My long-time birding friend Duan Biggs happens to find reasons to travel to the USA on a near-annual basis. Those reasons will of course diminish as Duan’s North American birdlist grows. But until then, I’ll be sure to clean my schedule to mix catching up and a little bit of twitching during Duan’s trips. This year a meeting Duan attended in Arizona provided the catalyst. Needless to say, convincing me to jump on a plane en route to lots and lots of lifers didn’t take much effort. Here I chronicle our trip through eastern Arizona and western New Mexico.
Located in southwestern USA, Arizona and New Mexico is best known for its desert landscapes teeming with xerophyte plants (most famously Saguaros) and dry-country birds. The natural riches of south-western USA are however not restricted to deserts; Pine-covered mountains are also on offer throughout the region. Notable among these are the Colorado Plateau in the northern portion of the two states, which contains the largest Ponderosa Pine forest in the world, and the Grand Canyon which is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Then there are the Madrean Sky Islands, enclaves of pine-oak woodlands covering a complex of small mountain ranges (including the Chiricahua, Huachuca, Santa Rita and Santa Catalina Mountains) in the south-central part of the region but extending into northern Mexico. All these areas are flanked by the Sonoran Desert in the west and Chihuahuan Desert in the east, the latter a contender for the biologically most diverse desert in the world. The Madrean Sky Islands are particularly popular among local birders as it host a number of sought-after bird species found nowhere else in the USA, including Elegant Trogon, Gray Hawk, Mexican Chickadee and Mexican Jays, multiple hummingbird species, as well as mammals such as Ocelot, Black-tailed Prairie Dog, Coati, and Juvenila.
Interestingly, Arizona and Hawaii are the only USA states that does not observe Daylight Savings Time.
Key birding resources
- Dunn, J.L. & Alderfer, J. 2006. National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America. National Geographic Society. Washington, DC.
- Sibley, D.A. 2000. The Sibley Guide to Birds. Alfred A. Knopf. New York.
- Ebird, together with the iphone App BirdsEye
- Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory
- The Avian Sites website
- Maricopa Audubon Society’s Birding Guide
- Tucson Audubon Society’s Birding Guide
- New Mexico Ornithological Society
- The Arizona-New Mexico birding email list
- Seasonal abundances of Arizona birds over the last five years can be found here
Visas, transport, and accommodation
I (South African citizen) was on a F-1 student visa in the USA, while Duan (Australian citizen) was able to apply for an electronic visa online. Most visitors probably need visas to enter the USA, and case-specific information is easy to obtain.
Note that it’s critical to carry your travel documentation with you at all times in especially SW USA. This is because Arizona and New Mexico borders Mexico, and immigration has become a sensitive political subject in the USA in recent times. This is especially true in Arizona, where some very stringent immigration laws were recently passed. I have never seen border police as visible as in Arizona; at times it seemed that there was more border police than citizens in southern Arizona.
Like elsewhere in the USA, transport and accommodation options are abundant. Sadly for a student these do not come cheap, and my budget was stretched very thin on this trip. You can however save massively on accommodation: for the first time I looked at options at RV-parks which proved awesome – cheap camping ($7/night where we were) that included showers and a wireless internet connection! Because of our schedules we could not save on our rental car by renting in the city rather than airport.
Day 1, March 17, 2011
Not much happened on our first day. Duan finished his conference, and I arrived late. We met up at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in the late afternoon, and after collecting our rental car headed north. Just after sunset we tried our luck at Mountain Pygmy Owl at Mt. Ord without success. I did however see an Elk while driving through Payson en route to the northern section of the Sitgreaves National Forest, where we spent the night camping at Canyon Point.
Day 2, March 18, 2011
We started the day birding the northern edge of the Mogollon Rim (on the “Rim Road”) that traverses the northern section of the Sitgreaves National Forest. We were quick to pick up western US specials such as Pygmy Nuthatch, Red-shafted Flicker, Violet-green Swallow, and Western Bluebird, but it took a bit of time until we found our first target species– a beautiful Olive Warbler. We failed with Williamson’s Sapsucker, Red Crossbill and Mountain Bluebird.
Then it was time chasing our tails looking for Jacques Marsh, hoping to see Canvasback, Mountain Bluebird, and Red Crossbill. When we finally arrived at what we think was Jacques Marsh (maybe not?), none of our target birds were present, though a lone Common Goldeneye offered some consolation. We also saw our only flock of Lewis’ Woodpecker for the trip in Show Low, and our first Say’s Phoebe and Woodhouse Scrub-Jay in the Heber-Overgaard area.
After we called it the day on the elusive Jacques Marsh we headed off to northern New Mexico. The I-40 (which is the same road I commute on between my university and house in North Carolina!) took us through the town of Holbrook which was interesting. Reminding us of one of those sleepy one-horse towns featuring in movies, the most bizarre thing about Holbrook was the amount of shops selling (sometimes large) pieces of petrified wood; stopping at one of these for a closer look comes highly recommended. One also cannot miss signs for Petrified Forest National Park, which was our last stop for the day. The loop road through the Park provided us not only with some spectacular scenery at the Painted Desert early on and petrified trees towards the end, but also Golden Eagle, Horned Lark, Sage Thrasher, Black-chinned Sparrow (at Chinde Point) and Cassin’s Finch (at the Rainbow Forest Museum). A surprise at Whipple Point was a Cassin’s Sparrow (according to Ebird a first for the park). After all the petrified excitement we headed to Albuquerque where we spent the night at a Day’s Inn just off the I-40.
Day 3, March 19, 2011
Our first stop of the day was the Embudito Canyon trailhead. If you’re into spectacular surroundings, a desert feel, and neatly manicured trials, this is a place for you (though, be warned of the joggers). The trailhead also offered some excellent birds for our list, notably a group of obliging Scaled Quail (we also saw Gambell’s Quail here), White-winged Dove, a pair of nesting Curve-billed Thrashers, many Canyon Towhees, as well as other neat species like Bushtit, nesting Cactus Wren, and Woodhouse Scrub Jay.
After starting the day with a bang, it was time to hit Sandia Mountains (keeping a careful eye on Rosyfinch.com to make sure the rosy finches were still around). The Sandia Mountains did not disappoint, and we started seeing target birds such as Juniper Titmouse, Red-breasted Nuthatch and White-breasted Nuthatch, Mountain Chickadee, and Stellar’s Jay as soon as we entered the Cibola National Forest. En route to Sandia Crest we also heard the first Mountain Pygmy-Owl of the trip (the bird came tantalizingly close but we never saw it). Finding the famed rosy finches of Sandia Crest was as easy as arriving, and we enjoyed four species of Rosy finches (Grey-crowned, Brown-capped, Black, and Hepburn’s) at the restaurant’s feeder while having lunch. Spring had however not totally arrived at Sandia Crest yet, so a chilly breeze outside the restaurant restricted our outdoor birding activities to mere seconds before hitting the road towards out next destination, trying (and failing) to locate American Three-toed Woodpecker on our way down the mountain.
Our last birding stop for the day was Randall Davey Audubon Center, where Pinion Jay, Clark’s Nutcracker, Mountain Bluebird and Dusky Grouse was reported in recent weeks. The road to the Center took us through a very arty section of Santa Fe. Sadly, we had no success finding any of our targets at the Center, though we did see more Woodhouse’s Jay, Stellar’s Jay, Mountain Chickadee, Bushtit, White-winged Dove, and multiple Grey-headed Juncos competing with Pine Siskin, House Finch, and Cassin’s Finch at a bird feeder. The Center also gave us our only Red Squirrel for the trip, as well as Mountain Cottontail. As we headed from the Center towards Santa Fe, an obliging Black-billed Magpie hopping over the road was a pleasant surprise.
