Arizona Monsoon Season 2008 - Trip Report



I was fortunate enough to spend several weekends in SE Arizona this past July and August chasing down a variety of herps and birds, the following is a summary of the summer monsoon season of 2008 for Arizona...


I split my time mostly between the Santa Rita Mountains and the Huachuca’s (and areas in between) with a side trips down to Patagonia, Pena Blanca and Sycamore Canyon thrown in for good measure.  Areas visited included Madera Canyon, Ramsey Canyon, Miller Canyon, Ash Canyon, Carr Canyon, Ruby Road, Sycamore Canyon, Green Valley, Pena Blanca Lake, and many other areas generally south and to the east of Tucson.


The monsoon season is an exciting time to be in SE Arizona and if you haven’t made the trek it’s something that you should do at least once.  Whether you are into herps, birds, insects or just plain interested in natural history, the area is so rich with diverse animal (and plant) life that you can easily get sensory overload.   As soon as the winds start changing in summer and moisture starts being directed up  the Gulf and points south over Sonora, the thunderstorms and heavy summer rains start happening!  It’s a fact of life and the fact that this area is so diverse with life, the tremendous rains that fall from July through September helps to support a beautiful and rich ecosystem unique to the southwest.


Storms were abundant most of the weekends I was there and really helped to drive the wildlife.  Times when the air was more dry and lower humidity led to less wildlife being viewed, in particular the reptiles and amphibians but the birds seemed to be impacted by that as well.



A fairly common sight are heavy downpours associated with isolated storm cells like this one.  Intense rain and lightning are common during the summer months.


Basically I birded early in the day and herped later in the morning and by night, this creates a bit of a problem because you have to get an early start on the birds.  The herps, well,  can crawl at any time and you certainly have a great mix of diurnal as well as nocturnal targets to look for.  I found the best strategy for me was to try to grab a nap in the early afternoon (time permitting), that and large quantities of energy drinks kept me going…  Basically I’d be up and out by 5:00 AM and back to the hotel between midnight and 1:00 AM but I am not complaining!



Mt. Wrightson viewed from Madera Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains raises more than 9,400 feet above sea level.  One of SE Arizona’s “Sky Islands” that attracts summer bird life from south of the border.


In the Santa Rita’s I found that when it wasn’t raining it was quite productive for snakes, the problem was that it poured - and I do mean poured -  three of the four nights I attempted to work the area.  I got caught in a storm of epic proportions which I won’t forget anytime soon.  It was raining so hard that you could literally not see more than 10 feet in front of the car, just enough to note that the road was now a river with one or two inches of water literally flowing down it.  Lightning was non-stop, I saw a strike a hundred feet away from me on a telephone pole that temporarily blinded me, it was quite “exciting”, the static electricity was making the hairs on my arm stand on end which I understand is not a good thing to have happening in an electrical storm...  The good news is that I made it out OK and as the storms usually do here it quickly passed and within an hour, the stars were back out as were the amphibians, in huge numbers!  I counted 15 Sonoran Desert Toads in a couple of miles and the Couch’s Spadefoots were so numerous that it was difficult to drive without smashing them.  Interspersed were Mexican Spadefoot with an occasional Great Basin Toad thrown in.  Amazingly though, no live snakes were seen this night only a couple of DOR (Dead on Road) Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes.

Canyon Tree Frog from Madera Canyon

Varied Buntings were plentiful at the lower elevations of the Santa Rita Mountains.

Canyon Towhee's were also quite plentiful...

Broad-billed Hummingbirds were the most numerous hummers at the feeders in Madera Canyon as well as the ones most commonly seen feeding at various flowering plants.

This Bronzed Cowbird was a big surprise as it made a visit to the seed feeders at Madera Kubos.

Arizona (formally known as Strickland's) Woodpeckers were easily seen at higher elevations, sometimes also mixed in with the Acorn Woodpeckers, in particular around Madera Kubos in Madera Canyon.

One of the highlights of the various excursions I made into the Sky Islands of Arizona was this Berylline Hummingbird, photographed in Madera Canyon and a "lifer" for me. 

A large male Blue-throated Hummingbird was also present at Madera Canyon and also spotted on several occasions in the Huachuca Mountains.

Black-headed Grosbeak were also common at the mid-elevations in most canyon environments.

Here's another Blue-throated Hummingbird, checking out a rose bush.

The tiny Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet was seen repeatedly near Proctor road in the Santa Rita mountains, typically very near the stream that flows through the area.

