Lemmon Aid

The plan, for our short a time in the Tucson area, was to do the hot lowland tourist thing (Tombstone) in the cooler morning (yeah right), and then ascend Mount Lemmon for a picnic lunch where it would surely be cooler. Baldrick would call it a cunning plan, and it was. The trouble was that a standard morning is just not long enough and it was getting nearer tea-time than lunch by the time we started the steady climb.

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Scenic stops were made until the Bear Canyon picnic site appeared, click, whir, back into birding mode (not that I ever left it).

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If I’d realised that the junco was adorned with leg-irons I’d have tried to find a more ‘pure’ one for a photo.

Three of the troop munched as the first lifer, a Yellow-eyed Junco, scavenged a recently vacated picnic table, then I went for a short walk! Late afternoon is not the optimum time for finding birds, they tend to be quieter and less obvious but I pressed on having heard a distant Painted Redstart singing and a few miscellaneous chirps high in the pines. There were birds there after all. Plumbeous Vireo, Pygmy Nuthatch, Arizona Woodpecker (ABA tick) and a few other odds and ends were found but no Red-faced Warbler. Conscious that my in-laws being attacked by a Bear while I was roaming the hillsides might not be very politic I had to cut short the search.

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Sandra’s Mexican Jay photos were way better than mine, shhh, here comes the border patrol!

Descending back down the slope I’d climbed, I found Sandra creeping up on a shifty group of Mexican Jays that had somehow cleared the fence and were making a meagre living on US soil, lifer #2. Back on the road and a couple of switchbacks later we were in Rose Canyon Lake car park along with quite a few others. I learned long ago that, in places like this, the birds are used to screaming kids and people who communicate by shouting to each other while running around in yellow or orange cagoules so I carried on regardless. More juncos were around plus ABA ticks in the form of Greater Pewee and Dusky-capped Flycatcher and a lifer Cordilleran Flycatcher (below), but no Red-faced Warbler. Time was running out.

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Resigned to having to be dragged back to southern Arizona on a dedicated birding trip sometime, we went on up to almost the summit and Summerhaven, but just about everything was now closed for the day. The bird finding guide suggested that the warbler might be found in the town, especially where a creek ran alongside the road. The old (er) folks were dispatched to the only open shop while Sandra and I walked the path. A bird jumped up on a log, it had a nice red face too, bingo. The light was lousy and the bird seemed to have recently downed a can of carelessly discarded Red Bull, so this is all I got with the camera after having had a very good look at it.

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The next morning we’d be off back up the I-10, on past Phoenix and heading north. I hoped that I might get one more lifer on the trip, when we got to Oak Creek Canyon. It was something we’d looked for the last time we were out that way, the Crested Tit impersonator, Bridled Titmouse. We ended the day in an Irish Pub, or at least that is what it said outside. I had a burger. As I bit into it, I suspected that I had found out where all those shredded tires off the highway ended up, still the band were OK.

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