A motel in Socorro allowed us to spend the night very close to our first destination for day 4, Bosque del Apache NWR.
Day 4, March 20, 2011
Today’s main aim was Aplomado Falcon. Though one of the USA’s most difficult resident birds, we were confident we would find this bird because (a) regular Ebird rarity reports indicate that the Marsh Loop of Bosque was REDHOT at the time, and (b) if we fail, I obtained directions to nearby nesting sites from my friend Matt Snider who spent his spring (he sadly left a mere week before we arrived) working on Aplomado Falcon just outside the Refuge. Well, to cut a long story short, we spent multiple hours on the Marsh Loop and at the nesting sites without success. Well, we may have seen an Aplomado Falcon at the nesting sites, but the suspicious raptor that reminded of a Peregrine was just too far for conclusive ID. (Ironically, an ebird report of an Aplomado Falcon came the next day, from the main road passing the Wildlife Refuge)
Fortunately we did not end the day empty-handed. Scoping multiple raptors on the Marsh Loop (and there were MANY) resulted in multiple sightings of Northern Harriers, various Red-tailed Hawk morphs, Ferruginous Hawk, and a surprise light-morph Rough-legged Hawk. We also had success with our waterbird targets, with Neotropical Cormorant (side-by-side with Double-crested Cormorant) being the first bird we saw on the Marsh Loop, while a group of Ross’ Geese were foraging on corn stubble on the south-eastern end of the Marsh loop. Later the day we also found a mixed flock of Ross’ Geese and Snow Geese at a pond next to the road approaching the Refuge. While we missed the recently reported Canvasback and Greater Scaup, other welcome waterbirds at Bosque included Gadwall, Cinnamon Teal, Northern Shovelers, Northern Pintail, Redhead, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Western Grebe, and Lesser Canada Goose, while Sandhill Crane, Marsh Wren, and Ladder-backed Woodpecker also made an appearance. Birding the Aplomado breeding sites also provide us with a pair of Chihuahua Ravens, some Horned Larks, and a Western Kingbird. Lastly, perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was a isolated population of Joshua Trees near the Holloman Air Force Base located southeast of Bosque del Apache NWR, a species supposedly restricted to the Mojave Desert further west (I’m struggling to find any references on this population on the internet so I would appreciate any comments someone might have).
Sadly, as sunset crept closer we found it hard to justify another day on Aplomado Falcon at a rather isolated site so we decided to call an end to our New Mexico birding adventures. With that, we headed off to the Chiricahua Mountains in south-eastern Arizona, seeing numerous Black-tailed Jackrabbits en route. We ended the night with a Common Poorwill in the road just before the Idlewind Camping Grounds on the edge of the Coronado National Forest, where we spent the night.
Day 5, March 21, 2011
We started the day hitting the area east of Portal in search of Crissal’s Thrasher. The feeders at Dave Jasper’s house were abuzz with activity, and we quickly recorded Verdin, Cactus Wren, Black-throated Sparrow, Gambell’s Quail, Pyrrhuloxia (side by side with Northern Cardinals for comparison), Green-tailed Towhee, and a few cooperative Juvanilas joining the bird party. A few minutes of relaxing at the feeders soon rewarded us with an obliging Crissal’s Thrasher feeding on the ground underneath the feeders among Lesser Goldfinch, Spotted Towhees, and Canyon Towhees.
After the Crissal’s Thrasher excitement it was time to hit the Chiricahua Mountains, stopping briefly at Portal Peak Lodge and Store’s feeders where we saw more Juvanilas, Acorn Woodpeckers, House Finch, Pine Siskin, and Lesser Goldfinch. Our first stop in the Cave Creek Canyon area of the Chiricahua Mountains was South Fork road, where we saw Mexican Jay and Painted Redstart. An Elegant Trogon recording brought in a trogon-sized bird flashing into a nearby tree, but frustratingly we never had another look at this bird.
After a bit more prodding around the South Fork Rd, it was time to head further up the Chiricahua Mountain towards Rustler Park (where we saw a lone American Robin here but didn’t spend too much time here) and Barefoot Park (where we saw Ruby-crowned Kinglet and our first Yellow-eyed Juncos). Spending much less time than anticipated in the higher elevations of the Chiricahua Mountain we used the extra time birding the road down the mountain a bit more intensely. This proved very rewarding, as we recorded Cassin’s Vireo, Red-backed Junco, Spotted Creeper, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Mexican Chickadee, a flock of Red Crossbills, and Bridled Titmouse.
After seemingly exhausting our Chiricahua Mountain options it was time winding through south Arizona towards the Santa Rita Mountains via the Sulphur Valley. En route to the Kansas Settlement Area we passed through the town of Douglas for some food, recording Ladderbacked Woodpecker, Vermillion Flycatcher, and Dusky Flycatcher while driving around town. We also saw a few thrashers in the Sulphur Springs Valley en route to Kansas Settlement that we identified (perhaps wrongly? We did’t think so) as Curve-billed Thrasher (as opposed to the more common Bendire Thrasher). Another oversight here (and possible elsewhere) were the Meadowlarks: having seen both Western and Eastern Meadowlarks we paid little attention to individuals here that might in fact end up a future separate species: Lillian’s Meadowlark. We did however have some successes at the agricultural fields of Kansas, particularly with raptors where we picked up Ferruginous Hawk, Swainson’s Hawk, Northern Harrier, and an immature Zone-tailed Hawk among the more numerous Red-tailed Hawks. The fields also hosted mixed flocks of Red-winged Blackbird and Brewer’s Blackbird, Lark Bunting, and Vesper Sparrow, while Loggerhead Shrike, Black Phoebe, Say’s Phoebe, and Greater Roadrunner were seen on the area’s road edges. Despite extensive searching we did not see the reported Mountain Plovers. We spent the night at a Day’s Inn near Benson.
Day 6, March 22, 2011
At daybreak we headed straight to the Holy Trinity Monastry just south of St. David where some rare birds were recently recorded. Soon after our arrival here we were greeted with a host of species characteristic of SW USA, notably Gambell’s Quail, White-winged Dove, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, and Cactus Wren, as well as our trip’s first Phainopepla and Gila Woodpecker. We struggled a bit finding the location where a Rufous-backed Robin was reported, but eventually had good views of this tropical stray (in associated with a Hermit Thrush).
Wrapping up at St David, it was time to visit the famous B&Bs south of Sierra Vista. First was Ash Canyon B&B where we saw a whole host of firsts for the trip: multiple hummingbirds (Broad-billed, Anna’s, Broad-tailed, Rufous), Arizona Woodpecker, Hepatic Tanager, Lincoln Sparrow, Bullock’s Oriole, Scott’s Oriole, more Mexican Jays, Gila Woodpecker, Bushtit, and Bridled Titmouse. Ash Canyon also provided some good views of our first Arizona Grey Squirrels of the trip. Mary Jo Ballator at Ash Canyon B&B then referred us to Battiste B&B where Tony Battiste showed us Calliope Hummingbird and another Rufous Hummingbird. After this excitement and en route to Patagonia town we tried to reach Sawmill Canyon for Buff-breasted Flycatcher, but it became clear after trying a few roads that the only way through was either with a permit we did not have, or entering Fort Huachuca from which we were turned away as we were not USA citizens.
