By Jim Gain
This blog series chronicles the adventures that Rich Brown and I experienced on our quest to find and photograph the amazing birds of Southeast Arizona in May of 2022.
- Operation PhotoTrogon Stop #9 – Santa Rita Mountains
- Operation PhotoTrogon – Finito
- Operation PhotoTrogon Stop #8 – Paton Center Redux
- Operation PhotoTrogon Stop #7 – Ash Canyon Bird Sanctuary Redux
- Operation PhotoTrogon Stop #6 – Carr Canyon
IN SEARCH OF WHITE-EARED HUMMINGBIRDS
This morning’s destination was to include my first ever visit up Miller Canyon to visit Beatty’s Guest Ranch. This hummingbird hotspot is at the end of Miller Canyon Road, 2.6 miles from Hwy 92 up a bumpy dirt road. At the end of the road we found a Forest Service parking area with trail access into the Miller Peak Wilderness Area, but that wasn’t our destination. We parked in that lot and walked the short distance up the road to Beatty’s Guest Ranch.
ABOUT THE GUEST RANCH
Long known to locals as a source of pesticide-free apples, eggs, honey, and beeswax, the orchard has become the hottest hummingbird-watching spot in Arizona. Owners Tom and Edith Beatty had long fed birds around their home and rental cabins, but in spring of 1998 they added a hummingbird feeding station and hummingbird/butterfly garden for the enjoyment of day visitors. The payoff has been 15 species of hummingbirds (up to 13 at one time) plus an astonishing variety of naturally occurring hybrids. The Beattys have added bleachers, a picnic table and a shade canopy to the Controlled Access Site (CAS) for visitors’ comfort.
We walked towards the entrance not knowing exactly where to go and we found a pretty Archway with the name Betty’s guest house. There was a little gazebo in front with two hummingbird feeders that was actively feeding several different hummingbirds.
I know that this location is a top spot for burgers and it didn’t seem like two hummingbird feeders was what we were supposed to be looking for. We looked around at many different signs walked down the road a ways and just didn’t seem to figure out where we were supposed to go.
We went back to the gazebo and photographed a couple of Rivoli‘s Hummingbirds and Broad-billed Hummingbird.
Eventually I noticed a small sign that had all of the directions that we needed on it.
It said very clearly to go south down the road to the gate. So we walked south, found the gate, paid our fees and followed the road to the obvious Hummingbird Crossing sign.
Next we crossed the bridge and went up the hillside to the bleachers.
Now it was obvious that we were at the right spot. There were hummingbird feeders all around. The nice part for us bird photographers, is that they all had ample natural looking perching spots with lots of surrounding shrubs and trees.
As I mentioned we were both unfamiliar with the White-eared hummingbird and while the male seemed pretty easy to identify, the female seemed a little less easy. As we watch the hummingbirds coming and going we would find a female Broad-billed and we would ask each other is that it? The female Broad-billed Hummingbird has a pretty prominent white eyeline and we decided that this was going to be a little more of a challenge than we realized.
After about 15 minutes of taking a dozen photographs of each female hummingbird that showed up, the very obvious female White-eared Hummingbird suddenly appeared at one of the feeders.
All doubt was removed and there was no question that this was the sought after target bird for the trip for me. As I had guessed, this would be the only lifer for me on the trip. And that was OK because we got lots and lots of photographs of some pretty cool birds.
Another group of birders caught up with us that we had birded with the night before at the Ash Canyon Bird Sanctuary and we told them about the White-eared Hummingbird female and wished them good luck. As we walked back towards the car we heard a very unusual bird call that I did not recognize. We quickly opened up our Merlin Bird app to see if it would give us some idea of what we were looking for and according to the app we were listening to Scott’s Orioles singing.
No, I wouldn’t let any ID be made strictly on the basis of the Merlin app, but it gave us a good idea of what we were supposed to be looking for. Pretty quickly we caught not one, but two Scotts Orioles working around the tops of the sycamore trees near the creek. This was another lifer for Rich and it was pretty interesting listening to their songs.
Next stop Carr Canyon