Arizona Trip May 21-28, 2003

     We had a great time in Arizona. This was my second time here and Kelli's first. It was seven degrees above normal during our visit with Tucson reaching 100-102 each day. It was cooler in the mountains. Days started cool at about 65 degrees. Sunny most of the time and never any rain. Yes, it was dry but still got quite hot.
We ended with 150 species, with 10 different hummingbirds. Kelli had over 90 lifers and I managed 13.

    Highlights included very rare or very local summer breeders.
    The best highlights included; Male Flame-colored Tanager in Madera Canyon, just up the hill from the Santa Rita Lodge that we stayed in for the night. There were the usual Elf Owls coming out at dusk 100 feet from our cabin from holes in a utility pole. Up at the parking lot we lucked into a calling Whiskered Screech Owl in a tree next to the parking lot. We found it using a flashlight and saw it calling. Common Poorwills and Whip-poor-wills were also heard. We saw the eye of the Whip-poor-will in the flashlight beam as well.
We found the family of Black-capped Gnatcatchers at Patagonia Lake and had great looks at the under tail pattern confirming the id's. We also had two Varied Buntings in the same area.
And ten species or hummingbirds!

Immature Black-capped Gnatcatchers Notice the strongly graduated tail

Varied Bunting

Birds and highlights by Itinerary

Day 1

We briefly visited the Sonoran Desert Museum when we arrived in the afternoon, but the heat did us in. Costa's Hummingbirds were near the entrance with the usual Cactus Wren, Gila Woodpeckers, Hooded Oriole and Pyrrhuloxias. Stayed in Tucson for the night.

Costa's Hummingbirds Hooded Oriole

Day 2 - Mt Lemon

    This is a great place for high altitude breeders, you don't have to hike up for them! 
    On the road leading up Kelli had her first Greater Roadrunner, plus Ladder-backed Woodpecker and a Peregrine Falcon. Part way up we had our first Canyon Wren and Canyon Towhee. Bear Canyon had Black-throated Gray Warbler, Pygmy Nuthatch and Mountain Chickadee. Higher up we had my life Olive Warbler, Grace's Warbler and Yellow-eyed Junco. Red-faced Warblers were common around fishing lake. 

Canyon Wren Canyon Towhee

    We did the Ski Lift ride and on the way up had my life Cordilleran Flycatcher sitting in a tree at eye-level 10 feet from us! We ate lunch in a restaurant near the top and had a dozen Broad-tailed Hummingbirds at their feeders and one Magnificent Hummingbird. Other birds included Olive-sided Flycatcher, Band-tailed Pigeon, Stellar's Jay, Pygmy Nuthatch, Pine Siskin, and Orange-crowned Warbler

male Broad-tailed Hummingbird female Broad-tailed Hummingbird
(notice the "cold" face and finely flecked throat)

    We the headed for Madera Canyon and stay at the Santa Rita Lodge. Great place to stay.
Their feeders had the usual Acorn Woodpeckers, Black-headed Grosbeak, Mexican Jays, and Broad-billed Hummingbirds. At night had the owls and "wills". 

Mexican Jay Broat-billed Hummingbird Acrorn Woodpecker

Day 3
    In the mourning we walked a bit of the Vault Mine Trail and had three Elegant Trogans calling, saw one (We had a total of 6 for the trip, two seen. At this time of year they are calling in each canyon!). We also had Painted Redstart, Greater Pewee, a pair of Western-Wood-Pewee on a nest, Plumbeous Vireos, Bridled Titmouse, Bushtit, and my life Scott's Orioles. At least three species of lizards were also found.
We stayed in Nogales for the night. 

Sonoran Spotted Whiptail

Day 4
    Kino Springs had Blue Grosbeak, Phainopepla and Cassin's Kingbirds, but the ponds were dry.

    At Patagonia Lake we had the Gnatcatchers and Buntings mentioned earlier. We also added Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Gambel's Quail, Vermillion Flycatchers, Bewick's Wren, Lucy's Warbler and Yellow-breasted Chat.