After we arrived at Patagonia our first stop was Paton’s Yard where Michael Marsden pointed out a stunning Violet-crowned Hummingbird (sharing feeders with various other Hummingbird species), and soon thereafter Inca Dove, Gray Flycatcher, Curve-billed Thrasher, Canyon Towhee, Lincoln’s Sparrow, and a trio of orioles (Hooded, Bullock’s, and Scott’s). While appreciating Pine Siskin and Lesser Goldfinch at the feeders, a Lawrence’s Goldfinch male also made an unannounced appearance, which was quite the rare bird for the area judging by the reaction of those present and the speed at which local twitchers with big lenses arrived. After collecting some information from the local birders present at Paton’s Yard we headed to Patagonia’s Roadside Rest Area where we picked up Western Kingbird, a trio of wrens (Bewick’s, Rock, Canyon), Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, and a few warblers (Wilson’s, Black-throated Gray, and Painted Redstart) but no Gray Hawk. We reached Patagonia Lake State Park with a few daylight hours to spare. The birding trial along the lake proved productive, with Cinnamon Teal, LOTS of Vermillion Flycatchers, Cassin’s Vireo, Bell’s Vireo, Bridled Titmouse, Marsh Wren, House Wren, and a nice flock of migratory warblers (Lucy’s, Yellow, Orange-crowned, Audubon’s, Wilson’s). Sadly no Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet or Elegant Trogon, which meant more time in the park the following day.
Our final task for the day was hunting down some owls. We targeted Miller Canyon, which we knew hosted Whiskered (upper reaches) and Western Screech Owl, while we also had an outside chance for Mexican Spotted Owl. Well, we ended up failing in all of these, while we also could not track down an Elf Owl that called repeatedly on the eastern foot of the Huachuca Mountains (or rather, we didn’t want to trespass in order to get a closer look). To complete our failing owl mission, we also heard (but didn’t see) a Great Horned Owl. We ended this mission rather late, so spent the night nearby at a hotel in Huachuca City.
Day 7, March 23, 2011
We entered Patagonia Lake State Park as early as possible, aiming straight for the birding trial in search of an Elegant Trogon reported the previous week. We saw a very obliging Broad-billed Hummingbird early on the trial, a few flycatchers (Gray, Vermillion, Pacific-slope), Say’s Phoebe, Phainopepla and repeats of all the warblers we saw the previous day. Alas, no Trogon despite extensive searching. We also had another oversight here, where we did not specifically note whether the Mallards we saw here were indeed Mexican Mallards (a possible full species), Mallards, or hybrids.
With time running out at Patagonia Lake we had to leave for Tubac in time for some raptor watching. This proved amazing: we started seeing Turkey Vulture flocks all the way from Nogales following the Santa Cruz River. At Tubac Bridge we met up with local birder John Higgins in spectacular fashion, with him shouting Zone-tailed Hawk!! One would forgive any non-birding bystanders to wonder what was up with the man. Even so, thanks to John’s quick thinking, and Duan’s emergency-stopping skills, we had brief but good sights of our only Zone-tailed Hawk at 9:15A. Upon seeing this bird, an adult, it became apparent why people consider it so close to Turkey Vultures (its really only the tail band that separates the two); identifying the immature bird at Kansas proved much easier. Then, a few minutes afterwards, at 9:25A, we saw our first and only Common Black-Hawk of the day. While watching the migratory raptors, a Gray Hawk called incessantly from within the riverine Cottonwoods next to the Tubac Bridge, but frustratingly never showed itself. After the hawk watching we had a short walk along the De Anza trial finding notably Abert’s Towhee. With all but one raptor target seen, we returned to the Patagonia area hoping for Gray Hawk while wrapping up on a few other targets.
En route to Patagonia we stopped at Pena Blanca Lake, our main target being Least Grebe. Up to seven Least Grebes have been reported from the quiet southern end of the lake, and we found them broken up in two groups. While looking for the grebes we also recorded the region’s first Dusky-capped Flycatcher of the season, though we never found the Sedge Wren also reported from the area.
Back at Patagonia we first ticked off a very obliging Western Screech-Owl at its daytime roost in the Nature Conservancy’s Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve, before trying again (but failed) for Gray Hawk breeding in the vicinity. With just more than an hour of daytime birding left, Duan and I then had to make a call whether we try for Patagonia Lake’s Black-capped Gnatcatchers or Boterri’s Sparrows reported south of the lake. We chose the latter seeing that the gnatcatcher was recently also reported from Florida Canyon. Though we ended up failing to find Boterri’s Sparrow (and also Black-chinned Sparrow), we were eventually successful in finding a Rufous-winged Sparrow in association with some Black-throated Sparrows and Rufous-crowned Sparrows.
Our last mission for the day was another stab at finding owls, this time at the Mt. Wrightson Picnic Area in upper Madera Canyon. We were quick to hear Mountain Pygmy-Owls and Whiskered Screech-Owls, but once again failed to catch even a glimpse of a single owl; we failed altogether with Mexican Spotted Owl. We spent the night at the Bog Springs campgrounds.
Day 8, March 24, 2011
We started the day at Florida Canyon in the hope of finding Black-capped Gnatcatcher. Finding the specific spot where this rarity was reported from proved difficult, and we ended walking the Florida Canyon trial up to almost the canyon’s crest. In the process we recorded Hammond’s Flycatcher, three species of towhee (Green-tailed, Canyon, Spotted) and a few warblers near the start of the trial, and Black-chinned Sparrow and Black-throated Sparrows towards the waterfall. Sadly, we left Florida Canyon without the gnatcatcher, despite eventually finding and extensive searching in the area where the individual was seen a few days earlier.
After Florida Canyon we returned to Madera Canyon, switching between Santa Rita Lodge (where we saw Arizona Woodpecker, Mexican Jay, Bridled Titmouse, and Hepatic Tanager) and Madera Kubo B&B (lots of Broad-billed Hummingbirds). Our main target at Madera Kubo was a Blue-throated Hummingbird seen a few days earlier; we did see a rather large promising hummingbird but after a brief fly-over the bird never returned while we were there. We also made sporadic visits to Madera’s Amphitheater in search of a reported Elegant Trogon, but with no luck. Similarly, the Magnificent Hummingbird reported at Santa Rita never made an appearance. As we were packing up our camping equipment, Lady Luck however made an appearance when Duan connected with a photographer RIGHT OPPOSITE OUR TENT SITE trying to get photos of a very cooperative Magnificent Hummingbird.
Having given Blue-throated Hummingbird and Elegant Trogon a fair shot, and knowing our chances were slim to see our other Madera Canyon target (Montezuma Quail), we decided to try our luck one last time to see a Gray Hawk at Tubac Bridge. We were lucky, as a calling Gray Hawk flew over the Cottonwoods soon after our arrival. After also recording our only Cassin’s Kingbird for the trip on the telephone wires at the bridge, we were off to Tucson.
Tucson proved to be productive in an unexpected way. We passed a first for both Duan and I – an airplane graveyard – en route to the Chuck-Ford Lakeside Park. In fact, this graveyard officially known as the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group of the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base is considered the biggest in the world, with more than 4000 retired aircraft. For those interested, public tours of the facility is offered through the Pima Air and Space Museum next door.
Lakeside Park provided us with quite a few new mammals for the trip, notably Black-tailed Prairie Dog and Round-tailed Ground Squirrel. In terms of birds we recorded Costa’s Hummingbird, Black-necked Stilt, and Lark Sparrow, and after a bit of searching our target bird, a few Bronzed Cowbirds (look for the red eyes) blending in well with a mixed flock of European Starling, Brewer’s Blackbird, and Brown-headed Cowbird. With the Cowbird in the pocket it was time to hit Agua Caliente Park in search of a Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet. In the process of failing to see the Tyrannulet we were entertained by Merlin, Gray Flycatcher, Verdin, Phainopepla, and even a daytime Great Horned Owl. At sunset we met Clint Powell who leads bird walks in Agua Caliente. Clint pointed us to the location for the Tyrannulet, but as daylight hours came to an end we knew we had to come back to Agua Caliente the next day.
