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Memories of Mount Lemmon

Olive Warbler - Peucedramus taeniatusMount Lemmon looks southward over the city of Tucson, Arizona. In late April of 2017 I spent three days exploring several locations atop this sky island. I think I’ve barely scratched the surface tapping the wealth this mountain might provide.

On the advice and directions from a generous local birder I “met” online, I headed up Catalina Highway to find warblers. The road up the mountain has mile marker monuments to denote reference to locations along the highway. Milepost “0” is 4.2 miles up-slope from Tanque Verde Road. If your vehicle has a resettable “Trip” function and you are searching based on these markers, you may want to zero it out at Tanque Verde and subtract 4.2 miles for the references, or set it at Milepost “0”. The markers are posted every mile (or SHOULD be), and my notes below are given in tenths. You can figure it out.

My first stop was at Molino Basin (Milepost 5.9, elevation of 4500’). Notably absent at this elevation were warblers. I found Warbling and Bell’s Vireos, White-Winged Doves, and Ash-Throated Flycatchers. I heard Montezuma Quail, but did not get eyes on them. I longed to meet Red-Faced and other warblers, so I continued up slope.

Red-Faced Warbler - Cardellina rubrifronsA little further up-slope is General Hitchcock Campground (Milepost 12.2, elevation of 6000’). I passed by on my ascent, but stopped several days later on my way down the mountain, and I found a few warblers, but by the time of my visit, my thirst for warbler meetings had been satisfied.

The turnoff to Incinerator Ridge is at Milepost 19.5 (elevation of 8050’). I was informed that this was the promised land in my search for warblers. As I was driving up this short (2280’) dirt forestry road, it was my good fortune to meet Tim Helentjaris scouting for a “Big-Day” event coming up. He told me what he had seen, before he left to continue his scouting. His observations assured me I was on the right track and I found a place to park my RV and spent the next few days in warbler heaven.

The community of Summerhaven begins at Milepost 24.9 (elevation of 7700’) and I drove into town on my exit from Incinerator Ridge to find breakfast. After nourishing myself, I took a 6.4 mile drive down slope through town, through Upper Sabino Canyon leading to Marshall Gulch, where I met warblers, nuthatches and a Greater Pewee calling from the high canopy. To my disappointment, this bird was not inclined to show itself to me.

I know not what other seasons on this mountain might deliver, but I was elated with the meetings I had on this spring adventure.

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