1 October 2016
Now that things have finally calmed down around the office, I decided to kick off October properly with a hike up Silver Peak. I'm lucky enough to behold this mountain from my living room window every day, yet I rarely have the few free hours needed to make the summit. Not wanting to waste this opportunity, the dog and I jumped in the truck and headed out.
A fine day to be in the Chiricahua Mountains, and we had the trail to ourselves! With 4.5 miles of trail and 3000 feet of elevation gain ahead of us, we put our heads down and hiked hard. Even though I only birded for a few minutes at a time – while pausing to catch my breath – I still managed 33 species, mostly by ear. The clear highlight was a "Mexican" Spotted Owl on a day roost only 4 feet above my head, directly over the trail! Unfortunately, this doubled as a "lowlight" for me, too, since I didn't realize it was there until I had already walked beneath it, accidentally flushing the bird to an invisible perch around the side of a cliff... Major bummer. A consolation prize was a small songbird flock in almost the same spot on the return trip from the peak, which held singletons of Mexican Chickadee, Olive Warbler, Hermit Warbler, and Painted Redstart. My first-of-season Hammond's Flycatcher was an added bonus. Checklist available on eBird.
Since I wasn't in photographic range of anything avian, non-birding subjects are what I captured today. While it's impossible to do justice to the 360º vistas available from Silver Peak, this shot overlooking Portal and the San Simon Valley is tough to beat:
Pondering this landscape from the concrete foundation of the former Silver Peak fire lookout tower (which burned down after a bizarre snowstorm lightning strike in 1992), I chanced to look down just as this odd denizen ambled across the old water cistern:
This larva of Automeris io turns into a pretty cool moth, but I personally think the caterpillar itself is a far more fascinating find!