We left Agua Caliente for northern Tucson, and after failing to see Lesser Nighthawk or Elf Owl we ended spending the night at a RV park nearby.
Day 9, March 25, 2011
At daybreak we decided to put the Tyrannulet on hold for the day by first birding Sweetwater Wetland. Upon arrival at the wetland we saw a very obliging Sora in the marshland, Curve-billed Thrasher on top of a nearby building, and Yellow-headed Blackbird among a flock of Red-winged Blackbirds. We also found our main target, Harris’ Hawk with relative ease at the Roger Rd WTF opposite the wetland. With the hawk in the pocket (but failing to see the Summer Tanager) we left for the Santa Cruz Flats north of Tucson.
On route to the Santa Cruz flats we stopped at the El Camino del Cerro bridge over the Santa Cruz River to look for a Clay-colored Sparrow that didn’t show up, though we did see Tree Swallow, Cliff Swallow, and Northern Rough-winged Swallow, as well as Brewer’s Sparrow and Lark Bunting. Our Santa Cruz Flats visit proved very rewarding indeed: apart from finding our target with ease (a Ruddy Ground-dove associated with three Common Ground-doves), we were also entertained with some spectacular aerial acrobatics by a Golden Eagle and group of about seven Crested Caracaras. Then it was off to the Evergreen Turf Farm to look for Mountain Plover.
Finding the Evergreen Turf Farm was much easier said than done mostly because I lost the charger to my iphone, which we became totally dependent upon. My written notes noted that the Farm was between Petzer and Tweedy, which we interpreted as towns. Information we received at Picacho Peak State Park (where we saw Verdin, Curve-billed Thrasher, Cactus Wrens, Red-shafted Flicker, and our first Gilded Flicker) and a nearby post office both suggested we needed to head towards the area east of Arizona city. Only after we gave up and bought a new charger in Arizona City that we found that we were truly on a wild goose chase in a totally wrong direction. Evergreen Turf Farm was equally frustrating as we spent quite a few hours getting to a location that did not have our target birds (Mountain Plover). After seeing American Pipit and some more Horned Lark we decided it’s time to give the Tyrannulet another try. Back at Agua Caliente we had a lovely Harris’ Hawk flying low overhead, and another Ash-throated Flycatcher. The Tyrannulet remained elusive, so we headed to the Rincon Mountain Unit of the Suguaro National Park for a brief moment to look at some Gambell’s Quail and another Gilded Flicker before heading back to Agua Caliente for one last try on the Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, which we FINALLY found at 6:15pm.
Once we found the Tyrannulet it was essentially dark, so after we had a brief dinner we first tried Elf Owl in the Rincon Mountain Unit of the Suguaro National Park one last time, before heading to Mount Lemmon north-east of Tucson where we were rewarded with a very obliging Whiskered Screech-Owl (but not any of the Mountain Pygmy-Owls calling incessantly in the background). Working our way through Phoenix (looking for Lesser Nighthawk at Papago Park, we finally arrived at the famed Salome/Baseline Thrasher Site near Buckeye where we spent the night right at the thrasher site.
Day 10, March 26, 2011
Our last dedicated birding day started with a bang, as we stumbled ‘out of bed’ ready to see thrashers on the Salome Highway just west of Buckeye. And the Thrasher site did not disappoint, as we were quick to track down our last two thrashers for the trip (Bendire’s Thrasher and Le Conte’s Thrasher) without much effort. With these in the bag we headed south towards the nearby old Highway 80, where some good waterbirds were recently seen. Highlights here were White-faced Ibis, Osprey, many Swainson’s Hawks, as well as Burrowing Owls, Greater Roadrunner, and both Round-tailed Ground-squirrel and Harris’ Ground-squirrels. Continuing with waterbirds, we followed our way to Phoenix picking up Common Merganser at the Pebble Creek Gold Community in Goodyear. 91st Avenue WRT near Tres Rios Wetland in Tolleson was particularly productive, and we recorded notably our trip’s first Green-winged Teal, Redhead, Black-necked Stilt, and American Avocet.
With our trip itinerary largely done we had some decisions to make. We could (a) try again for some of the birds we missed south of Tucson, (2) head over to the Gulf of California to look for Blue-footed Booby and other seabirds at Puerto Peñasco in northern Mexico (we toyed with this idea prior to this trip), or (3) call it the day on the birds and visit the Grand Canyon. We eventually opted for the Grand Canyon, hoping to maybe pick up some species of the southern Rocky Mountains (Pinion Jay, Clark’s Nutcracker, Mountain Bluebird, Californian Condor) in the process. The road to the Canyon proved rather spectacular, as we first drove though some amazing Suguaro plains along the Black Canyon freeway between Phoenix and Black Canyon City before reaching snow-covered Conifer forests around Mountainaire. Maybe it’s a bit of ignorance, but I was a bit surprised to find quite a bit of snow also in the Grand Canyon National Park, seeing as I always associated the area with dry desert. We did however arrive late so did not have much time at the southern rim before nightfall. A flock of Evening Grosbeaks was the last birds we saw the day, and we spent the night at a hotel in the Village.
Day 11, March 27, 2011
The last day of the trip was spent exploring the southern rim of the Grand Canyon on a relaxed pace. We spent quite a bit of time around Grand Canyon village, picking up goodies such as Woodhouse Scrub-Jay, Juniper Titmouse, Mountain Chickadee, and Dark-eyed Junco. As we appreciated the views towards Desert View, some birding surprises also made an appearance, notably Zone-tailed Hawk (Yavapai Point), Northern Goshawk (Mather Point), and Red-naped Sapsucker (Yaki Point). Most of our target species however remained elusive as we started making our return journey to Phoenix Skyharbor Airport.
I always knew Arizona was a favorite among birders visiting the USA, but I always took this with a pinch of salt. Sure there’s many birds, but I grew up in a country where you can see over 300 species in a day so numbers don’t really impress me. What impresses me more is seeing spectacular in awesome landscapes and in the company of pleasant people.
I am happy to report that Arizona-New Mexico provided us with all the ingredients of an awesome birding experience. We visited snow-covered conifer forests and alpine rocklands at the southern Rocky Mountain foothills, awesome desert landscapes in southern Arizona-New Mexico, including Suguaro Desert and a surprise patch of Joshua Trees reminding of the Mohave Desert, subtropical mountain valleys in southern Arizona and, oh yes, world famous scenery such as the Grand Canyon. But best of all, I have never seen so many birders scattered over such a wide area as in southern Arizona. So many residents catered for birders needs, putting up bird feeders and opening their gardens to birder’s enjoyment. The amount of birders also made finding target species easy to find, as no rock were left unturned. And everyone was so pleasant, always willing to share a joke or birding information. Arizona is truly a place where old friends who’s never met come together. Oh yes, there were lots of lifers for both Duan and I.
While summers in Arizona and New Mexico can be severely hot, we found the weather to be extremely comfortable during our trip, especially in lower-lying areas where it also cooled down at night. It was a bit nippy at higher altitudes, notably Sandia Crest, Grand Canyon (still plenty of snow), and at the Chiricahua Mountains in southeastern Arizona. We never had rain during the trip. We narrowly missed the largest and fifth largest wildfires in Arizona’s history, which could have severely hampered our trip.
