I stayed in Willcox, got to bed early, left for Portal at 4:00 am and drove the 93 miles to Portal via I-10 and NM SR80. I first birded State Line Road at dawn and found Bendire's Thrasher, two Sage Thrashers and about ten Brewer's Sparrows. I also got a good photo of a Scaled Quail sitting up for a portrait. I stopped at the store and lodge in Portal and found the store closed. I had hoped to pick up some additional food for the day in the mountains and information about the status of the washes on the two roads to Rustler Park from Pardise or through Cave creek but it was not to be. I birded briefly around the lodge but found very little but Curve-billed Thrasher and Eurasian Collared Drives. I drove the road to Paradise and stopped about three times to check for Black-chinned Sparrow in the first few miles in appropriate habitat but found only Canyon Towhees and Black-throated Sparrows. The Black-chinned Sparrows are no longer singing. Tough birding! I stopped by the Walker House to check for Juniper Titmouse and hummingbirds, perhaps a Calliope Hummingbird. I met Jackie who runs the B&B. She said the Titmouse was not coming to the feeders very much. Too much food still available in the mountains. No Calliope Hummingbird either. I stayed for a while and watched the feeders seeing nothing new but still fun to see Blue-throated, Black-chinned, Magnificent, Rufous, Broad-tailed and Anna's Hummingbirds and Red-naped Sapsucker, Hutton's Vireo, Bridled Titmouse, House Finches and Lesser Golfinches. Soon John Yerger, whose name I recognized from the AZ-NM listserve and a local guide, came to watch the feeders with two clients. I knew that he was affiliated with Penn State University at one time. He was a student there. I found out that John Yerger was from Pennsylvania where I grew up. I was born and raised in Lancaster Co, but he was from closer to Philadelphia. I tbought that my SageThrasher sightings were somewhat early and John verified this and that my distant photos were actually of Sage Thrasher. Thanks John. He also verified that I was looking in the right place for Black-chinned Sparrows and that they were no longer singing, but that Florida Wash was a place where he had seen many in the winter. Thanks again John. I recall seeing Black-chinned Sparrows there when I stopped in Florida Wash after a successful chase for the Blue Mockingbird near Douglas less than ten years ago.
I left Walker House and headed up through Cave Creek Canyon to Rustler and Barefoot Parks arriving at about 1:00 pm. Jackie told me that the my rental car could not get across the three wsshes from the Paradise end but that there was only one wash from the Cave Creek side and that my rental could cross that wash. Thanks, Jackie. At the top, the recent fire devastation was enormous but the great wild flowers make up for that. Photos to follow later. I did not find the Mexican Chickadee but searched until about 4:30 pm. I met two women, one from New Mexico and one from Texas and couple from Iowa who were also searching. No one found the chickadee but the couple from Iowa talked to someone at the Research Center who had the chickadee with a feeding flock of birds early at about 7:30 near the split of the road for access to Rustler and Bar Foot Parks. I will need to return to try for the chickadee again soon.
When I returned down to the lodge area, I noticed that a tire was losing air pressure. My options were to replace the tire with a donut spare or to look for help in very small Rodeo, NM. I choose to look for help and found the Rodeo Service Center which looked closed and rather run down. However, when the young man returned from his job, he found the problem, a nail, and patched the tire for a very reasonable $20. I gave him a tip and was headed on my way to Phoenix,AZ after only an hour delay.
I am headed to Bodega Bay for a pelagic trip with Shearwater Journeys.
Bendire's Thrasher, Sage Thrasher and Brewer's Sparrow raise the total to 652.
I will update my list and blogs after returning home for a brief stay after which I will return to Arizona and the west coast.