I dismounted from my bike. Nearly a vertical mile below lay the Sonoran Desert, and our campsite in the foothills of the Chiricahuas. We had cycled up an arduous twelve mile dirt road, high into the mountains, in search of Olive Warblers. The going was incredibly slow – it took us three hours of bumpy slogging to reach the top.
I scanned the pines for any sign of movement. “There’s something,” said Ken, pointing. Something small flitted high in the tallest tree, but it always had a bunch of needles screening it from view. I craned my neck. My neck screamed in protest. “It must be a warbler, because I’m getting warbler neck.” Moments later it flew onto an open branch, flashing its orange head.
“YES!” all three of us shouted together. The Olive Warbler paused for another few moments, long enough for us to admire its contrasting black cheek and its subtle gray plumage. It was our 353rd species, well beyond my dream goal of 350 before leaving Arizona.
It fluttered to a lower branch, its orange head glowing in the sunlight. I let go of my binoculars and raised the camera. It even cooperated enough to open its mouth for the camera. “It is orange, not olive,” commented Wendy. “The ornithologist who discovered it must have worn dirty glasses.”