Itinerary, locations and trip timing
We did retrace our itinerary a few times notably in southern Arizona. Much of this running around was however due to the known timing of raptor appearances (Harris’ Hawk, Zone-tailed Kite and Common Black-Hawk) in late morning, but our need to see specific passerines earlier. Then there’s also the BirdsEye iphone app that supplied us with near real-time bird sightings information. If the retracing ended up unsuccessful we could have had complaints, but in reality loosing time by retracing our steps did lead to various successes. So no need to complain about the hour lost here and there.
In general we found all the locations with easy. Exceptions include Jacques Marsh in northern Arizona, the Evergreen Turf Farm near Tucson and Sawmill Canyon near Sierra Vista. While good directions to Jacques Marsh were not easy to track down over an iphone, our struggles finding Evergreen was our own doing mostly on our Iphone dependence for directions. Sawmilll Canyon on the other hand was little of our own doing; despite explaining at the gate we’re birders we simply could not enter Fort Huachuca (we never planned to go to this Canyon so never made time trying to obtain permits either). Other than these sites, our trip was smooth sailing.
Perhaps the biggest impediment to our trip was our timing, if we can call it as such. First, there’s a balance between finding birds of only one seasons, or a little bit of both. Second, birding seasons vary annually (Duan’s friend who visited southern Arizona at the same time a year earlier found numerous winter and summer birds for which no records came in during our trip. Third, and most importantly, professional meetings simply do not take birding calendars in account. But despite missing a few summer birds we still had a tremendous time birding south-western USA.
ANNOTATED BIRD LIST
- Snow Goose Chen caerulescens: A flock at Bosque del Apache NWR
- Ross’s Goose Chen rossii: A flock at Bosque del Apache NWR
- Lesser Canada Goose Branta canadensis: A flock at Bosque del Apache NWR
- Canada Goose Branta Canadensis: A few individuals at Jacques Marsh at Show Low
- Gadwall Anas strepera: Seen at Bosque del Apache NWR, Chuck-Ford Lakeside Park, and Pebble Creek Golf Club (Litchfield Park)
- American Wigeon Anas Americana: Seen at the 91st Ave WTP in Tolleson
- Mallard Anas platyrhynchos: Common at wetlands throughout, though we did not look for Mexican Mallards in southern Arizona
- Cinnamon Teal Anas cyanoptera: Pairs seen at Bosque del Apache, Patagonia Lake State Park, and 91st Ave WTP in Tolleston
- Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata: Regular at larger waterbodies throughout
- Northern Pintail Anas acuta: Multiples seen at Bosque del Apache, and 91st Ave WTP in Tolleson
- Green-winged Teal Anas carolinensis: Seen at the 91st Ave WTP in Tolleson
- Redhead Aythya Americana: Multiples seen at Bosque del Apache, and 91st Ave WTP in Tolleson
- Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris: One on a pond in the Sitgreaves National Forest near Show Low, and a few at Bosque del Apache NWR
- Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis: A few at Bosque del Apache NWR
- Bufflehead Bucephala albeola: A few at Bosque del Apache NWR
- Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula: One at Jacques Marsh in Show Low
- Common Merganser Mergus merganser: One at the Pebble Creek Golf Club in Litchfield Park
- Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis: Seen at Patagonia Lake State Park, and Sweetwater Wetland in northern Tuscan
- Ring-necked Pheasant Phasianus colchicus: Common in the fields at Bosque del Apache NWR
- Scaled Quail Callipepla squamata: One covey of maybe 5 birds at the Embudito Canyon Trailhead
- Gambel’s Quail Callipepla gambelii: Frequently seen throughout New Mexico and southern Arizona
- Least Grebe Tachybaptus dominicus: A few individuals at the Pena Blanca Lake in southern Arizona
- Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podiceps: A few at Patagonia Lake State Park
- Eared Grebe Podiceps nigricollis: Seen at Jacques Marsh, Patagonia Lake State Park, and Pena Blanca Lake
- Western Grebe Aechmophorus occidentalis: One at Bosque del Apache NWR
- Neotropic Cormorant Phalacrocorax brasilianus: Quite a few at Bosque del Apache
- Double-crested Cormorant Phalacrocorax auritus: Regular at larger water features throughout Arizona and New Mexico
- Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias: Regular at larger water features throughout Arizona and New Mexico
- Great Egret Ardea alba: Seen at Bosque del Apache NWR, and the Old Hwy-80, near Palo Verde
- Snowy Egret Egretta thula: A few on the Old Hwy-80, near Palo Verde
- White-faced Ibis Plegadis chihi: A few on the Old Hwy-80, near Palo Verde
- Black Vulture Coragyps atratus: Singles at Pena Planca Lake near Nopales
- Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura: Common throughout the trip. Particularly large flocks between Nopales and Tubac, in southern Arizona
- Osprey Pandion haliaetus: Seen on the Old Hwy-80, near Palo Verde
- Northern Harrier Circus cyaneus: Seen at Bosque del Apache NWR, and the Kansas Settlement area
- Sharp-shinned Hawk Accipiter striatu: Scattered throughout
- Cooper’s Hawk Accipiter cooperii: Scattered throughout
- Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis: One individual at the Grand Canyon
- Common Black-Hawk Buteogallus anthracinus: One individual at the Tubac Bridge
- Harris’s Hawk Parabuteo unicinctus: One at the Roger Rd WTP in northern Tuscan, and another at the Agua Caliente Park in northeastern Tuscan
- Gray Hawk Buteo nitidus: A few heard and one seen at the Tubac bridge
- Swainson’s Hawk Buteo swainsoni: One in the Kansas Settlement area, and many along the Old Hwy-80, near Palo Verde
- Zone-tailed Hawk Buteo albonotatus: Singles at Kansas Settlement Area, Tubac Bridge, and Grand Canyon
- Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis: Common and widespread throughout, though more common in the north
- Ferruginous Hawk Buteo regalis: Individuals at Bosque del Apache, and Kansas Settlement
- Rough-legged Hawk Buteo lagopus: One bird (light morph) at the Marsh Loop of Bosque del Apache NWR
- Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos: One at the Santa Cruz Flats northwest of Tuscan, and another near Whipple Point in the Petrified Forest National Park
- Crested Caracara Caracara cheriway: A flock at the Santa Cruz Flats northwest of Tuscan
