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Arizona birding trip. May 10th – May 22th 2005,
This report is about the birding trip I made in Arizona, after a 10-day trip to Texas. South-east Arizona is very scenic and has some good birding sites. Go there one day!!
Preparing the trip
I used "Birdfinder. A Birder's Guide To Planning North American Trips" as a base for my itinerary. The new ABA Birdfinding Guide to Southeastern Arizona gave me many new ideas where to go. I also regularly checked www.tucsonaudubon.org for the RBA.
I used the new Sibley North American Bird Guide for identification and the Stokes Field Guide to bird songs for sounds using a MD player.
At the Internet I found many trip reports which were usefull.
Itinerary ( * = lifer)
My first stop in Arizona was at Willcox Lake in the afternoon. I was hoping for Franklin's Gull, but saw American Avocet, Spotted Sandpiper, Wilson's Phalarope, Ruddy Duck, Marbled Godwit!, Northern Shoveler, Cinnamon Teal and Western Kingbird* instead. After almost 700 miles (coming from Big Bend), the motel in Tucson was more than welcome.
Early start at the Shannon-Broadway spot in Tucson. After some searching saw the Rufous-winged Sparrow* among the many House Sparrows. New and interesting birds were Gila Woodpecker* making a lot of noice at the steel poles, Gambel's Quail* was common, Pyrhulloxia, Northern Mockingbird, House Finch, White-winged Dove, Bronzed Cowbird, Verdin and Curve-billed Thrasher. In this suburb they planted many different species of cactus.
After that found a place at the Gilbert Ray Campground in Tucson Mountain Park. A very quiet (apart from the coyotes and Lesser Nighthawks) and nice campground. Good as a base for some birding in the Tucson area.
The Desert Museum had Anna's Hummingbird*, Lesser Goldfinch* (in the end, after missing this species 3 times in Ecuador), Brown-crested Flycatcher* and Costa's Hummingbird among others.
Eating at the restaurant attracted a Cactus Wren (on my shoe!), Pyrhulloxia and Northern Cardinal (on the table).
Then on to The Santa Rita Mountains. Florida Wash had Canyon Towhee and Lucy's Warbler* responding to the MD. No Crissal Thrasher.
At the Santa Rita Lodge was a British group (to be seen many times later on in the trip) birding the feeders. The leader gave some good information. At, and around the feeders were a rare Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Black-headed Grosbeak, Broad-billed Hummingbird*, Magnificent Hummingbird*, Lesser Goldfinch, Acorn Woodpecker, Zone-tailed Hawk* and Bridled Titmouse*. At Kubo Cabins I found the Flame-colored Tanager*, together with American Robin (here in Arizona mainly at the higher elevations) and Summer Tanager.
Drove on to walk the Vault Mine track (which seems to have about 4 different names!). Good birding with Arizona Woodpecker*, White-breasted Nuthatch, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Elegant Trogon* (at 10 meter in a tree right after the spring box!), Plumbeous Vireo*, Warbling Vireo* and Dusky-capped Flycatcher. At dark saw the Elf Owl coming out of the pole at the Santa Rita Lodge. Directly drove to the Vault Mine trail again and heard Whiskered Screech Owl* and Whip Poor Will*(also flying around the lights).
Back at the campsite in Tucson there were many Lesser Nighthawks flying around the lights at the entrance.
I had heard that at the first parking on the left after the Desert Museum Entrance, coming from the campsite, there is a good chance of Gilded Flicker*. Indeed, there was one around at first light. Drove to the Xavier Mission, which was very disappointing. The Florida Wash was better than yesterday, because I was here earlier. Same species as yesterday and Bell's Vireo*, Wilson's Warbler*, Costa's Humingbird and Black-throated Sparrow. After the Florida Wash you'll see the road is straight for about a mile. About halfway I had Botteri's Sparrow* and Black-tailed Gnatcatcher*. The Proctor Road produced Phainopepla*, Anna's Hummingbird and Western Kingbird. Madera Picnic Area was quiet, but had Acorn Woodpecker and Broad-billed Hummingbird. At Kubo the Flame-colored Tanager was still around (later I heard it had a nest). Also saw Hepatic Tanager* at the parking about 0.1 mile before the cabines. In the trees at the Kubo shop was a Townsend's Warbler*.
