Camp Chiricahua Jul 11—22, 2018

Posted by Michael O'Brien


Michael O'Brien

Michael O'Brien is a freelance artist, author, and environmental consultant living in Cape May, New Jersey. He has a passionate interest in bird vocalizations and field ide...

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Camp Chiricahua is a natural history exploration of Southeast Arizona’s “sky islands” and surrounding desert, grassland, and riparian forest. The biodiversity in this region is among the richest in the country due to the confluence of four major biogeographic regions: the Sonoran Desert from the west, the Chihuahuan Desert from the east, the Rocky Mountains from the north, and the Sierra Madre from the south. Our 2018 crew of young naturalists took to the field with eyes open to all forms of life, from birds and mammals to reptiles, butterflies, beetles, plants, and much more.

Picnic at Rose Canyon Lake Campground

Picnic at Rose Canyon Lake Campground— Photo: Michael O’Brien


After fires prevented us from camping on Mt. Lemmon in 2017, it was a pleasure to get back there this year. One typically thinks of Arizona in the summertime as hot, but the weather was delightfully cool as we arose our first morning at Rose Canyon Lake Campground, with temperatures in the low 60s! Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Violet-green Swallow, Mountain Chickadee, Pygmy Nuthatch, Hermit Thrush, and Pine Siskin were among the birds that greeted us as we emerged from our tents, all species typical of the Rocky Mountains. But along with these, we quickly tracked down such specialties as Olive and Grace’s warblers, Painted Redstart, and the ubiquitous Yellow-eyed Junco, confirming that we were indeed in Southeast Arizona! Exploration of nearby Incinerator Ridge, Summerhaven, and Marshall Gulch helped us round out our search for higher elevation specialties such as Greater Pewee, Red-faced and Virginia’s warblers, and Hepatic Tanager, plus Abert’s Squirrel, Greater Short-horned Lizard, Madrean Alligator Lizard, and puddling Echo Azures and Marine Blues. And always a top highlight of camp, we made a special visit to some private feeders in Willow Canyon, where we were surrounded by hummingbirds of several species, plus up-close views of Acorn Woodpeckers, Mexican Jay, both nuthatches, Black-headed Grosbeak, and others, plus a fly-over Zone-tailed Hawk. A delightful spot for photography, field sketching, and to have hummers land on your fingers! 

Read Michael’s full report in his Field Report.