Since the first day I began my search for birds, there has probably not been a major birding conversation go by that somehow Southeast Arizona does not come up. I have never heard a bad story about the area and have always heard - "you have got to go birding in Southeast Arizona". I had researched the area multiple times over the past few years hoping that I would be able to get down there to experience what everyone was talking about. Well, the time finally came.
I was able to spend three days birding Tucson and vicinity on October 28, 29, and 30th. Although the time period of October is not known as the best time to bird the area, with it being my first visit, it promised to be a success - and a success it was! In total, I gained 40 life birds! A pretty respectable number if I do say so myself.
There were so many highlights on the trip; it is hard to narrow the visit down to just one or two. I will definitely have to post more than one blog to document the trip. A great place to gather information when planning your trip to S.E. Arizona is the Tucson Audubon Society. I highly recommend purchasing the book "Finding Birds in Southeast Arizona". You will not regret the purchase!
I visited several locations during my quick three days: Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Saguaro National Park, Sweetwater Wetlands, Patagonia (and vicinity), and Mt. Lemmon. Each of these areas was awesome in their own right!
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum was my very first destination. What a great place to start if you have never been to Southeast Arizona! Aside from being a very informative area, I was able to see my first Gila Woodpecker and Cactus Wren.
Saguaro National Park was my second stop. The park entrance is located just down the road from the Desert Museum. A cool spot to stop and bird is just down the road from the visitor’s center. About ½ - 1 mile down the road on the left is a parking area. Once you get out and walk the trail about 50 yards, there will be a small water hole on the right. This area should naturally have a concentration of birds that are staying close to the water to withstand the desert heat. My highlight at this location was a Clay-colored Sparrow – my first official “uncommon” bird. Others in the area included Curve-billed Thrasher, House Finch, Black-throated Sparrow, Brewers Sparrow, and Gila Woodpecker.
Sweetwater Wetlands, stop 3. What a place, what a place, what a place. Here, I had the privilege to do some birding with John Yeager of Adventure Birding! John was pleasure to bird with and was a great resource of bird knowledge. It took all but about 5 minutes to figure out why Sweetwater is such a great place to birders in the area. Some of the highlights included: Pintail, Cinnamon Teal, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Abert’s Towhee, Sora, Eared Grebe, and Harris’s Hawk. Birds, birds, everywhere! Thanks John!I spent day two in the Patagonia area with Cliff Cathers of Economy Birding. Cliff too was a great birding guide and worked very hard to maximize my bird sightings. We visited multiple locations along the Mexico-U.S. Border. We ended the day at Patton’s feeders that unfortunately did not have the activity it had just the day before, however, a fantastic Violet-crowned and Rufous Hummingbird were still present. Other highlights included: Canyon Towhee, Bridled Titmouse, Western Tanager, Scott’s Oriole, Red-naped Sapsucker, Least Grebe, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Phainopepla, Lesser Goldfinch, and Brewers Blackbird. I was able to end the day in Cliff’s front yard with a Costa’s Hummingbird. Thanks Cliff!