At the end of the day walked the Vault Mine trail again. Where the Old Baldy Trail starts on the left I saw Arizona Woodpecker, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher*, Painted Redstart* and at 5.30 pm 2 Mountain Pygmy-Owls*. A good spot to sit for an hour or longer at the end of the day.
Campsite at Tucson.
Very early departure (3.20 am) to California Gulch together with Rod Campbell. The 4x4 Ford Explorer was very handy at the rough track. At the "known" site (between the first and the second crossing) saw the Five-striped Sparrow*. Drove back to the Sycamore Canyon where we visited Yank and Hank.. This is about the only good site for Eastern Bluebird in southern Arizona. We saw one, but I needed the Western Bluebird. Nice but hot birding in the Sycamore Canyon. No new birds.
Having the rest of the day for birding, before we had to return to California Gulch for the Buff-collared Nightjar, we decided to visit the Aravaica Cienega (Yellow-breasted Chat*, Song Sparrow*, Gray Hawk, and Vermillion Flycatcher) and the Buenos Aires NWR. The latter is worth a visit. We saw Lilian's Meadowlark (future split?) at the open fields.
Drove back to California Gulch in time. At dusk (7.30 pm) the Buff-collared Nightjar* started singing, together with a Western Screech-Owl*.
Campsite at Tucson.
Whole day at the Santa Catalina Mountains. First tried for the Crissal Thrasher at Molino Basin, but again missed this species. Saw Spotted and Canyon Towhee, Cordilleran Flycatcher and Cactus Wren. Spent quite some time at Bear Canyon. Nice forest with Painted Redstart, Mexican Jay, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Northern Flicker* (red-shafted), White-breasted Nuthatch, Bushtit, Grace's Warbler* and Yellow-eyed Junco*.
At the visitor Center were Broad-tailed and Magnificent Hummingbirds. Higher on the road at the Butterfly trailhead were more Yellow-eyed Juncos, Red-faced Warbler* and Steller's Jay*. At Spencer Canyon a Zone-tailed Hawk passed overhead and there was a Hairy Woodpecker of the interior-west-type. At the very end of the road were the same species as lower down. Best bird here was a Short-tailed Hawk (1 adult, light form). I had seen this species in Ecuador and only later I realised that this is a hot bird in Arizona.
I still missed some species. The ABA guide "advised" Bear Wallow Road. This is indeed a good road to bird as there is good tall forest. Red-breasted Nuthatch* were responding like crazy at the MD. There were Brown Creepers* around. Pygmy Nuthatch* were high in the trees, but came down to inspect the sounds coming out of the MD, as did an Olive Warbler*. Four lifers at one spot; not bad! Other birders tipped Incinerator Ridge Road for Mountain Chickadee. At the end of the road is a small parking area. There were some Mountain Chickadees* inspecting the understory. Also a Band-tailed Pigeon flew past.
Along the main Road, above Bear Canyon, was a Cooper's Hawk.
Drove to Nogales at the Mexican border, where you feel more like being in Mexico instead of Arizona.
Motel 6 in Nogales.
Early at the Patagonia Rest Area. Very cold early in the morning at Patagonia (what's in a name...) Rest Area. It was too early in the year to find the Becards, but Thick-billed Kingbird* was around, singing in the Sycamore trees. This early in the morning the White-throated Swifts were flying very low, giving nice views. Went to the Patagonia Lake State Reserve where people had seen Black-capped Gnatcatcher*. After some searching and local help, I found a family. At the water edge a Virginia Rail* walked out of the reeds. The lake had Neotropic and Double-crested Cormorant, "Mexican" Duck, American Coot, Moorhen, Eared Grebe, Pied-billed Grebe, Great-blue Heron, Green Heron, Common Yellowthroat and Osprey.