    The famed Patagonia Rest Stop was quiet, no Becards, they haven't been there for 3-4 years now.

We visited the Paton's back yard (opened for bird watchers). We added Violet-crowned Hummingbird along with Black-chinned and Broad-billed Hummingbirds. Also seen were Bronzed Cowbird, White-crowned Sparrow, flyover Gray Hawk, and Thick-billed Kingbird.

    The Patagonia- Sonita Creek Refuge was quiet; it was already late in the day and getting very hot.

Violet-crowned hummingbird male Black-chinned Hummingbird female Black-chinned Hummingbird
(note the gray crown)

    We drove to Sierra Vista for the night. When we got there we visited Cox's B&B in Ash Canyon first. They had great feeders set up. I quickly added my life Arizona Woodpecker. The feeders were alive with birds and included; Anna's Hummingbirds, more Broad-billed Hummingbirds, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Lark Sparrow and Spotted Towhee. But the best bird, after a one hour wait was a Lucifer's Hummingbird, another lifer!

Day 5
    We headed for Fort Huachuca in the morning; security was tighter but no problem, and headed for Garden Canyon. I drove up past the upper picnic grove, up to and mile past Scheite Canyon, till I didn't trust the car on the road anymore and parked. We hike the 1.5 miles the rest of the way towards Saw Mill Canyon. Our goal - Buff-bellied Flycatcher. On the way up we added three more Trogans, plus Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Western Kingbird. We ran into three birders with a high clearance vehicle (they didn't have to hike!). They had just seen the flycatcher and we quickly found it, Nice Life Bird for me. Then a flock of Red Crossbills came in. We could hear a few Greater Pewees calling their "Jose-Maria" calls. On the way down we added Wild Turkey.

    We tried Ramsey Canyon but the lot was full, but the road leading to it yielded Scaled Quail and another roadrunner. We then had a long ride through Bisbee, (Big copper mining there) to Douglas, where we added Chihuahuan Raven. We also saw a few dust devils. The heat of the day would stir up the wind and these swirling winds would pick up dirt and dust and look like baby tornadoes.

Chihuahuan Raven Scaled Quail Arizna Woodpecker

Day 6
    We drove to Portal in the mourning, had a Swainson's Hawk on a pole along the way and had one flying over us later in the day. The road in had both Scaled and Gambel's Quails.
    The feeders at the little store were teeming with birds. We added Bullock's Oriole, Curve-billed Thrasher and Blue-throated Hummingbird. We drove up Cave Creek up a dirt mountain road. It was slow and tough going. We had 10 miles to get to Rustler's Park, but decided risking the rental car wasn't worth it. I stopped about 4 miles in (and up) at a junction that was good for birding. We finally saw a Western Tanager. Then a chickadee came in with a long black bib. Mexican Chickadee! We didn't have to drive all the way to see the bird. The Chiricahua Mountains is one of the few  places for this species in the US.

Bullock's Oriole Curve-billed Thrasher Mexican Chickadee

    On the way back to Portal we had a family of Javalinas (Collared Pecarary) in the road, a boar like animal.
We stopped at Wilcox to view the Golf Course Ponds and picked up lots of water birds including; Cinnamon Teal, White-faced Ibis, Eared Grebe, Wilson's Phalarope, Long-billed Curlew, Franklin's and California Gulls, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Black-necked Stilts and American Avocets. Then drove back to Tuscon.


Black-necked Stilt and Am. Avocet Javalina (Collared Pecary) Gambel's Quail

Day 7
    In the morning before heading to the airport, we stopped by the "Broadway desert" a small community just on the outside of Tuscon. They put in a new development and wiped out a lot of Saguaro Cactus but we did find Lesser Nighthawk and back at the car three Rufous-winged Sparrows!

Thanks for reading!

Michael and Kelli

Read our other trip reports at Kelli and Mike's Adventures