Aztec Thrush Barrel Cactus in Bloom Birding at Patagonia -Sonoita Preserve Burned area in the White Mountains Chiricahua Mountains Mexican Jay Saguaro Cacti near Mt. Lemmon Steve with the Group in Paradise Sunset over Grassland


Trip Report





Aztec Thrush

Venture to Southeastern Arizona
August 8 - 18 2011



8/8/11 - Monday:

Some of us started the morning at Sweetwater Wetlands in Tucson and were rewarded with Cinnamon Teal and Common Moorhen and had great views of our first Mexican Ducks, Gambel's Quail, Least Sandpipers, Gila Woodpeckers, Black Phoebe, Cactus Wrens, and Abert's Towhees. We had an intimate experience with a family of Verdin and their "active" and "dummy" nests. Two Zone-tailed Hawks gave us a nice "welcome" greeting on our way up to Mount Lemmon.
Higher up, our first stop yielded a small flock of warblers including Black-throated Gray, Red-faced, and Painted Redstart. A nice suite of birds here included White-throated Swift, Mountain Chickadee, Pygmy Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Canyon Wren, Spotted Towhee, Yellow-eyed Junco, and Black-headed Grosbeak.
A nice walk around the town of Summerhaven gave us Hermit, Virginia's, and (ten!) Red-faced Warblers, Painted Redstart, Warbling Vireo, and Band-tailed Pigeon. Plenty of Cordilleran Flycatchers were still feeding young here. One Peregrine Falcon was a nice addition to the sunset at the summit, and our first Bewick's Wrens and Lesser Nighthawks led the way to dinner.
A Badger gave some folks quick glimpses on our way to Madera Canyon.

Barrel Cactus in Bloom


8/9 - Tuesday:
A very nice morning start in the grasslands below Madera Canyon surrounded us with Cassin's, Botteri's, Rufous-winged, Lark, and Black-throated Sparrows, Bell's Vireo, Phainopepla, Lucy's Warbler, Western Tanager, Varied Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, the beautiful "superb" race of Northern Cardinal (C. cardinalis superbus), and a Tarantula. Breakfast fueled our hike up Madera Canyon where we were rewarded by wonderful views of a feeding Aztec Thrush!
This was definitely the best trip bird for all! Our first Elegant Trogon, Acorn Woodpeckers, Dusky-capped and Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers, Plumbeous and Hutton's Vireos, Bridled Titmice, "Brown-throated" House Wrens, Hermit Thrush, and Hepatic Tanagers made the hike entertaining. A post-monsoon stop at Kubo B&B immediately gave us multiple looks at Berylline,
Broad-billed, Blue-throated, and Magnificent Hummingbirds, and an evening drive down Box Canyon Rd. yielded Lazuli Bunting, Gray Hawk, Loggerhead Shrike, Canyon Towhee, and Hooded Oriole.


Birding at Patagonia--Sonoita Preserve

8/10 - Wednesday: It doesn't get much better than starting off a day with great views of a singing Five-striped Sparrow while being serenaded by a Scott's Oriole in Montosa Canyon. The De Anza Trail in Tubac had Tropical Kingbirds still feeding young, plenty of Brown-crested and Vermillion Flycatchers, Summer Tanagers, and brief views of an immature Painted Bunting and a Northern Beardless-tyrannulet. A quick stop by Rio Rico Ponds had even more Tropical Kingbirds and good looks at Ladder-backed Woodpecker and Black Phoebe. Simon's group spotted a few Black Vultures on the way to Patagonia. It was very entertaining to watch a pair of Thick-billed Kingbirds skillfully tending to a nest at the Sonoita Creek Preserve, as one bird had a damaged leg. Here we also had our first Common Ground-dove, Indigo Bunting, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and Yellow-breasted Chat. The Paton's feeders had a whirlwind of activity highlighted by our first Calliope and Violet-crowned Hummingbirds, and Inca Dove.


Chiricahua Mountains

8/11 - Thursday: A morning walk around the town of Patagonia gave us our first views of Bronzed Cowbird and nice looks at Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Curve-billed Thrasher. A family of Javelinas was seen on our way to Patagonia Lake State Park, where we had Black-bellied Whistling-ducks, Green Heron, and Black Vultures, and excellent views of two adult Common Black-hawks along the Blackhawk trail. The south side of the park gave us a nice Greater Roadrunner, our first Rufous- crowned Sparrow, and a few heard-only Northern Beardless-Tyrannulets. Of course, we just had to stop by the Patagonia Roadside Rest Stop to see one more token Thick-billed Kingbird! Our after-lunch pies were washed down by a dramatic monsoon, and we came out the other side in a beautiful grassland scene full of Grasshopper, Cassin's, and Botteri's Sparrows, Lillian's Eastern Meadowlarks, and a herd of White-faced Antelope. Mary Jo Ballator gave us a warm welcome at the Ash Canyon B&B, and it was absolutely loaded with birds. A pair of adult Lucifer Hummingbirds definitely stole the show, but some of us even had quick looks at an apparent Lucifer x Costa's hybrid! After an incredible dinner in Sierra Vista, we were able to track down a few Whiskered Screech-owls in Ramsey Canyon before being driven to bed by another monsoon.


