Monday, August 19, 2013

A Tonto Inventory

During the summer of 2003, I spent a week rafting on the Colorado River. Our flotilla bounced, rolled, and cheered its way down the river's major rapids, but there was also ample time for floating on the current and letting the Grand Canyon's magnificence wash over us. At night, we cooked and camped on the river's beaches. A few memories of the trip are especially clear: I recall encouraging the youngest members of our party to avoid harming the spiny lizards they chased around camp; rejoicing when I encountered rattlesnakes and scorpions during side hikes; and, on the last night of the trip, listening to a passionate talk by one of our guides about the Colorado's dwindling water flow. Above all, though, I remember the sublime beauty of the landscape.
Christopher Reiger
"Greater short-horned lizard; Fire Road 1170;
Tonto National Forest, AZ; August 2013"

Until this summer, ten years after that unforgettable trip, the river week was my only experience of the American Southwest, and I've wanted to return to the region for some time. When a good friend (and fellow natural history nerd) called me earlier this year and suggested we carve out some time to visit Arizona's Tonto National Forest, I was easily persuaded.

We spent most of our weeklong visit exploring the high desert trails and fire roads of Tonto's north central tract, but we also had an opportunity to spend a little time in the National Forest's southern reach, at the edge of the Sonoran Desert. It was a treat to meet so many species new to me and to have intimate encounters with other animals, like elk, that I'd previously seen in habitats very different from that of the high desert.

In future posts, I plan to share more of the photos I took in Tonto, but because some HH readers "nerd out" on natural history and/or lists like I do, I've posted below a simple inventory of the species we saw.

Arizona's Tonto National Forest -- August 6-12, 2013
* means numerous sightings
Boldface common names denote my first sighting of a species

BIRDS (43 seen & positively IDed species)
Acorn woodpecker (*)
Anna's hummingbird (~3 sightings at feeder; both male and female)
Band-tailed pigeon (2 sightings; individuals)
Black-chinned hummingbird (1 sighting; ~2-3 females)
Black-headed grosbeak (*)
Black-throated grey warbler (1 sighting of 1 male)
Blue-grey gnatcatcher (*)
Broad-tailed hummingbird (*)
Bridled titmouse (1 sighting; 1 male)
Cactus wren (1 sighting; 2-3 individuals)
Chipping sparrow (2 sightings; ~3 individuals)
Cliff swallow (2 sightings; *)
Common black hawk (1 sighting; individual)
Common raven (*)
Dark-eyed junco (1 sighting; many birds)
Eurasian collared dove (1)
Gambel's quail (2 sightings of large coveys; also heard, but not seen)
Gila woodpecker (1 sighting; individual)
Hairy woodpecker (2 sightings; 3 in all)
Hepatic tanager (1 sighting; 2 males)
Hooded oriole (2 sightings, 1 male, 2 females in all)
Juniper titmouse (1 sighting; ~3)
Lark sparrow (1 sighting, many birds)
Lesser goldfinch (1 sighting; 2 males)
Mexican jay (*)
Mountain chickadee (1 sighting; 2-3 individuals)
Mourning dove (*)
Northern flicker (1 sighting; ~3)
Painted redstart (2 sightings; 4 males in all)
Phainopepla (1 sighting; 1 male, 1 female, and 1 juvenile)
Purple martin (1 male)
Pygmy nuthatch (*)
Red-tailed hawk (2 or 3 sightings; individuals)
Spotted towhee (*)
Steller's jay (1)
Turkey vulture (*)
Western bluebird (3 sightings; ~4 in all)
Western kingbird (1)
Western scrub jay (3 sightings; ~4 in all)
Western tanager (3 sightings; both male and female)
White-breasted nuthatch (*)
White-winged dove (3 sightings; ~8 individuals)
Yellow warbler (1)

probable Cassin's kingbird (1)
possible Inca or Ground dove (1)
either Hammond's or grey flycatcher (1)
either Hutton's or Bell's vireo (~3)
heard belted kingfisher (1)

MAMMALS (6 seen & positively IDed species)
Arizona grey squirrel (*)
Black-tailed jackrabbit (1)
Desert cottontail (*)
Elk (2 sightings; 3-4 cows and 1 juvenile)
Javelina (collared peccary) (1)
Mule deer (1 sighting; 1 doe)

unIDed ground squirrel species

heard coyotes and saw tracks aplenty
also found elk bones on several occasions

REPTILES (7 species)
Arizona black rattlesnake (1 sighting; 2 snakes, 1 preparing to shed)
Desert-grassland whiptail (*)
Greater short-horned lizard (*)
Ornate tree lizard (*)
Spiny lizard (S. magister sp.) (2)
Western fence lizard (*)
Greater earless lizard (*)

INSECTS (4 species…that we IDed)
Armored stink beetle (*)
Lime green beetle (1)
Palo verde beetle (type of longhorn) (1)
Two-tailed swallowtail butterfly (*)

unIDed wind scorpion species
numerous unIDed spiders
unIDed harvestman species
Christopher Reiger
"Elk metatarsus; Tonto National Forest, AZ; August 2013"
Photo credits: both photos, copyright Christopher Reiger, 2013

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