Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Blast From the Past: Deep Within the Jungle

Okay, so the title of this post might make you think "Oh my gosh, did Caleb go to Panama? Did he go out of the Country?" Well no and no, I didn't even go out of state, but I sure felt like I did when I was wading through the creeks and thick brush near the Clear Creek Campground (AKA West Clear Creek), located in Camp Verde, which is in Yavapai County. West Clear Creek is one of my favorite places to go, whether I'm hanging out with friends and family or looking for birds and other wildlife that live in the lush riparian jungle. West Clear Creek is just a small portion of Clear Creek, in fact it goes all the way from Camp Verde to Winslow where it turns into Silver Creek. On my most recent trip to the Clear Creek Campground (6/6/14) I paid a little more attention to the birds, but still, with my camera back at camp and my binocs in the car I did just about all of my birding by ear while I was exploring the creek with some friends. We enjoyed crawling, wading, and even swimming in the creeks with the bugs, birds and mammals that lived in them. Wading through the water also allows for better views of the birds as they take a drink, bathe, and feed on the insects.While my brother David, my friend Alexia, and I waded through one of the creeks we heard what we first thought was just a woodpecker, but that was when I said in shock "That's a Yellow-billed Cuckoo!" We then stealthily swam down the stream a little ways when we looked up about twenty feet above our heads and there it was, my lifer Yellow-billed Cuckoo! I then asked my brother if he could walk back to camp to get my camera while Alexia and I kept an eye on the bird to make sure it didn't go anywhere. But once my brother was out of sight the bird then flew deep within the very thick jungle. Before we started following the bird another Yellow-billed Cuckoo flew towards the same direction as the first bird! Upon relocating the birds we quickly found that they were a mating pair, shortly after that my brother  returned with my camera. But by then we couldn't find the birds, so I decided to get out of the creek and walk on the scorching hot river rocks while dodging cactus barefoot and try to relocate them so I could get a photo. After reaching what looked like a a nice place for the cuckoos to be I sat in the shade and put my poor blistering feet into the water to try and cool them off before I continued with what felt like coal running.While I was tending my feet I got a glimpse of one of the birds before it took flight.

Yellow-billed Cucckoo--Find Waldo!

I then repeated my hot rock dance and got a little closer, but while I was looking down to make sure I wasn't going to step on any cacti or rattlesnakes I heard the bird take flight (I knew the bird took flight because I heard the branches move). I was clueless as to where the bird was by then, but I did know one thing and that was that I wasn't going to give up! I then saw a promising grove of sycamores, willows, and cottonwoods so I hobbled over to the middle of the stand and just stared up at the canopy, when I saw the cuckoo just about thirty feet up in one of the sycamores! I slowly lifted my camera up knowing that the bird would likely take flight at the slightest sound or movement, but I was amazed that the bird just stayed in the relative area while I snapped away!

Yellow-billed Cuckoo--Crushed!!! 

After observing the cuckoo couple we returned to wading in the water searching for more animals and maybe even more cuckoos. By the end of the day we saw at least three and possibly four Yellow-billed Cuckoos and Alexia found an awesome Common Kingsnake before we left the creek.

 Alexia with her prize

 All-in-all I heard over thirty species of bird while exploring the under birded but not under visited Clear Creek Campground. I must thank my family and the Hopkins family for the awesome day of creeking! 

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