was very good, but the pesky grouse were not meant to be.  Stay tuned for part 2 of this adventure and my initiation to Greenlee County.  There is much more to come, including Saturday which was the Global Big Day.


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