Lesser Goldfinch were abundant at the seed feeders.

At the lower levels of the canyons and grassland areas near Santa Rita, Huachuca and along Ruby Road near Pena Blanca Botterii's sparrows were abundant.  You can hear them calling from high perches all along the roads where there is grassland habitat.

Bell's Vireo's were also rather common in some of the canyon habitats, typically in riparian areas such as along Madera Canyon near Proctor Road and other areas where there were Sycamores and Oaks mixed in with running water.

I saw several Swainson's Hawks during my visits, only a couple of them allowed close enough approach for a photograph.

Tarantulas were abundant at the lower elevations near dusk and after sunset.  I rescued this one from the road and he decided to explore me up and down, front and back.  I have gotten better with spiders over the years, sometimes they still creep me out however Tarantulas are pretty cool and I really don't have too much trouble with them any more...

Rufous-winged Sparrows were seen at lower elevations as well.

At night, toads were the prevalent species seen, sometimes thousands of them, in particular Couch's Spadefoot toads like these were abundant.  On some stretches of road it was nearly impossible to avoid crushing them as they were so numerous cross the streets.

Great Plains toads were also around although not in the same numbers as the Couch's...

One of my favorites is the Sonoran Desert Toad (sometimes called the Colorado River Toad).  These giants can approach the size of a volleyball and were quite common right after heavy rains.  I counted 15 one night in a 2 mile span.  Note the huge Partoid Gland on the side of the head (the large bump behind the eye and above and behind the ear.  This gland excretes a very toxic substance that has  been know to kill even dogs who unknowingly mouth these toads.  There was a fad going around for a while called "Toad Licking" as apparently, licking this toxic substance off the toads skin can lead to some sort of hallucinogenic high... Unfortunately it can also lead to death so probably not a good thing to experiment with!

Here's another Sonoran Desert Toad, I thought he was sort of "Jabba-the-Hut"like in appearance...

Lynn was able to capture this Cactus Wren in front of our hotel one morning, early.  When I think of Wren's I think of these tiny, fragile little birds that you find at grandma's house however, these large birds are an exception to the rule, much larger an more aggressive then their cousins.

Mexican Spadefoot Toads were occasionally seen as well.

I found one DOR Black-necked Garter Snake right after a heavy rain. 

This is a dark version of Couch's Spadefoot Toad.

Insects were extremely numerous and the variety is endless.  There were probably more people chasing insects then reptiles in the areas that I visited.  Their approach is quite interesting, it consists of a white sheet and a black light.  The hand a large sheet up and put the black light in front of it which acts as a giant deflector and attracts thousands, no tens of thousands of insects.  Right up to giant beetles the size of your thumb and then some.  Some nights I would see six or seven different set-ups up and down the canyons, all of them doing quite well with hordes of insects around.  This little praying mantis was in the middle of the road and he had a red eye-shine, it was a bit eerie when you first see these tiny little red eyes staring up at you...:o)

Many different species of Kingbird were seen and heard during my trips.  This is a Couch's Kingbird and were common.

Summer Tanagers are always a nice addition to a day of bird watching.  They have a tendency to continuously call out too which usually makes them easy to find if they are in the area.  That and the fact that they are bright red...

Black-throated Sparrows were another commonly encountered species in the lower elevations.

Wild Turkeys would occasionally make themselves known, usually in the early morning or later in the day toward dusk. 

I tallied a total of 12 different hummingbird species during my visits to Arizona this summer, the Black-chinned Hummingbird is a year-round resident and common in lower elevations.

Another Broad-billed Hummingbird at the feeders at Madera Kubos.  Sometimes the action around the feeders gets quite active, and downright violent.  It's interesting to see how each species reacts differently, some are much more mild mannered and really stay to themselves others are quite aggressive as in the Blue-throated Hummingbirds and will chase off any intruder.  The Broad-billed seem to be mostly concerned with others of their own species more so than other species sharing the feeders but at some times there was more squabbling and fighting going on then actual feeding which has to burn a lot of the precious calories that they are so desperate to get in the first place.  Wonder how that all works out in the nature of things.  There has to be some survival advantage to protecting a territory for it's food source but at what price in terms of expending energy?

Typical late afternoon sight over the mountains.  Here a large thunder cell is moving into the area from Mexico, you can barely make out the foothills of the Santa Rita mountains in the background.

