For many birders, the Elegant Trogon is on their 'life list'. If a birder is very lucky they actually see one. Getting a decent photograph of this bird is a plus. The Elegant Trogon migrates North from Central America in the spring to nest and breed. It is estimated that as few as 50 pairs make it as far north as the Chiricahua Mountains in southern Arizona. A couple of pairs are reported to migrate to South Fork, along Cave Creek, near a very small community named Portal. They fly south to Central America in September.
Elaine, her sister Rosalind, and Susan spent four days in Portal to photograph the many birds that is drawn to the area. But, their real goal was to photograph the Elegant Trogon. The three ladies prepped for months, planning everything from menus, camera gear, even learning the Grand Trogan's mating call. On the day I hiked with them we were told that two pair had been spotted on the South Fork Trail, specifically beyond the picnic area. It would take a 4 mile plus roundtrip hike to get to the area where the pairs had been spotted. Of course, we all took photos along the way.
As we hiked further and further the excitement began to build. We reached the picnic area and several people reported that they had seen Elegant Trogons just a bit further. How far is just a bit further after a 2 mile hike? Just enough to keep us going! I was not in the forward scouting group so I missed the look on Elaine's face as she spotted her first Trogon. But it was not long before we spotted her coming quickly back on the trail to get us, letting us know it was just ahead of us. I noticed that we all became more quiet, almost whispering to each other, as we wanted to locate the male's characteristic mating song (some have described it as a dog's bark, others as a seal calling). The female Trogon in not as colorful as the male, but is still a gorgeous bird.
Another great experience was visiting the various 'feeding stations' that are maintained by people living in the area. They keep feeders going, sometimes replenishing food three or more times a day! People are invited to stop by, grab a seat and just watch the many varieties of birds that show up. Feeder hosts also know their birds, can assist with identification and they keep in touch with each other so they can let you know what is going on in the area. Small donations help in defraying the cost of the food they put out.
The little community of Portal has a general store and a Post Office. Catering to birders is the main business in town.
Just arriving, or leaving, the Chiricahua Mountains is a photographic treat.
What fun! Birders are great photography buddies. They get excited over bird sounds, even more excited when they spot one they are looking for. They understand patience. They accept that they are not in control. Birds show up and take off as they wish. Most of all, they have a passion for birds that motivates them to hike, wait, listen and in the end they may have the shot of the beautiful bird as it perched behind branches, leaves, twigs and in blown out highlights. As they look at the image they say, "What a beautiful bird!" I leave you with my best bird shot.