Mexican Jay

8/12 - Friday: Three unstoppable explorers scoured their way up and down Scheelite Canyon and survived! They were left to tell tales of a Wilson's Warbler and better looks at Hepatic Tanager, Sulphur- bellied and Dusky-capped Flycatchers, Plumbeous and Hutton's Vireos, and "Brown-throated" House Wrens, but the rest of the group had a more relaxing time seeing most of these along with our first Arizona Woodpecker and Nashville and Orange-crowned Warblers along Garden Canyon. Sawmill Canyon was quiet upon arrival, but then a huge flock of warblers poured in from the north, filled with Painted Redstarts and Red-faced, Grace's, Hermit and Townsend's Warblers. Two Elegant Trogons carrying a lizard into their nest cavity was a very entertaining highlight, and we also had multiple views of a few, very cute Buff-breasted Flycatchers! A quick stop by Whitewater Draw gave a few folks views of our first Lark Buntings.


8/13 - Saturday: South Fork Cave Creek in the Chiricahua Mountains gave us our first Chihuahuan Ravens and was loaded with more Arizona Woodpeckers, Grace's Warblers, and Elegant Trogons. Incredibly dramatic flash floods ("chocolate rivers") washed out our plans near the Southwestern Research Station, but we were still able to forge our way over to the George Walker House for more wonderful hummingbird entertainment and a Juniper Titmouse. A few folks had quick views of our first Western Scrub-jay on the way to dinner.


Steve with the Group in Paradise

8/14 - Sunday: We knew it was going to be a great day when a covey of six Scaled Quail and a few more scattered individuals posed for us along the way to Willow Tank. Numerous flocks of Lark Buntings were also moving through here. The Tank proved itself again as a nice migrant trap with a female Painted Bunting, Bullock's Oriole, Wilson's and Yellow Warblers, and our first Ash-throated Flycatcher. Just before giving in to breakfast, our grumbling stomachs somehow conjured up a magical moment with two Bendire's and one Crissal Thrasher just outside Rodeo, NM! After breakfast, our satisfied stomachs then showed us another Crissal Thrasher downstream from the "Dave Jasper House", a Dusky Flycatcher and Black-tailed Gnatcatcher in the field next door, and Pyrrhuloxia right in the yard. We had distant views of a singing Black-chinned Sparrow on our way out of Portal. An incredibly cooperative Harris's Hawk was a nice "welcome" on our way into Wilcox. The Willcox Ponds were a shorebird smorgasboard loaded with Baird's, Pectoral, Stilt, Spotted, Western, and Least Sandpipers, Wilson's Phalarope, Semipalmated Plover, American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, Black Tern, Lesser Yellowlegs, and Long-billed Dowitchers. Our first Blue- winged Teal, Violet-green Swallow, Yellow-headed and Brewer's Blackbirds were also a treat, and a Tricolored Heron (extremely rare in AZ) sauntered right into the open for us just as we were leaving!


8/15 - Monday: An excellent stop by St. David's Monastery was filled with Lazuli Buntings and another molting Indigo, a few more Tropical Kingbirds, a Bronzed Cowbird, and we had nice views of two Mississippi Kites. Numerous Elk and Wild Turkey kept us awake on the drive up to the White Mountains, and Luna Lake was a wonderful reward highlighted by a Sandhill Crane, Peregrine Falcon, Bald Eagles and one Virginia Rail feeding two small black chicks! Here we also had our first "Red-backed" Dark-eyed Juncos, Purple Martins, Eared and Pied-billed Grebes, Canvasback, and Ruddy Duck. We all had a good giggle at our first gaggle of Canada Geese on the way to dinner.


Sunset over Grassland

8/16 - Tuesday: An early morning walk in Greer was highlighted by Mike spotting a tiny, dipper-like, bobbing bird that turned out to be a Louisiana Waterthrush (extremely rare in AZ)! An Orange-crowned and Wilson's Warbler were also here, and we did finally spot an American Dipper just back up the road. Pinyon Jays, Western Scrub-Jay, Olive-sided Flycatcher, two adult Townsend's Solitaires feeding a juvenile, and two Peregrine Falcons were wonderful highlights along South Fork where we also found a Willow Flycatcher, Bushtits, Audubon's Yellow-rumped Warblers, and Pine Siskins. A stop by Big Lake produced plenty of pinkish Common Mergansers and a pair of Western Grebes. The Three Forks Area gave us great looks at MacGillivray's Warbler, Green-tailed Towhee's still carrying food, Rock Wren, Common Nighthawk, and a Solitary Sandpiper. A very successful group-hunt for American Three-toed Woodpeckers finished an incredible day near Winn Campground by finding four birds and Mountain Bluebirds still feeding young!


8/17 - Wednesday: Early morning in Greer showed another American Dipper, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Nashville Warbler, and a fly-by Clark's Nutcracker. Then, a stop back by Winn Campground had two more Three-toed Woodpeckers and four Gray Jays! There was a nice flock of passerines here, which had one very leucistic Yellow-rumped Warbler (thanks again to Mike), an Olive-sided Flycatcher, and Red-breasted Nuthatch. A stormy stop by Becker Lake yielded a Peregrine Falcon, Nashville Warbler, Bullock's Oriole, and more Lazuli Buntings than we could handle. Sunset at the White Mountains Grassland Preserve gave us nice views of Gray Flycatcher, Common Nighthawks, glimpses of Vesper Sparrows, and Prairie Dogs.


8/18 - Thursday: Our target hunt for Olive Warbler was very successful this morning at Phoenix Park with multiple birds showing well and mixed in with large flocks of Hermit Warblers and another Dusky Flycatcher. Our last Red-Faced Warbler paid us a visit while eating lunch at Tonto Creek. A beautiful Barn Owl flushed from below the bridge in Sunflower, and Mike spotted a Great Egret while driving 65 MPH through Phoenix to finish off a great trip list!


Steve Ritt