An American Kestrel watching the approaching storm.  It was interesting to see many birds lined up with their faces in the wind watching the storm approach.  I am sure it has more to do with them battling the wind then actually being interested in the storm but from a human perspective it appeared at times that they were lined up to watch the approaching lightning and rain.

These little guys are called Round-tailed Ground Squirrels and were quite numerous at lower elevations around creosote bushes.  They seemed to prefer habitat near or in town however, sure it has to do with water and food and the like.  They were very interesting to watch and were quite active early in the day and evening.  I understand they they are best observed around the rainy season and are otherwise hard to see as they spend much of their time underground in their extensive burrows.

Diurnal lizards such as this Arizona Zebra-tailed Lizard were always around and active, even in the middle of the day.  I have seen other sub-species of these lizards out and active with air temperatures approaching 120 degrees.  It never gets that hot here due to elevation and weather patterns but it does get into the low 100's occasionally although most days are in the high 90's.

Another common diurnal lizard was the Great Basin Whiptail, one of several species found in SE Arizona.  An interesting thing about Whiptail Lizards is that many species reproduce without males, through a process known as parthenogenesis.  The female produces offspring without the aid of male sperm or chromosomes and in essence produces exact clones of herself.  Some species reproduced entirely this way (which probably leads to other issues over the long term) while others can reproduce sexually or through parthenogenesis.

The House Finch is found throughout the area both at lower elevations as well as higher up in the mountain canyons.  Some are very brightly colored and bright red as well as yellow individuals can make you take a second look.

This is another Arizona Zebra-tailed Lizard, he is thermo-regulating his body. the rock is radiating too much heat for him so he is raising his body off the rock to keep himself from getting cooked as he scans the area for his insect prey.

I spotted this nice Peregrine Falcon on a telephone pole right outside of Fort Huachuca.  Usually they are much more skittish but this one allowed me to approach fairly closely, probably figuring that there was no way for me to scale the telephone pole...:o)


Say's Phoebe's were also commonly seen at lower elevations, one of the numerous flycatcher species seen in the area.

In the Huachuca Mountains I visited Beatty’s Miller Canyon guest ranch & Orchard.  They have a successful breeding program going with the Arizona Game and Fish Department to breed “Ramsey Canyon” Leopard Frogs.  Turns out in discussion I had with Tom Beatty and his son that apparently they are being considered the same as the Chiricahua Leopard Frog at least that’s where the genetic studies are leading.  I am not real  up on the taxonomy of this species so I’ll leave it at that, needless to say, whether they are Ramsey Canyon Leopard Frogs or Chiricahua Leopard Frogs, they are still pretty cool looking…

This is a Magnificent Hummingbird from Miller Canyon in the Huachuca Mountains.  While I saw magnificent hummers at both the Santa Rita's as well as Huachuca mountains, they were much more common in the latter.

This is a female Broad-tailed Hummingbird which can easily be mistaken for several other species, the male is much easier to identify.  I always think they are Calliope Hummingbirds until seeing them together, the size alone (Calliope's are much smaller) is enough to tell them apart.

A Rufous Hummingbird is checking out a Black-chinned that is coming in for a drink.  I have found Rufous to be one of the most aggressive species and will take on any and all comers!

Another trip highlight for me was the long-sought-after (by me) White-eared Hummingbird.  I was fortunate enough to have one land on a branch and allow me to take several shots before moving on.  This is one of my favorite birds!

Another shot of a White-eared Hummingbird.

Male Broad-tailed Hummingbird.  This year they were very common in the Huachuca Mountains but I didn't see one in the Santa Rita's.

Another shot at a male Broad-tailed Hummingbird.

Rufous Hummer standing sentry.

This is a Calliope Hummingbird, tiny little hummer, stays mostly to itself, I watched it for several minutes as it stayed along the ground feeding on low growing flowering plants rather than going to the feeders.  It tried a couple of times to get a cheap drink from the feeders but was instantly mobbed by other hummingbirds, bullying it away.

Another shot of a Ramsey Canyon Leopard Frog.

This Sharp-shinned Hawk was found perched on the branch of an old oak tree near the entrance to Ramsey Canyon.  It was obviously calling for someone else or something... It went on and on as I took photographs of it before quickly slipping off into the thick undercarriage of the trees and disappearing from sight.

Ash-throated Flycatchers were another relatively common species, usually seen perched on-high looking for an unsuspecting butterfly or grasshopper to come by and there were no shortage of either!

