In the cool canyons above the desert floor, riparian woodlands thrive along the banks of streams flowing down from the mountains.
We stopped at Santa Rita Lodge in Madera Canyon southeast of Tucson for a few days and enjoyed finding some unique birds flitting in the sycamores that line the creek.
Sycamores trees along the banks of the creek are a valuable resource for forest birds; their soft wood makes drilling holes easy for Woodpeckers and sapsuckers, and branches that drop in windy weather leave gaping holes for nests of rare birds like the Elegant Trogon that we set out to find on this trail along the creek.
As we hiked up the canyon, keeping our ears and eyes alert to signs of Trogon, we were rewarded with a couple of other birds unique to this part of Arizona.
The first of these Painted Redstarts we saw played cat and mouse with us, making me really work to get its photo. Then as we hiked higher along the trail, we saw them everywhere.
Painted Redstarts aren’t that closely related to our American Redstart, though they have the same annoying habit of calling continually from hidden locations. They are only found in parts of southeastern Arizona and south western New Mexico, and are members of the group of Whitestart warblers (named for their habit of flashing white tail feathers as they fly) that inhabit Mexico and Central Mexico.
Another visitor from Mexico was found probing the litter beneath the trees, the Yellow-eyed Junco. It looks just like our Northern Juncos, but what a standout with the bright yellow eye!
These are not common here, but whenever we heard scratching noises on the forest floor, it was usually a junco.
And the bird we came to see, the one that frequents these trails in montane riparian woodlands, the one sighted just days before 50 yards from a bench overlooking the creek, the one we brought two cameras with big telephoto lenses to capture in all its splendor — was nowhere to be seen (or heard).
Elegant Trogon from Friends of Madera Canyon.com