Another stop at the Patagonia Rest Area produced a Zone-tailed Hawk and Western Tanager. After that spent a few hours at Paton's. It's good birding here. There is a large feeding area which attracts many birds, including some rarities. The birds I saw here were Violet-crowned Hummingbird*, Abert's Towhee*, House Finch, White-crowned Sparrow, Broad-billed, Black-chinned and Anna's Hummingbird, Gambel's Quail, Acorn Woodpecker, Gila Woodpecker, White-winged Dove, House Sparrow, Bullock's Oriole, Bronzed Cowbird, Brown-headed Cowbird and Common Ground-Dove. Here I also met Volney and David, 2 American birders. They told me they had booked a birdingtrip on the 16th with Matt Brown, a local birdguide, to go to Garden Canyon. I asked them if I could come on this trip too. This was no problem, 'cause it would make it cheaper for them, and with more eyes around you see more birds. New rules at the gate of Fort Huachuca makes it impossible to enter for foreigners without a guide. So for me it was about the only chance to see the Spotted Owl and the Buff-breasted Flycatcher.
Checked the Patagonia Creek Reserve, which was very quiet (birdwise) and dry. After that drove to Sierra Vista, missed Grasshopper Sparrow east of Sonoita. At Sierra Vista went to the Quality Inn for a room. Tell them you're a birder; they have special prices for birders! Raced to Ash Canyon B&B just in time for the Lucifer Hummingbird*. Also saw Black-chinned, Anna's and Magnificent Hummingbird and heard an Elf Owl. Mary Jo Ballator informed me about the chance for Montezuma Quail very early in the morning at her property.
Dawn at Ash Canyon didn't produce the Quail, but instead I was given a splendid sunrise in a beautiful place. Saw Ladder-backed, Arizona, Gila and Acorn Woodpecker.
After that spend 3 hours at Beatty's Guest Range in Miller Canyon to try for the White-eared Hummingbird. Missed this one but saw Magnificent, Broad-billed, Broad-tailed, Anna's, Black-chinned, Blue-throated and a hybrid Berylline – Mag/Blue-thr.
Then drove to Carr Canyon. This is a pretty tough drive, even with a 4x4. It goes very high up on the mountains, with nice views. At the end of the road is a campsite. There was a Virginia Warbler* at the other end of the campsite. Also around were Raven, Violet-green Swallow, White-throated Swift, Northern Flicker, Spotted Towhee and Grace's Warbler.
At the end of the day tried again for Thrashers. Along the Hereford saw many Curve-billed Thrashers and eventually found a Crissal Thrasher* at the top of one of the thorny shrubs. At the San Pedro River Inn the owner showed me a Barn Owl and there were Ash-throated Flycatchers in the garden.
Met Matt Brown at the gate of Fort Huachuca, which was the start of a good birdingday.
Saw Elegant Trogon at the Middle Picnic Area, after that to Sheelite Canyon to find out that a lot of birders were allready searching for the Spotted Owl and had not found it yet. So first on to Sawmill Canyon where we found the Buff-breasted Flycatcher*. Back at Sheelite Canyon there was still no Spotted Owl. A VENT-group had check all the traditional sites. Other birds at Garden Canyon were Sulphur-bellied and Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Arizona Woodpecker, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Bewick's Wren, Grace's Warbler, Brown-headed Cowbird, American Robin, Hepatic Tanager, Steller's Jay. There was also a small group of Pronghorns at the lower fields.
We decided to go to Miller Canyon to try there for the owl. Saw White-eared Hummingbird* and Painted Redstart at the feeders at Beatty's. Then walked up the track into Miller Canyon. After some time found a Spotted Owl* at the "river-crossing"! Had good views of it sitting in a Sycamore tree.
Drove to Portal today, birding along the way.