This is a view on the way up Carr Canyon in the Huachuca Mountains.  You can see a waterfall to the left of center if you look close enough.  The road actually ends up above that waterfall after a few miles of white-knuckle switch-back mountain roads.  I made the trek up to the top several times, looking for a variety of mountain specialty snakes such as Ridge-nosed Rattlesnake and Banded Rock Rattlesnake along with Arizona Mountain Kingsnake.  Habitat was perfect, plenty of food but alas, this year I didn't find any of these Sky-island specialties... Which is why I'll have to come back again next year... oh well!

At the top of the mountain, the environment is quite different, mostly a pine/juniper habitat with a variety of hard-wood trees mixed in.  Here Yellow-eyed Juncos rule the roost!

Many Yellow-eyed Juncos were seen at the top of Carr Canyon Road.

American Robins were also present at these higher and cooler elevations.  I was nearly at 9,000 feet when I took this photo.

This is snake food but also one of the more vividly colored spiny lizard species you will find.  Yarrow's or Mountain Spiny Lizard is it's common name.

Greater Roadrunners were occasionally seen at lower elevations, this one was kind enough to pose for a quick photo shoot.

One of many Sonoran and Central American species that can be viewed in this area in the summer is the Gray Hawk.  Previously I had seen this species in Costa Rica.

Gray Hawk perched on a telephone pole near Nogales.

Western Kingbirds were around too as this one who had just launched itself off in pursuit of an insect.

Ash-throated Flycatcher from Green Valley, Arizona

A Loggerhead Shrike was seen near Madera Canyon.  These birds have the gruesome habit of impaling their prey (large insects and lizards) on sharp objects such  as cactus spines or barb-wire fences.  If you happen across a lizard that appears to have been impaled on a large spine of a cactus or other sharp object it probably fell victim to one of these birds. 

A Botterii's Sparrow from Ruby Road, near Sycamore Canyon right next to the Mexican border.

Elegant Earless Lizard from Madera Canyon lower elevations.

This Harris Hawk flew right into my sights as I was looking for other birds in Green Valley.

Curve-billed Thrashers were common at lower elevations, often seen perched on top of cactus.

Gila Woodpeckers were also easy to observe, in particular around towns such as Green Valley.

White-winged Doves were the most common of the Dove species observed although Mourning Doves and Ground Doves were also around.

This Hooded Oriole made a quick appearance in Sycamore Canyon.

Red-tailed Hawks were extremely common in most areas.

I ran into several large concentrations of Blue Grosbeak in canyons in the Santa Rita's, the Huachuca's as well as near Pena Blanca.

A female Scott's Oriole, the one true "desert" Oriole was seen perching near Fort Huachuca

I guess you could spend several life-times here and not see everything.  I have no idea what this plant is and I only saw it one time, along the side of the road at mid-elevations but it was pretty cool looking and by the way, in addition to all of the spectacular animals, the plant life is pretty amazing as well!

This is a Lesser Earless Lizard, very common throughout the area.

Unfortunately, this Arizona Glossy Snake had been hit by a car right before I found it, it was not injured too badly but I don't think it survived.

Another variation of Swainson's Hawk, a more standard version then the previous picture.  He was spotted early in the day in the Huachuca Mountain area.

Pyrruloxia, like this one, are members of the Cardinal family of birds.  While I had seen and heard many during my trips, this was the first and only time I was able to get a clean shot of this bird.  They tend to stay in cover most of the time and are difficult to photograph.

Another Cassin's Kingbird from the Huachuca Mountains.

Broad-tailed Hummer from Ash Canyon.

Violet-crowned Hummingbirds didn't appear until August at the places I was looking, it wasn't until my fourth and final trip of the season that I was able to photograph these beautiful birds.  Another one of my favorites, this was the first time I had seen one in the US.

I should have taken more photos of butterflies as they are spectacular and everywhere, this is about as common as they get, a Skipper but still a cool shot I thought!  I saw a lot of folks out and about with butterfly nets as well, the collecting looked very good.  I do have one experience to note somewhat related.  It was right after a heavy afternoon rain in Madera Canyon and I was driving back to Green Valley where I was staying for the evening and as I came down off the mountain I started to notice caterpillars crossing the road.  Not one or two but first tens then hundreds and then thousands of little fuzzy caterpillars, this went on for about a mile or so and then they were gone, it was a massive hatching obviously of some species.  I am sure there were literally millions of them in the area.