- American Kestrel Falco sparverius: Many seen at Bosque del Apache , and singles at th Aplomado Falcon breeding site, Patagonia Rest Area, and Chuck-Ford Lakeside Park, Tuscan
- Merlin Falco columbarius: One at Agua Caliente Park
- Sora Porzana carolina: One at Sweetwater Wetland in northern Tuscan
- American Coot Fulica americana: Regular at larger waterbodies throughout
- Sandhill Crane Grus canadensis: A few seen in the fields at Bosque del Apache NWR
- Killdeer Charadrius vociferous: Common at Bosque del Apache, Kansas Settlement area, and Evergreen Turf Farm
- Black-necked Stilt Himantopus mexicanus: A few seen at Chuck-Ford Lakeside Park, Tuscan, and 91st Ave WTP in Tolleson
- American Avocet Recurvirostra americana: Individuals seen at the 91st Ave WTP, Tolleson
- Greater Yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca: Singles at Bosque del Pache NWR
- Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis: Singles at Bosque del Pache NWR
- Rock Pigeon Columba livia: Seen at Chuck-Ford Lakeside Park, Tuscan
- Eurasian Collared-Dove Streptopelia decaocto: One at Patagonia Town, but possibly more common
- White-winged Dove Zenaida asiatica: Regular in dryer environments throughout the trip
- Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura: Common throughout
- Inca Dove Columbina inca: One at Paton’s Yard
- Common Ground-Dove Columbina passerina: A small group (maybe 3) seen at the Santa Cruz Flats on Baumgarter Rd
- Ruddy Ground-Dove Columbina talpacoti: One in association with Common Ground-doves at the Santa Cruz Flats on Baumgarter Rd
- Greater Roadrunner Geococcyx californianus: Pairs seen near Kansas Settlement, and on the Old Hwy-80, near Palo Verde
- Western Screech-Owl Megascops kennicottii: One seen at a daytime roost in Sonoita Creek Preserve, Patagonia
- Whiskered Screech-Owl Megascops trichopsis: Heard at Madera Canyon, and seen on Mt Lemmon
- Great Horned Owl Bubo virginianus: Heard near Siera Vista, at Patagonia Lake State Park; seen at Agua Caliente Park
- Mountain Pygmy-Owl Glaucidium gnoma: Individuals heard at Madera Canyon and Mt. Lemmon
- Northern Pygmy-Owl Glaucidium gnoma: Individuals heard at Sandia Crest
- Elf Owl Micrathene whitneyi: One heard near Sierra Vista
- Burrowing Owl Athene cunicularia: A few individuals seen on the Old Hwy-80, near Palo Verde
- Common Poorwill Phalaenoptilus nuttallii: One on the road as we entered the Cave Creek Canyon area
- Broad-billed Hummingbird Cynanthus latirostris: Common at feeders in southern Arizona
- Violet-crowned Hummingbird Amazilia violiceps: One at Paton’s Yard
- Magnificent Hummingbird Eugenes fulgens: One at the Madea Canyon Picnic Area
- Anna’s Hummingbird Calypte anna: Seen at Ash Canyon B&B, and Paton’s Yard
- Costa’s Hummingbird Calypte costae: One at Chuck-Ford Lakeside Park in Tuscan
- Calliope Hummingbird Stellula calliope: One seen at Battiste B&B near Sierra Vista
- Broad-tailed Hummingbird Selasphorus platycercus Common at bird feeders in southern Arizona
- Rufous Hummingbird Selasphorus rufus: One at Ash Canyon B&B, and one at Battiste B&B
- Lewis’s Woodpecker Melanerpes lewis: A flock of about 5 birds seen in Show Low
- Acorn Woodpecker Melanerpes formicivorus: Frequently encountered in southern Arizona
- Gila Woodpecker Melanerpes uropygialis: Widespread and common in southern Arizona
- Red-naped Sapsucker Sphyrapicus nuchalis: One at Yaki Point in Grand Canyon
- Ladder-backed Woodpecker Picoides scalaris: First seen at Bosque del Apache NWR, but also common in southern Arizona
- Arizona Woodpecker Picoides arizonae: Two at Ash Canyon B&B, and two at Santa Rita Lodge in the Madera Canyon
- Red-shafted Flicker Colaptes auratus: Common and widespread throughout
- Gilded Flicker Colaptes chrysoides: One at Picacho Peak State Park, and one at the Rincon Mt Unit of Suguaro National Park
- Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet Camptostoma imberbe: One at Agua Caliente Park
- Hammond’s Flycatcher Empidonax hammondii: A few migratory birds at Florida Canyon
- Gray Flycatcher Empidonax wrightii: Scattered over southern Arizona
- Dusky Flycatcher Empidonax oberholseri: One individual in Douglas Town in southern Arizona
- Pacific-slope Flycatcher Empidonax difficilis: A few migratory individuals at Patagonia Lake State Park
- Black Phoebe Sayornis nigricans: Regular at Bosque del Apache, and southern Arizona
- Say’s Phoebe Sayornis saya: Regular throughout the trip, apart from the Grand Canyon area
- Vermilion Flycatcher Pyrocephalus rubinus: Common in southern Arizona, especially near water
- Dusky-capped Flycatcher Myiarchus tuberculifer: One at Pena Blanca Lake
- Ash-throated Flycatcher Myiarchus cinerascens: One at Agua Caliente Park
- Cassin’s Kingbird Tyrannus vociferans: One individual at the Tubac Bridge
- Western Kingbird Tyrannus verticalis One at the Aplomado Breeding Site, and Patagonia Rest Area
- Loggerhead Shrike Lanius ludovicianus: Seen at Bosque del Apache NWR, and Kansas Settlement Area
- Bell’s Vireo Vireo bellii: One individual at the Patagonia Lake State Park
- Cassin’s Vireo Vireo cassinii: One on the Cave Creek Canyon Road, and another at Patagonia Lake State Park
- Steller’s Jay Cyanocitta stelleri: Seen at Sandia Crest and Randall Davey Audubon Center
- Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay Aphelocoma woodhouseii: Regular in northern Arizona/New Mexico
- Mexican Jay Aphelocoma ultramarina: Regular in the Santa Rita and Chiricahua Mountains
- Black-billed Magpie Pica hudsonia: One in Santa Fe, seen as we left the Randal Davey Audubon Center
- American Crow Corvus brachyrhynchos: Regular in northern Arizona/New Mexico
- Chihuahuan Raven Corvus cryptoleucus: Pairs positively identified at Bosque del Apache NWR, and at the Aplomado Falcon breeding site
- Common Raven Corvus corax: Common throughout
- Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris: A few seen at the Petrified Forest NP, Aplomado Falcon site, and Evergreen Turf Farm
- Tree Swallow Tachycineta bicolor: Seen at Pena Blanca Lake, and the Santa Cruz River – El Camino del Cerro bridge.
- Violet-green Swallow Tachycineta thalassina: A few seen in the Sirgreaves National Forest near Payson
- Northern Rough-winged Swallow Stelgidopteryx serripennis: Scattered at water features throughout southern Arizona, and at Bosque del Apache NWR
- Cliff Swallow Petrochelidon pyrrhonota: A few seen at the Santa Cruz River – El Camino del Cerro bridge.
