Rusty’s RV Ranch near Rodeo, NM has been a regular stop ever since we began RVing in 2009. The sites are huge, the park is never crowded, the manager always friendly, the views of surrounding Chiricahua Mountains stunning, and the daily rate for parking is cut in half by using our Passport America card (with no limits on the length of stay). However, the biggest draw is that Rusty’s positions us along the New Mexico/Arizona border between Rodeo, NM and Portal, AZ with some of the best birding in the southwest within easy reach.
|our site and Rusty's and views of the Chiricahuas - rain and shine|
|view from Conrad's deck and approach to Cave Creek Canyon|
|gated entrance and water running high in the creek|
|blue-throated (top) and magnificent hummingbird|
We’d be at Rusty’s for a week so we didn’t feel pressured with our time but still, the next morning we were anxious to get out to State Line Road, a gravel road that as the name implies, is a dividing line between New Mexico and Arizona. We were a bit late getting out to the road so the birding wasn’t as robust as we had hoped. We were even more disappointed to discover the “Willow Tank” wetland located along Sulphur Canyon Road had been completely dredged and graded. No indication of what the fate of the property will be going forward but hopefully, its simply a major project to rework the wetland.
|Ste Line Road and what's left of the tank wetlands|
While it remained dry at Rusty’s, we’d witnessed a few rain squalls sweep across the top of the Chiricahuas but on Wednesday, the weather looked promising so we took advantage of the clear skies with a drive up to Rustler Park Campground. The last time we were at Rustler, the campground was still closed due to the 2011 Horseshoe II fire we had witnessed. The campground had been devastated requiring many months to rebuild and while there still remained a lot of work to be done, the road to the campground was at least now open to hiking.
|view going up to Rustler and then the campground|
|yelloe-eyed junco and gila monster|
Instead of retracing our descent we took the longer way around through the town of Paradise and then Paradise Road back to Portal. By that time of day it had warmed considerably and the birding was slow. But a chance encounter with a Gila monster crossing the road more than made up for the lack of bird life. This was the first time we had found one in the wild! As for the birds, another visit to Paradise Road from the Portal side would be in order on another day. But since we were so close to Rodeo we swung by the Chiricahua Desert Museum and Gift Store (a must see if you're anywhere near Rodeo) and then nipped in for an early evening of beer and burgers at the Rodeo Tavern.
|scaled quail and Scott's oriole|
Along the road to Herb Martyr Campground above the Southwest Research Station we came across Montezuma quail, a bird we rarely see. In fact, a bird most birders rarely see. It was turning out to be a pretty good day. We ate our packed lunch at the research station (although the gift shop was closed for the season).
|Rodriguez feeders and Anna's hummingbird|
The hummingbird feeder at our RV netted us Anna’s and broad-billed hummingbirds. Along Hwy 80, the road that connected us with Rusty’s and Portal, we stumbled upon a common black-hawk sitting atop a fencepost. Another at South Fork added MacGillivray’s warbler, hermit warbler, and black-throated gray warbler…and another stop at the Portal Cafe at the Portal peak Lodge for breakfast.
|black-chinned hummingbird and acorn woodpecker|