Another one of the Whiptail species seen in the area is the Arizona Spotted Whiptail, as pictured here.

Here's another butterfly...

Another Broad-tailed male.

Black-chinned Hummingbirds are hard to photograph, at least for me.  I think it has to do with how black their heads are.  At just the right angle however, they are spectacular with their purple gorget shining in the sun!

Here's another White-eared Hummingbird feeding at Miller Canyon while another hummer waits it's turn.

Violet-crowned Hummingbird

Here's another male Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Arizona Spotted Whiptail from Miller Canyon in the Huachuca's.

Another Ramsey Canyon Leopard from from one of my trips up Miller Canyon.

This large Spiny Lizard is called a Clark's Spiny, they are usually found further down the mountain then their counterpart, Yarrow's Spiny.

A molting/young Broad-billed Hummer checking out some of the native vegetation.  It's interesting to note that in the summer time, even though the various feeding stations around the canyons are quite busy with hummingbirds, a large percentage still feed regularly on the native plants which is why they make the trek here in the first place, for a place to breed and or feed...

Another Clark's Spiny Lizard, the easy way to identify these lizards is to look at the front legs, you will note three stripes, running diagonally across the fore-limbs, this is an indicator for Clark's Spiny.

Probably the highlight of the season from a birding perspective for me was my first ever Lucifer Hummingbird.  I saw a couple of females earlier in the day and had gotten some pictures but it's the male that you want to photograph and when this male made one quick visit to the area, I was luckily in the right position!  Several other birders had just left after spending several hours waiting for a male Lucifer to show up at Ash Canyon but when he finally made his appearance, I was the only one there...

Quite a spectacular hummingbird I think!

Final shot of the Lucifer Hummingbird - Lucifer in Latin means "light giver" which is what the bird's name represents, not some evil connection to the underworld as an FYI...

A squirrel from Ramsey Canyon, chilling out in the shade in the late morning as things start to get a bit hot...

This moth was at the entrance to Ramsey canyon, note the eggs that you can barely see underneath the back of the wings.

A young Yellow-eyed Junco from Carr Canyon

Greater Pewee from high up the mountain in Carr Canyon.  Another life bird for me.

This little warbler had me going for a while!  I was all tuned in to find one of the specialty species from the area but instead got to photograph a Grace's Warbler as it foraged around the pine needles.

Grace's Warbler from Huachuca Mountains

Western Wood Pewee from Huachuca Mountains

Northern "Red-shafted" Flicker from same area.

View from near top of Carr canyon looking over Fort Huachuca below.  To give you an idea of the elevation here, Fort Huachuca sits at nearly 5,000 feet in elevation so I am nearly at 10,000 feet here.  Also note the rain heading our direction.  Later this day it poured!


Another shot of the same area.

This is they typical road going up the mountain, nicely graded (for the most part), narrow however and pretty much single lane.  You have to do a bit of backing up and pulling over as you meet others on the road.

Coming down off of Carr Canyon with a thunderstorm bearing down on me I watch a small gray colored snake making it's way across the road.  I thought it was a racer of some sort due to the size but as I stopped and got out of the car I saw that it was, by Ringneck snake standards, a large Ringneck snake.  This is a Regal Ringneck Snake, the largest of the group, this one was close to 18" long and a nice specimen at that.

A couple more shots of the Regal Ringneck Snake...

Near Patagonia there is a rest area that seems to attract a lot of interesting birds, it's named quite often on the Arizona/New Mexico birding list.  I made a stop there trying to pick up the Yellow-billed Cuckoos there were apparently hanging out there but instead found this Thick-billed Kingbird hanging out.

My most productive night-driving happened around the Santa Rita mountains with a large storm system approaching.  With lightning flashing all around and thunder rumbling in the distance and a still and humid night the snakes started to crawl... First up were a pair of nice Black-tailed Rattlesnakes, found within a few hundred feet of one another pretty high up in the mountains.

Blacktail Rattlesnakes are known for generally being one of the more calm and docile species and this one was no exception for sure.  He kept trying to get off the road and away from my incessant picture taking and I kept moving him back for more pictures.  We're talking about a snake approaching 4 feet in length and not once did it do more than coil back and flick it's tongue.  Never rattled, never struck, just wanted to get away.