Started at the San Pedro House. Had no lifers today, but nice birds were Bell's Vireo, Summer Tanager, Bullock's Oriole, Brown-headed Flycatcher, Swainson's Hawk, Vermillion Flycatcher, Song Sparrow, Yellow-breasted Chat and "Mexican" Duck.
At Willcox saw Ruddy Duck, American Avocet (10-15), Stilt Sandpiper(1), Cinnamon Teal, Spotted Sandpiper and Long-billed Curlew (1).
Checked in at Portal Peak Lodge. At dark heard Elf Owl, Common Poorwill, Western Screech-Owl and the "purple-whip"-call of the Whip-Poor-Will (future split?).
Very early start (4 am) to go to Stateline Road near Rodeo (NM). Taped in Bendire's Thrasher* here. There were many Scaled and Gambel's Quails. The Willow Tank was dried out. On the other (south) site of the road opposite the dry tank was a Cassin's Sparrow* singing on the wire.
At the South Fork Trail were American Robin, Elegant Trogon, Canyon Wren, Greater Pewee, Painted Redstart, Mexican Jay, and Hermit Thush. Other birders had seen Mexican Chickadee along the road to Rustler 0.3 miles above Onion Saddle. Couldn't find them there. Drove to Pinery Creek Campground (which is no more than a Picnic Area). Here I found the Mexican Chickadee*, Yellow-eyed Junco, Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatch, Grace's, Red-faced and Black-throated Gray Warbler, Western Tanager, Plumbeous Vireo and Cooper's Hawk.
On to Walker House at Paradise where I saw a female Lazuli Bunting*, Scott's Oriole, Band-tailed Pigeon, Bronzed Cowbird and Juniper Titmouse*! A short visit to Rustler and Barfoot Park produced Pygmy Nuthatch at Barfoot and Greater Pewee.
Portal Peak Lodge.
Drove the road before dawn into the Chiricahua Canyon to look for Montezuma Quail. Didn't find one.
Went on to Barfoot Junction. This is a very good birding spot. Park your car at the T-junction and then walk down the road. The first mile or so is very rewarding. I saw a female Western Bluebird* at the first bend in the road, heard a Mountain Pygmy-Owl at the second bend, Greater Pewee was singing all the time and a few Olive Warblers gave good views at the "T". Other birds were, among others, Red-breasted and Pygmy Nuthatch, Hairy Woodpecker, Virginia's Warbler, Painted Redstart and Band-tailed Pigeon.
Birded the rest of the day around Portal (another Lazuli Bunting female at one of the feeders) and at Herb Martyr Campground.
Portal Peak Lodge.
Again drove the road before dawn into the Chiricahua Canyon to look for Montezuma Quail. Missed it again. Birded for the last time at Barfoot Crossing, with the same birds as yesterday. Then drove to Willcox to try for a Franklin's Gull again. Instead there were two Ring-billed Gulls. Other birds here were American Avocet, Marbled Godwit, Eared Grebe, Wilson's Phalarope, Killdeer, Lilian's Meadowlark, Blue-winged Teal, Ruddy Duck, Spotted Sandpiper, Lark Sparrow and Turkey Vulture.
Then went to Red Rock to see if I could find the Ruddy Ground Dove. After some searching in the desert heat I gave up. It was simply too hot.
Motel 6 in Tuscon
Flight to Houston and on to Amsterdam.
