#118: The Year of the Trogon

I posted this to my Facebook page this morning. I know I have been absent here and hope to rectify that very soon. Thanks for your patience. MJ

THE YEAR OF THE TROGON: A mini-blog for Facebook

5:45 a.m. at the corral. I'm making coffee when I hear the sound of an insane Chihuahua dog barking. Regardless of how you perceive or interpret the call of the male Elegant Trogon, it is unmistakable. The thing is though: I am about two miles from where you expect to hear it. A Mexican bird that breeds here in Cave Creek Canyon, the Elegant Trogon arrives in southern Arizona in April and May. Last year the first male was seen up South Fork Trail on April 17. This year it was three days earlier, and I saw one the following day. My first sighting of 2019 was where I expected, not only up South Fork Trail above The Bathtub but even farther - about 1/3 mile beyond the trail's first gate. But since then this season has been unusual. Birders and other visitors who are seeking to see this spectacular and gaudy "tropical" bird have had it easy. They've been seen at Sunny Flat Campground, which is the most popular of the three USFS campgrounds here in the canyon and the closest to South Fork Road (FR 42E). Instead of having to hike beautiful South Fork Trail in search of Trogons, people have observed them along the road into South Fork Canyon, near the summer cabins and even just in the parking lot at the road's end. While the females usually arrive a couple of weeks after the male, this year a female was seen the day after the first male. It certainly seems to be The Year of the Trogon.

I knew that in the past they had been seen as close to Portal as Cave Creek Ranch, presumably following the main creek down the canyon past the VIC (Visitor Information Center). So I guess I wasn't that surprised when Dawn, one of our new hosts at the VIC, messaged me a little over a week ago to notify me she had seen and heard one along the creek across from the VIC. I was at my corral camp and went down there, but I wasn't fortunate enough to see or hear a Trogon in that significant area. Then this morning I laid in bed hearing my first bird sounds of the day. The bright, high-pitched, metallic "Seep" of the Blue-throated Hummingbirds begins before the sun rises. At dawn, I hear Mexican Jays squawking, Scott's Orioles singing, and White-winged Doves cooing. But as I made coffee, I was startled to listen to the bark of an insane Chihuahua! It sounded as if it was in my corral homestead and I stormed out of my Wheelhouse, slipping on flip-flops and grabbing binoculars and camera. As I hastily untied the gate at the corral, I heard a male Elegant Trogon calling just across the road along the creek.

Then I saw his scarlet breast, dark head, and long tail as he flew not along the creek, but across the road towards me and a bit up the canyon. I stumbled along the way in my flip-flops as he moved towards the Silver Peak trailhead. He kept calling as he flew from tree to tree and I watched him at the trailhead parking lot. Then he flew again farther up the road toward Idlewilde campground. Trogons are such observable birds because they will perch in one place for ten or twenty minutes while a crowd of birders and photographers congregates around it. But this guy was on the move. He was very vocal and quickly moved from tree to tree. I managed only one inferior image that will be good enough for an eBird voucher, but not for sharing here. Instead, I will add one of last year's pictures for those unfamiliar with the amazing Elegant Trogon. 2019: The year Trogons have been everywhere in Cave Creek Canyon.


By the way, I usually blog at my own website, http://www.mjacobi.com, but have been on hiatus. I hope to resume very soon, perhaps even tonight.

For those unfamiliar with the Elegant Trogon or who want to hear its very distinct call visit https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/elegant-trogon