Black-tailed Rattlesnake

Next came a great find and a "lifer" for me when I saw a large snake crossing the road.  I thought it was a Western Diamondback at first as I had just seen a very large one moving quickly off the road and was unable to get any photos of it but as I got out of the car I realized I had something different.  This is a Tiger Rattlesnake and a fat one at that, looks like it just had a meal and it too was pushing 4 feet in length.

Tiger Rattlesnake from near Madera Canyon.

For the night I saw three Black-tailed Rattlesnakes, two Western Diamondbacks and the Tiger to go along with a couple of DOR longnose snakes and another snake that was so mangled I couldn't identify it.  Not bad for an hour or so and then the skies opened up and it was time to call it a night.

My last full day in Arizona found me down near the Mexican border and slightly to the west of Nogales in an area known as Pena Blanca Springs and Sycamore canyon.  There is a pretty famous "herping" road down there called Ruby Road and the plan was to survey Pena Blanca Lake area and then head down Ruby Road to Sycamore Canyon and see what I could see before wrapping it up and catching a late afternoon flight back to San Diego.  The night before had been one of torrential downpours and I arrived at the lake to see a myriad of Vultures drying their winds, obviously soaked from the previous nights rainstorm. 

A flash or brilliant red led to finding this nice male Vermilion Flycatcher out hunting for it's insect prey.

A lot of interesting insects as usual...

Summer Tanagers were quite common in the area, I saw several males and females around the lake.

Northern Cardinals made it a threesome for the red colored birds for the morning!

This is what the area looks like.

On Ruby Road I ran into several small flocks of Rufous-crowned Sparrows.

This is the general look of the area to the west of Pena Blanca Lake.

Blue Grosbeaks were also out in force!

And another Rufous-crowned Sparrow, close up.

More Summer Tanagers were at Sycamore Canyon

As were Earless Lizards

And Whiptails...

More spectacular butterflies graced the area.  I found a small group of butterfly enthusiasts along the way, they were chasing butterflies up and down the road, some photographing while others chased down specimens with their nets.

The overall highlight of the trips to Arizona however came as I was making my way back from Sycamore Canyon.  I had hiked a couple of miles around the area and was assaulted by Chiggers which I still bear the scars of today, two months later.  If you have never been attacked by these little vermin, by all means avoid them.  They are tiny little insects that I happen to have a very bad reaction to when they bite... Anyway, enough about that!  I was driving back toward Pena Blanca Lake when I spotted a snake crossing the road, head held high off the ground.  I have seem many racer species do this so I was thinking it was some sort of racer or whipsnake and as soon as I stopped the car it started to really move off the road, fast.  I had to make a lunging dive for it, totally ripping the skin off of one knee (I have to start wearing cargo pants or something instead of shorts!) and I just managed to grab its tail before it got into the brush.  As I pulled the snake up this is what I was greeted with (above)!  I was so stoked I couldn't believe it.  I had been looking for one of these for 30 years ever since my first trip down here.  This is a Mexican Vine Snake.  They only make it into the U.S. in a couple of small areas near the border, this being one of them and here I was, holding one in my hand.  As I stood there in disbelief and shock a Border Patrol agent pulled up.  I think he was about to ask me what I was doing there but he saw the snake in my hand, shook his head, looked ahead and drove off, never said a word to me.

I tool about a billion photos of the snake before releasing it.  This was a small specimen, probably no more than 18" long although it's tail is so long and the body is so laterally compressed that it's hard to tell.  Specimens can get over 6 feet long but probably remain very thin. 

The snake is one of the rear-fanged snakes from the colubrid family of snakes.  It actually has two enlarged teeth at the back of the mouth with little grooves that run down the sides.  It produces a venom through a gland in the roof of its mouth that mixes with its saliva.  When it bites its prey, which mainly consists of lizards, it holds on and allows some of the venom to seep through the wound through capillary action and immobilizes it's prey.  Humans that have been bitten by this snake occasionally report mild irritation and numbness around the area of the bite but it's not considered any serious threat to a person. 

I noted that the snake wanted nothing to do with me, it refused to even try to bite me but boy did it not like my camera lens.  Every one of the pictures you see with it's mouth agape are a direct result of me sticking the lens in its face.  I could put my hand in front of it and got no reaction whatsoever (after the initial reaction of me catching it by the tail).

So, as stated earlier, I finally let it go and it quickly slithered off into the scrub and out of sight.  I had enough time to make one more quick stop in the Madera Canyon area before heading to the airport and was able to get a few more pictures such as this Long-tailed Brush Lizard (below).