- Mountain Chickadee Poecile gambeli: Seen in northern New Mexico and Arizona
- Mexican Chickadee Poecile sclateri: Seen on the Cave Creek Road in the Chiricahua Mountain
- Bridled Titmouse Baeolophus wollweberi: Seen at various locations throughout southern Arizona
- Juniper Titmouse Baeolophus ridgwayi: En route to Sadia Crest, and at the souther rim of the Grand Canyon
- Verdin Auriparus flaviceps: Small flocks at Jasper’s Yard (Portal), Agua Caliente, and Picacho Peak State Park
- Bushtit Psaltriparus minimus: Regular in dryer environments throughout the trip
- Red-breasted Nuthatch Sitta Canadensis: Some at Sandia Crest, and Cave Creek Canyon Rd (Chiricahua Mountains)
- White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis: At scattered locations throughout the trip
- Pygmy Nuthatch Sitta pygmaea: A few seen in the Sirgreaves National Forest near Payson
- Brown Creeper Certhia Americana: One seen on the Cave Creek Canyon Road
- Cactus Wren Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus: Seen mostly in desert environment s throughout Arizona, but also at the Embudito Canyon Trailhead
- Rock Wren Salpinctes obsoletus: Seen at the Patagonia Rest Area
- Canyon Wren Catherpes mexicanus: Seen at the Patagonia Rest Area
- Bewick’s Wren Thryomanes bewickii: At scattered locations in southern Arizona, notable near waterbodies
- House Wren Troglodytes aedon: Singles seen at St David’s Monastry, and Patagonia Lake State Park
- Marsh Wren Cistothorus palustris: Singles seen at Bosque del Apache NWR, and Patagonia Lake State Park
- Ruby-crowned Kinglet Regulus calendula: Frequently encountered in southern Arizona
- Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Polioptila caerulea: Seen at the foot of the road leading to Sandia Crest
- Black-tailed Gnatcatcher Polioptila melanura: Seen at the Patagonia Rest Area
- Western Bluebird Sialia Mexicana: A few seen in the Sirgreaves National Forest near Payson, and in the Grand Canyon National Park
- Hermit Thrush Catharus guttatus: One at the St. David’s Monastry, and one at Agua Caliente Park
- Rufous-backed Robin Turdus rufopalliatus: One individuals seen at the St. David’s Monastry
- American Robin Turdus migratorius: Frequently encountered in northern Arizona/New Mexico, and at Bosque del Apache NWR
- Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos: Regular in southern Arizona
- Sage Thrasher Oreoscoptes montanus: A few individuals seen at Petrified Forest National Park
- Bendire’s Thrasher Toxostoma bendirei: Two individuals seen at the Salome Hwy Thrasher Site near Buckeye
- Curve-billed Thrasher Toxostoma curvirostre: At various locations throughout southern Arizona, as well as the Embudito Canyon Trialhead in New Mexico
- Crissal Thrasher Toxostoma crissale: One seen at Jasper’s Yard near Portal
- Le Conte’s Thrasher Toxostoma lecontei: Two individuals seen at the Salome Hwy Thrasher Site near Buckeye
- European Starling Sturnus vulgaris: Widepsread around human habitation
- American Pipit Anthus rubescens: Multiple birds at the Evergreen Turf Farm northwest of Tuscan
- Phainopepla Phainopepla nitens: Common in southern Arizona
- Olive Warbler Peucedramus taeniatus: One in the Sitgreaves National Forest near Payson
- Lucy’s Warbler Oreothlypis luciae: A few individuals at Patagonia Lake State Park
- Yellow Warbler Dendroica petechia: A few individuals at Patagonia Lake State Park
- Orange-crowned Warbler Oreothlypis celata: A few individuals at Patagonia Lake State Park, Florida Canyon, and Madera Cubo Lodge in Madera Canyon
- Audubon’s Warbler Dendroica auduboni: Frequently encountered in southern Arizona
- Black-throated Gray Warbler Dendroica nigrescens: Singles at Patagonia Rest Area, and Florida Canyon
- Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas: One at Pena Blanca Lake, in non-breeding plumage
- Wilson’s Warbler Wilsonia pusilla: Seen at Patagonia Rest Area, and Patagonia Lake State Park
- Painted Redstart Myioborus pictus: Seen at the South Fork road (Cave Creek Canyon), and Patagonia Rest Area
- Hepatic Tanager Piranga flava: Pairs at Ash Canyon B&B (Siera Vista), and Santa Rita Lodge in Madera Canyon
- Green-tailed Towhee Pipilo chlorurus: A few at Jasper’s Yard near Portal, and at Florida Canyon
- Spotted Towhee Pipilo maculates: Regular in northern New Mexico and southern Arizona
- Canyon Towhee Melozone fuscus: Regular in northern New Mexico and southern Arizona
- Abert’s Towhee Melozone aberti: Two birds on the De Alza Trail in Tubac
- Rufous-winged Sparrow Peucaea carpalis: One individual just south of Patagonia Lake State Park
- Cassin’s Sparrow Peucaea cassinii: One individual at Whipple Point in the Petrified Forest National Park. First record
- Rufous-crowned Sparrow Aimophila ruficeps: Regular in southern Arizona
- Chipping Sparrow Spizella passerina: Frequently on the Huachuca and Santa Rita Mountains
- Brewer’s Sparrow Spizella breweri: A few seen at the Santa Cruz River – El Camino del Cerro bridge.
- Black-chinned Sparrow Spizella atrogularis: A number of birds seen at the Florida Canyon
- Vesper Sparrow Pooecetes gramineus: Singles in the Kansas Settlement area
- Lark Sparrow Chondestes grammacus: Individuals at Chuck-Ford Lakeside Park, Tuscan, and the Santa Cruz Flats north of Tuscan
- Black-throated Sparrow Amphispiza bilineata: Scattered: seen at the Petrified Forest NP, Jasper’s yard near Portal, Florida Canyon, and Patagonia Lake State Park
- Lark Bunting Calamospiza melanocorys: Seen at Kansas Settlement, St. David’s Monastrym and the Santa Cruz River – El Camino del Cerro bridge.
- Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia: Regular in the viscinity of Sierra Vista and Patagonia
- Lincoln’s Sparrow Melospiza lincolnii: Common in southern Arizona. Seemed to prefer more densely-vegetated areas than other sparrows
- White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys: Common throughout
- Red-backed Junco Junco hyemalis: Scattered throughout Arizona
- Grey-headed Junco Junco hyemalis: Various individuals seen at Sandia Crest and Randall Davey Audubon Center
- Yellow-eyed Junco Junco phaeonotus: 2-3 birds seen at Barefoot Park at the top of the Chiricahua Mountain
- Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis: Regular throughout southern Arizona
- Pyrrhuloxia Cardinalis sinuatus: A few seen at Yasper’s Yard near Portal
- Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus: First seen at Bosque del Apache NWR, but also common in southern Arizona
- Yellow-headed Blackbird Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus: A few seen at the Sweetwater Wetland in northern Tuscan
- Meadowlark spp. Sturnella spp.: A few individuals seen in the Kansas Settlement area. It may have been Western, Eastern, and/or Lillian’s.
- Brewer’s Blackbird Euphagus cyanocephalus: Common in the Kansas Settlement area, and at Chuck-Ford Lakeside Park, Tuscan
- Great-tailed Grackle Quiscalus mexicanus: Regular at waterbodies in southern Arizona
- Bronzed Cowbird Molothrus aeneus: A number of individuals at the Chuck-Ford Lakeside Park, Tuscan
- Brown-headed Cowbird Molothrus ater: A number of individuals at the Chuck-Ford Lakeside Park, Tuscan
- Hooded Oriole Icterus cucullatus: One at Paton’s Garden in Patagonia
- Bullock’s Oriole Icterus bullockii: Seen at Ash Canyon B&B, Paton’s Yard, and Patagonia Lake State Park
- Scott’s Oriole Icterus parisorum: Seen at Ash Canyon B&B, Battiste B&B, and Paton’s Yard in Patagonia
- Hepburn’s Rosy-finch Leucosticte tephrocotis: A few individuals at the bird feeders at Sandia Crest
- Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch Leucosticte tephrocotis: A few individuals at the bird feeders at Sandia Crest
- Black Rosy-Finch Leucosticte atrata: A few individuals at the bird feeders at Sandia Crest
- Brown-capped Rosy-Finch Leucosticte australis: A few individuals at the bird feeders at Sandia Crest
- Cassin’s Finch Carpodacus cassinii: Some at the Visitor Center of the Petrified Forest National Park, and at Patagonia Lake State Park
- House Finch Carpodacus mexicanus: Frequently encountered in southern Arizona, and at the Randall Davey Audubon Center
- Red Crossbill Loxia curvirostra: One flock of about 10 birds on the Cave Creek Road
- Pine Siskin Spinus pinus: Common at feeders throughout the area
- Lesser Goldfinch Carduelis psaltria: Frequently encountered in southern Arizona
- Lawrence’s Goldfinch Spinus lawrencei: One bird at Paton’s Yard in Patagonia
- American Goldfinch Spinus tristis: Some at Bosque del Apache, and in Portal
- Evening Grosbeak Coccothraustes vespertinus: One flock of about 20 birds at sunset at the southern rim of the Grand Canyon
- House Sparrow Passer domesticus: Widespread throughout, especially around human habitation
ANNOTATED MAMMAL LIST
- Albert Squirrel: One in the forests of the Grand Canyon on route to Desert View
- Arizona Cotton-Rat: One at Paton’s Yard in Patagonia.
