Saturday, June 22, 2013

Flame-colored Tanager via Colima Death March

 A bit of background: 6 May, Flame-colored Tanager was reported near the junction of Boot and Juniper trails by Mark Flippo, retired BBNP staff who continues to remain designated Trail Ninja. It has been seen/sort-of-seen almost daily since then. Our first attempt was on 28 May. It's funny, claiming the Colima Death March (traditionally a combination of Pinnacles or Laguna Meadows trails to Colima Trail... and back) in the name of a non-Colima. While we did trot past ~5 singing Colima Warblers on our way up Pinnacles (the steeper and more grueling, but shorter of the approaches), our goal was the same as it was last time... Flame-colored Tanager. "Heard-only" is a heck of a foot note for such a gorgeous bird, but that's what it was. So we had to give it another try. In late June. Because we are masochists and that's what our schedule allowed.

Colima Warbler before sun reached our slope.

Boot Canyon itself is listed as 'strenuous' but fails to mention 'grueling' in the description! Our traditional approach ends up being something like 11-12 miles round trip. Boot Canyon, as a trail, is not bad at all. But you have to GET to it first! Darn the Pinnacles...

Flame-colored Tanager, 21 June 2013

This time we were able to make it out of Marathon before 5 am and hit the trail just before 6:30 am. We scooted past Hutton's Vireo (food carrying), singing and snacking Colima Warblers, Canyon Wrens falling/chasing each other down a cliff face, and begging/parent-chasing White-throated Swifts. Nearing the end of the trek, we were graced by the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Bird Counts Past: Ron Weeks. Also, the Ghost of Gulf Coast Birding Past: Brad Lirette. Having not seen either of them in roughly 10 years, it was a very hasty but pleasant reunion (and introduction to Matt) as they graciously backtracked up the trail to show us the spot where we'd waited for hours last time: instead of sticking to the ridge line, however, the female Western Tanager and male Flame-colored Tanagers were staying mid-canopy along the trail!

Golden Banded-Skipper (Autochton cellus)

Butterflies were definitely out as well: Arizona Sister, Two-tailed Swallowtail, Lyside Sulphur, American Snout, Varigated Fritillary, Gulf Fritillary, Golden-banded Skipper, Juniper Hairstreak, etc.

Painted Redstart adult, preening.

In addition to the flame-colored proverbial icing on the cake, we shared the morning with a cluster of Painted Redstarts, Black-crested Titmice feeding young, singing Colima Warblers, singing Black-headed Grosbeaks, singing Hepatic Tanagers, fly-by Summer Tanagers, one Band-tailed Pigeon, groups of Mexican Jays, a pair of Dusky-capped Flycatchers, a Cordilleran Flycatcher, some Hutton's Vireos, a female Lucifer Hummingbird, and a smattering of other high-elevation goodies.
As we were leaving the park, we stopped at Panther Junction on social rounds and were given directions to a hybrid agave/lechuguilla... but that may be a plant for another post!

Click here for the eBird list from Boot Canyon, and here for the eBird list from Pinnacles Trail.

Here's another pile of Flame-colored goodness, all heavily cropped:

Flame-colored Tanager, 21 June 2013

Flame-colored Tanager, 21 June 2013

Flame-colored Tanager, 21 June 2013

Flame-colored Tanager, 21 June 2013


  1. What a wonderful trip. Must be wonderful to have the young, strong legs to do this. Thanks for sharing your photos!

    1. Young, strong legs certainly got us up and back - but they've also been reminding us about it ever since! Usually the third day after the trek is when legs get back to non-jello state!