Long-tailed Brush Lizard

A nice Western Kingbird (note the white edges of the tail feathers - the indicator of the Western species)

Another Red-tailed Hawk

And a few more interesting insects...

As I wrapped it up and packed it up, the skies were once again threatening and as the afternoon progressed another series of thunderstorms would hit the area.

Well, that's about it for this summary of an adventure that ran for about 5 weeks and 4 trips to Arizona.  I can't wait until next year!  If you want to find me in July or August there's a good chance that the best place to find me will be somewhere in the Sky Islands of SE Arizona.

Thanks for looking!

- Brad

Bird List from July/August 2008 - Arizona

Black Vulture                        

Turkey Vulture                       

Sharp-shinned Hawk                   

Cooper's Hawk                        

Northern Goshawk                     

Harris' Hawk                          

Gray Hawk                            

Swainson's Hawk                      

Red-tailed Hawk                      

Golden Eagle                          

American Kestrel                     

Prairie Falcon                       

Peregrine Falcon                     

Wild Turkey                          

Gambel's Quail                       

Montezuma Quail                      

Rock Pigeon                          

Eurasian Collared-Dove               

Mourning Dove                         

White-winged Dove                    

Common Ground-Dove                   

Yellow-billed Cuckoo                 

Greater Roadrunner                    

Barn Owl                             

Great Horned Owl                     

Lesser Nighthawk                     

Broad-billed Hummingbird             

White-eared Hummingbird              

Violet-crowned Hummingbird           

Berylline Hummingbird                

Blue-throated Hummingbird            

Magnificent Hummingbird              

Lucifer Hummingbird                  

Black-chinned Hummingbird            

Anna's Hummingbird                   

Calliope Hummingbird                 

Broad-tailed Hummingbird             

Rufous Hummingbird                   

Acorn Woodpecker                     

Gila Woodpecker                       

Ladder-backed Woodpecker             

Arizona Woodpecker                   

Northern Flicker                     

Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet        

Gray Flycatcher                      

Greater Pewee                        

Western Wood-Pewee                   

Say's Phoebe                         

Vermilion Flycatcher                 

Tropical Kingbird                    

Cassin's Kingbird                    

Thick-billed Kingbird                

Western Kingbird                     

Dusky-capped Flycatcher              

Ash-throated Flycatcher              

Brown-crested Flycatcher             

Barn Swallow                          


Cactus Wren                          

House Wren                           

Northern Mockingbird                  

Curve-billed Thrasher                

American Robin                       

Mountain Chickadee                   

Bridled Titmouse                     

White-breasted Nuthatch              


Loggerhead Shrike                    

Mexican Jay                          

American Crow                        

Chihuahuan Raven                     

Common Raven                         

European Starling                    

House Sparrow                        

Bell's Vireo                         

Plumbeous Vireo                      

House Finch                          

Lesser Goldfinch                      

Grace's Warbler                      

Painted Redstart                     

Hepatic Tanager                      

Summer Tanager                       

Flame-colored Tanager                

Spotted Towhee                       

Canyon Towhee                        

Botteri's Sparrow                    

Cassin's Sparrow                      

Rufous-crowned Sparrow               

Rufous-winged Sparrow                

Black-throated Sparrow               

Dark-eyed Junco                      

Yellow-eyed Junco                    

Northern Cardinal                    


Black-headed Grosbeak                

Blue Grosbeak                        

Varied Bunting                       

Red-winged Blackbird                 

Western Meadowlark                   

Great-tailed Grackle                 

Bronzed Cowbird                      

Brown-headed Cowbird                 

Hooded Oriole                        

Bullock's Oriole                      

Scott's Oriole                       




Herp List from July/August 2008 - Arizona

Clark’s Spiny

Yarrow’s (Mountain) Spiny

Long-tailed Brush Lizard

Lesser Earless Lizard

Elegant Earless Lizard

Arizona Zebra-tailed Lizard

Great-basin Whiptail

Sonoran Spotted Whiptail

Arizona Spotted Whiptail

Desert Grassland Whiptail

Tucson Banded Gecko

Arizona Glossy Snake

Long-nosed Snake

Black-headed Garter Snake

Regal Ringneck Snake

Mexican Vine Snake

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

Black-tailed Rattlesnake

Tiger Rattlesnake

Canyon Treefrog

Mexican Spadefoot

Couch’s Spadefoot

Great Plains Toad

Sonoran Desert Toad

Red-spotted Toad


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