- Arizona Grey Squirrel: At Ash Canyon B&B, and Madera Kubo Lodge in the Madera Canyon.
- Black-tailed Jack Rabbit: Commonly seen during nigh commutes, and sporadically during the day
- Black-tailed Prairie Dog: A few seen at Lakeside Park in Tucson and the old Highway 80 west of Phoenix.
- Desert Cottontail: Sporadically during the trip, from the Embudito Trailhead through to southern Arizona
- Elk: One in Payson (Northern Arizona) and a few in the Grand Canyon National Park
- Harris’ Ground Squirrel: Some at Hwy 80 near Buckeye, AZ
- Least Chipmunk: One seen foraging underneath the Rosy-finch feeders at Sandia Crest
- Mountain Cottontail: At Randall Davey Audubon Center
- Mule Deer: Quite a few at Bosque del Apache NWR
- Peccary (Juvalina): Two groups near Portal.
- Red Squirrel: One at Randall Davey Audubon Center outside Santa Fe
- Rock Squirrel: One at the southern rim of the Grand Canyon
- Round-tailed Ground Squirrel: Some at Lakeside Park, Tucson, and some at Hwy 80 near Buckeye, AZ
- White-tailed Deer: A family at Ash Canyon B&B just south of Sierra Vista
BIRDS WE MISSED
Mexican Mallard: Possibly a silly oversight, we never spent much time looking at Mallards in southern Arizona, notably Patagonia Lake State Park.
Masked Bobwhite: Reintroduced at the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, this population is not yet self-sustaining and therefore not tickable. We thus decided to skip this detour.
Montezuma Quail: A secretive resident of southern Arizona and New Mexico, we went out with the understanding that you see them when you see them. Despite spending quite a bit of time in good habitat we never actually saw them. A disappointing dip.
Dusky Grouse: A bird of open montane forests in northern New Mexico, we always had only a minute chance of seeing this species. Based on the lack of ebird records over winter this species may also display some altitudinal migration out of the region during our time.
California Condor: Regular at Grand Canyon, we didn’t see this species during the half day we were there.
Aplomado Falcon: We tried our best for this difficult, endangered and sparsely-distributed bird. A report of a Aplomado on a telephone wire near Truth-and-Consequences the day after we left proved frustrating.
Prairie Falcon: Disappointing dip, supposedly widespread over Arizona and New Mexico.
Mountain Plover: Widespread in southern Arizona during winter, we were maybe a bit late to see this bird. We visited a number of sites, notable Evergreen Turf Farm and Kansas Settlement, where they were reported a few days before our trip.
Northern Pygmy-Owl: We heard one at Sandia Crest but just never saw it.
Mountain Pygmy-Owl: We heard quite a few of these in southern Arizona but never saw one.
Northern Saw-whet: Currently my nemesis bird, I have hunted for it in various locations without luck (though I’ve heard it in North Carolina). There are however easier places to see this species than SW USA.
Elf Owl: We heard a single bird at the eastern foot of the Tortolita Mountains just south of Sierra Vista but never saw this bird. We also searched extensively around Tucson without luck.
Mexican Spotted Owl: We never had good fresh info on this species. Recent reports from St. David’s Monastry just didn’t feel right, while searching the Miller Canyon and Mt. Wrightson Picnic Area at the end of the Madera Canyon yielded nothing.
Lesser Nighthawk: We were a bit early. First records for the season came northern Tucson and Papago Park in Phoenix. We visited these sites but had no luck finding the birds.
Blue-throated Hummingbird: We were maybe a bit early for this bird of high altutude southern mountains. The first bird for the season was reported from Madera Kubo Lodge; we spent hours here without definitive luck (we had a brief fly-by of a promising larger hummingbird).
Elegant Trogon: Just before our trip there were a few records (apparently over-wintering immature birds) from Madera Canyon (Amphitheater) and Patagonia Lake State Park. We tried hard at both these places without luck. Was apparently they were very easy at Madera while some tree had berries, which we missed.
Green Kingfisher: According to Ebird records, March is the best time for this rarity. During our trip there was one record from a site northwest of Whetstone; however, several attempts by other birders to relocate the bird failed. As such, we decided not to go to this site that was out of our way.
American Three-toed Woodpecker: Rare in New Mexico, we failed to see any in the Cibola National Forest towards Sandia Crest.
Williamson’s Sapsucker: A winter visitor to the south but resident to the north. Despite extensive searching in montane forest we never saw this bird.
Buff-breasted Flycatcher: Maybe a bit early. First records for the year was at Sawmill Canyon that we could not reach because of access restrictions to Fort Huachuca.
Pinion Jay: We looked. We failed. Records during our visit came from scattered locations in the north
Clark’s Nutcracker: We looked. We failed. Records during our visit came from especially the Grand Canyon
Sedge Wren: One bird was reported from Pena Planca Lake, but we could not find the individual
Black-capped Gnatcatcher: A USA rarity. We never tried for the individuals at Patagonia State Park or Montosa Canyon, putting all our hopes on the Florida Canyon birds. We unfortunately failed despite extensive searching.
Mountain Bluebird: We looked. We failed. Records during our visit came from scattered locations in the north
Sprague’s Pipit: Frequent in southern Arizona during winter (notably San Rafael grasslands). We decided to skip this out-of-the-way site due to the lack of recent records, and our luck on winter birds
Summer Tanager: Widespread during summer, we were maybe a bit early to see this bird. We failed finding the individual reported at Roger Rd WRF/Sweetwater Wetlands during out visit.
Lillian’s Meadowlark: Possibly a silly oversight, we never spent much time looking at Meadowlarks.
Botteri’s Sparrow: Maybe a bit early for this bird that can be elusive when not calling. At the time of our visit one was reported south of Patagonia Lake State Park, which we failed to find.
Clay-colored Sparrow: One bird was reported from the Santa Cruz River north of the El Camino del Cerro bridge. We sadly could not find the individual.
Five-striped Sparrow: Regular at California Gulch which is accessed using a vehicle with high clearance. Also possibly a summer visitor. We thus never tried for this bird.
Chestnut-collared Longspur: Widespread during winter, we were maybe a bit late to see this bird. Just before our trip a few random records of clear migrant birds came in, but we never had success despite visiting some of these areas.
McCown’s Longspur: Widespread during winter, we were maybe a bit late to see this bird. Just before our trip a few random records of clear migrant birds came in, but we never had success despite visiting some of these areas.
Lazuli Bunting: At the time of our visit records came from Tubac bridge and Patagonia Town. These birds were however possibly on the move, or we were just distracted. Either way, we never saw any.
Other birds we missed possibly because we were too early in the season: Mexican Poor-will, Buff-collared Nightjar, Flammulated Owl, Lucifer Hummingbird, Berylline Hummingbird, White-eared Hummingbird, Greater Pewee, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Willow Flycatcher, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Thick-billed Kingbird, Gray Vireo, Flame-colored Tanager, Virginia Warbler, Grace’s Warbler, Red-faced Warbler, Varied Bunting
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