These are the scenes Donna and I saw as we left Rustler Park in the Coronado National forest Wednesday afternoon. We spent a blissful morning in the mountains at 8500’ in elevation searching for Mexican chickadees, Red-faced and Olive Warblers and others. We got the Mexican chickadee, a Life Bird for us both, but were totally unaware that a forest fire had broken out southeast of us. As we headed down the mountain so I could go home, we stopped to take photos of some of the beautiful scenery. Suddenly we noticed the smoke off in the distance. The smoke plume started to build and build until it filled most of the sky. From my perspective it looked like the fire was moving towards or even into Cave Creek Canyon and Portal. As I did not want to spent the night on the mountain or have to drive across the mountain to Wilcox and back around, I urged Donna, who was driving, to head down the mountain as fast as we could. While it was only 15 miles to Portal, it took us 45 minutes to drive down the steep, winding dirt road. Of course, we did stop one more time to get photos. Who could resist! All of the following pictures were taken at a hairpin turn on the road down from Rustler Park, except for the last shot which was taken from the small town of Rodeo in New Mexico.
The above shots are taken from the side of the Chiricahua mountains looking SE to Cave creek Canyon. When we got to the canyon it was full of smoke. I heard on the news that the fire was 300 acres in size as of 10 PM last night. I left to drive home, but Donna was spending another night in Portal. She is one determined birder and after saying our good-byes she was off again to do more birding despite the smoke. She was out of the parking lot before I was! I do not know how she is since there is absolutely no cell phone reception in Portal. If you are going birding there this weekend, you might want to check ahead!
On my way home I took a 2 mile detour to the town of Rodeo, NM to see the fire from that perspective (and to count birds)! This is a view of the fire from the main street of Rodeo looking west into Arizona.
I made it home about 7 p.m. last night, unpacked, took a soak in our new hot tub and went to bed. I was up by 4:45 a.m. to join my team of volunteers to do our Important Bird Area Survey of Sabino Canyon. I’ve taken a nap and off-loaded my photos. I hope to have the rest of the story and the birding stats posted soon!
Happy Skywatch Friday Everyone!