F= lifer (first)
1. Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podiceps
2. Eared Grebe Podiceps nigricollis
3. Double-crested Cormorant Phalacrocorax auritus
4. Neotropic Cormorant Phalacrocorax brasilianus
5. Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias
6. Green Heron Butorides virescens
7. Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
8. Least Bittern Ixobrychus exilis
9. White-faced Ibis Plegadis chihi
10. Black-bellied Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna autumnalis
11. Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
12. Blue-winged Teal Anas discors
13. Cinnamon Teal Anas cyanoptera
14. Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata
15. Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis
16. Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura
17. Osprey Pandion haliaetus
18. Cooper's Hawk Accipiter cooperii
19. Gray Hawk Asturina nitida
20. Short-tailed Hawk Buteo brachyurus
21. Swainson's Hawk Buteo swainsoni
22. F Zone-tailed Hawk Buteo albonotatus
23. Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis
24. American Kestrel Falco sparverius
25. Wild Turkey Meleagris gallopavo
26. Scaled Quail Callipepla squamata
27. F Gambel's Quail Callipepla gambelii
28. F Virginia Rail Rallus limicola
29. Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
30. American Coot Fulica americana
31. Black-necked Stilt Himantopus mexicanus
32. Killdeer Charadrius vociferus
33. Long-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus scolopaceus
34. Marbled Godwit Limosa fedoa
35. Long-billed Curlew Numenius americanus
36. Spotted Sandpiper Actitis macularia
37. Stilt Sandpiper Calidris himantopus
38. Wilson's Phalarope Phalaropus tricolor
39. Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis
40. Band-tailed Pigeon Columba fasciata
41. Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura
42. White-winged Dove Zenaida asiatica
43. Common Ground-Dove Columbina passerina
44. Greater Roadrunner Geococcyx californianus
45. Barn Owl Tyto alba
46. F Western Screech-Owl Otus kennicottii
47. F Whiskered Screech-Owl Otus trichopsis
48. F Spotted Owl Strix occidentalis
49. F Mountain Pygmy-Owl Glaucidium gnoma
50. Elf Owl Micrathene whitneyi
51. Lesser Nighthawk Chordeiles acutipennis
52. Common Poorwill Phalaenoptilus nuttallii
53. F Buff-collared Nightjar Caprimulgus ridgwayi
54. F Whip-poor-will Caprimulgus vociferus
55. White-throated Swift Aeronautes saxatalis
56. F Broad-billed Hummingbird Cynanthus latirostris
57. F White-eared Hummingbird Hylocharis leucotis
58. F Violet-crowned Hummingbird Agyrtria violiceps
59. Blue-throated Hummingbird Lampornis clemenciae
60. F Magnificent Hummingbird Eugenes fulgens
61. F Lucifer Hummingbird Calothorax lucifer
62. Black-chinned Hummingbird Archilochus alexandri
63. F Anna's Hummingbird Calypte anna
64. F Costa's Hummingbird Calypte costae
65. Broad-tailed Hummingbird Selasphorus platycercus
66. F Elegant Trogon Trogon elegans
67. Acorn Woodpecker Melanerpes formicivorus
68. F Gila Woodpecker Melanerpes uropygialis
69. Hairy Woodpecker Picoides villosus
70. F Arizona Woodpecker Picoides arizonae
71. F Northern Flicker Colaptes auratus
72. F Gilded Flicker Colaptes chrysoides
73. Greater Pewee Contopus pertinax
74. Western Wood-Pewee Contopus sordidulus
75. Cordilleran Flycatcher Empidonax occidentalis
76. F Buff-breasted Flycatcher Empidonax fulvifrons
77. Black Phoebe Sayornis nigricans
78. Say's Phoebe Sayornis saya
79. Vermilion Flycatcher Pyrocephalus rubinus
80. Dusky-capped Flycatcher Myiarchus tuberculifer
81. Ash-throated Flycatcher Myiarchus cinerascens
82. F Brown-crested Flycatcher Myiarchus tyrannulus
83. F Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher Myiodynastes luteiventris
84. Cassin's Kingbird Tyrannus vociferans
85. F Thick-billed Kingbird Tyrannus crassirostris
86. Western Kingbird Tyrannus verticalis
