Today we spent the morning slowly driving the lower reaches of the major canyons on the East side of the Huachuca Mountains in the zone where grass meets oak, hoping to luck onto a Montezuma Quail. We did see and hear some neat birds during the drive, but no quail. At the upper parking area for the Miller Canyon trail we ran into a nice group of birds that I augmented by whistling my Northern Pygmy-Owl imitation. Among the Mexican Jays and Bridled Titmice were White-breasted Nuthatches, a Hermit Thrush, a Magnificent Hummingbird, and a Red-naped Sapsucker (photo), a relatively recent split from the Yellow-bellied. I also noticed a Townsend Warbler working the holes made by the sapsucker (photo). Upper Carr Canyon was closed and Ramsey Canyon is so overdeveloped that it offered little attraction for us.
We went to the San Pedro House, an environmental center with trails maintained by the Friends of the San Pedro River. The feeders were full of Lesser Goldfinches and House Finches with one lonely American Goldfinch waiting her turn. Among the Red-winged Blackbirds were four Yellow-headed Blackbirds and a Bronze Cowbird. We took a walk down to and along the river finding a few birds like Grey Flycatcher, Black Phoebe, Song Sparrow, and a triad of woodpeckers. We ate the lunch we had picked up earlier, while watching the birds at the feeders. With most of the afternoon remaining, I decided to try Fort Huachuca and Scheelite Canyon. However, the main entrance to the fort was closed for repairs, so we had to use the East entrance and work our way around to Garden Canyon. We parked the car in the new-to-me parking lot for Scheelite Canyon, walked to the trail head, and started up. It''s somewhat problematic to watch your feet so you don't slip and simultaneously scan the trees for birds. But when we reached the section of the climb Smitty used to refer to as "the jaws," I had strayed from the trail and had to clamber over to reach it. As I did I looked up and there was the Spotted Owl. We saw only one and we didn't want to hassle it in an attempt to find the other. We took a few pictures (photo) and went back down the trail. There's a feeling of reverence when you're in the presence of those owls.
We drove to Douglas where we'll get set to launch a search of the Sulfur Springs Valley tomorrow, looking for longspurs, sparrows, and raptors. Tonight we'll eat in the early twnetieth century Gadsden Hotel with its Tiffany windows. We stopped by there earlier so we could see the windows with the sun streaming through and the huge faux marble columns with their gold-plated caps. A real treasure. The species total now stands at 334.