Southeastern Arizona, May 2000
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Portal and Environs
(Click any photo throughout to see a larger version)
Portal is a very small town nestled in the foothills of the Chiricahua mountains. Everyone you see in Portal either lives there or has binoculars around their neck and a bird guide in their pocket. There are many many bird species to be seen in the area, including the U.S.A.'s only native parrot, the thick-billed parrot, and birders from around the country and around the world flock there to look for them. We did not see any parrots though. We did see lots of hummingbirds, many of which strongly approved of the hummingbird feeders placed around the quaint and pleasant Portal Peak Lodge.
Cave Creek Canyon is the canyon at whose mouth Portal sits. When the birders aren't admiring the hummingbirds at Portal Peak Lodge, they are in Cave Creek Canyon looking for trogons and thick-billed parrots and vermilion flycatchers. We took a nice hike in this beautiful area and saw some birds, but none of those really good ones that I just mentioned. Among the other animals we did not see were ringtails, coatimundis, bears, and any interesting herps at all other than a few speedy whiptail lizards. But we couldn't complain about a lack of scenic beauty.
We found even more scenic beauty lurking on the side of the mountain at Rustler's Park, a few miles up the road from Cave Creek Canyon. I looked for bunch-grass lizards (to no avail) while my travelling companions lounged in the meadow. I was told later that it's best to look for bunch-grass lizards later in the year. Who knew?

The next day we drove down a 50 mile stretch of road through the desert supposedly rife with herps, or so claimed the Arizona wildlife viewing guide. There were no actual herps, but we did pause to check out a monument near the spot of Geronimo's last stand. The monument text had been written in the 1930s, when it was apparently acceptable to refer to the native Americans as "hostiles".

At the end of the 50 mile stretch of herpless road we followed the wildlife guide's instructions to a wildlife viewing site called "The Chiricahua Trail". The Trail was not marked, and appeared to be a dingey dirt road just outside of the town of Douglas, used by an apparently large proportion of Douglas denizens as the town dump. The wildlife was scant, consisting of one very large wolf spider, two small whiptail lizards, a bunny or two, and this majestic hawk on a telephone pole. We decided it was a Swainson's hawk.

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