87. Violet-green Swallow Tachycineta thalassina
88. Northern Rough-winged Swallow Stelgidopteryx serripennis
89. Cliff Swallow Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
90. Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
91. F Phainopepla Phainopepla nitens
92. Cactus Wren Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus
93. Canyon Wren Catherpes mexicanus
94. Bewick's Wren Thryomanes bewickii
95. Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes
96. House Wren Troglodytes aedon
97. Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos
98. F Bendire's Thrasher Toxostoma bendirei
99. Curve-billed Thrasher Toxostoma curvirostre
100. F Crissal Thrasher Toxostoma crissale
101. Eastern Bluebird Sialia sialis
102. F Western Bluebird Sialia mexicana
103. Hermit Thrush Catharus guttatus
104. American Robin Turdus migratorius
105. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Polioptila caerulea
106. F Black-tailed Gnatcatcher Polioptila melanura
107. F Black-capped Gnatcatcher Polioptila nigriceps
108. Bushtit Psaltriparus minimus
109. F Mountain Chickadee Poecile gambeli
110. F Mexican Chickadee Poecile sclateri
111. F Bridled Titmouse Baeolophus wollweberi
112. F Juniper Titmouse Baeolophus ridgwayi
113. F Pygmy Nuthatch Sitta pygmaea
114. F Red-breasted Nuthatch Sitta canadensis
115. White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis
116. F Brown Creeper Certhia americana
117. Verdin Auriparus flaviceps
118. Loggerhead Shrike Lanius ludovicianus
119. F Steller's Jay Cyanocitta stelleri
120. Western Scrub-Jay Aphelocoma californica
121. Mexican Jay Aphelocoma ultramarina
122. Common Raven Corvus corax
123. European Starling Sturnus vulgaris
124. House Sparrow Passer domesticus
125. F Bell's Vireo Vireo bellii
126. F Plumbeous Vireo Vireo plumbeus
127. Hutton's Vireo Vireo huttoni
128. F Warbling Vireo Vireo gilvus
129. House Finch Carpodacus mexicanus
130. Pine Siskin Carduelis pinus
131. F Lesser Goldfinch Carduelis psaltria
132. F Olive Warbler Peucedramus taeniatus
133. F Virginia's Warbler Vermivora virginiae
134. F Lucy's Warbler Vermivora luciae
135. Yellow Warbler Dendroica petechia
136. Black-throated Gray Warbler Dendroica nigrescens
137. F Townsend's Warbler Dendroica townsendi
138. F Grace's Warbler Dendroica graciae
139. Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas
140. F Wilson's Warbler Wilsonia pusilla
141. F Red-faced Warbler Cardellina rubrifrons
142. F Painted Redstart Myioborus pictus
143. F Yellow-breasted Chat Icteria virens
144. F Hepatic Tanager Piranga flava
145. Summer Tanager Piranga rubra
146. Western Tanager Piranga ludoviciana
147. F Flame-colored Tanager Piranga bidentata
148. Spotted Towhee Pipilo maculatus
149. Canyon Towhee Pipilo fuscus
150. F Abert's Towhee Pipilo aberti
151. F Botteri's Sparrow Aimophila botterii
152. F Cassin's Sparrow Aimophila cassinii
153. Rufous-crowned Sparrow Aimophila ruficeps
154. F Rufous-winged Sparrow Aimophila carpalis
155. F Five-striped Sparrow Aimophila quinquestriata
156. Lark Sparrow Chondestes grammacus
157. Black-throated Sparrow Amphispiza bilineata
158. F Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia
159. White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys
160. F Yellow-eyed Junco Junco phaeonotus
161. Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis
162. Pyrrhuloxia Cardinalis sinuatus
163. Rose-breasted Grosbeak Pheucticus ludovicianus
164. Black-headed Grosbeak Pheucticus melanocephalus
165. Blue Grosbeak Passerina caerulea
166. F Lazuli Bunting Passerina amoena
167. Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus
168. Eastern Meadowlark Sturnella magna
169. Great-tailed Grackle Quiscalus mexicanus
170. Bronzed Cowbird Molothrus aeneus
171. Brown-headed Cowbird Molothrus ater
172. Bullock's Oriole Icterus bullockii
173. Scott's Oriole Icterus parisorum