SOUTHEASTERN ARIZONA
May 2-9, 2001
Phil Olsen and Bill Murphy


Phil and I began our trip by meeting at the airport in Phoenix on Wednesday evening, where we saw White-throated Swifts. A Loggerhead Shrike picked up and flew away with a dead House Sparrow in the rental car parking lot. We drove to Tucson for the night. (Click on images for larger views)
Early the next morning we drove south to the Santa Rita Mountains. Here I am in mesquite grassland near Florida (flow-REE-dah) Wash near the mouth of Madera Canyon. This area was good for lowland and foothill species. Thanks to Phil I was on the lookout for rattlesnakes. Good birds here included the best possible view of a male Costa's Hummingbird in full sunlight, Zone-tailed Hawk, Bell's Vireo, and the first of scores of Lucy's Warbler, which seems to be a mesquite specialist. Click here for larger image
Phil in the same area. Notice how, unlike devil-may-care me, he's sensible enough to stay out of potentially rattlesnake-infested grass. Click here for larger image
A Mexican Jay enjoying my offering of grapes in Madera Canyon, which lies on the north slope of the Santa Rita Mountains. This deep, densely wooded canyon is a very famous birding locality in Arizona, known especially for hummingbirds and trogons. While here we saw the rare Berylline Hummingbird along with the gorgeous Painted Redstart. Here I saw my first-ever Yellow-eyed Junco. Broad-billed Hummingbirds were the most common hummingbird species at the feeders, and Acorn Woodpecker was easily found not only here but throughout our trip. Click here for larger image
One of the flock of six Mexican Jays taking off. I learned this species when it was called "Gray-breasted Jay." We spent the night in Nogales. Click here for larger image
Early morning northwest of Nogales. Phil and I birded along Ruby Road for miles, enjoying the exquisite and constantly changing scenery. Most of the time we were on this road we were a scant five miles north of Mexico. Border Patrol vehicles and aircraft were constantly patrolling the area.

The tall, thin plants behind us are Ocatillo, which were blooming during our visit. By "blooming" I mean that each stem was tipped with a single red petal. It felt like sweatshirt weather to me because Ruby Road traverses an area that is more than 4,000 feet in elevation.

Good birds included Black-throated Sparrow, Scott's Oriole, and Golden Eagle. We learned that all of the resident Red-tailed Hawks were of the fuertes race.
Click here for larger image
Phil at Peña Blanca Lake along Ruby Road. Coot and Great Blue Heron were the only waterbirds here during the middle of the day. This area is in the Sonoran Desert habitat. Any body of water in a desert looks strange because the greenery is limited to the immediate edge of the lake and the inflow/outflow creeks. The maps and books showed that food and water were available at this site, but all that remained of any such amenities were a few abandoned buildings.

From Ruby Road we returned to Nogales to bird along the Mariposa (?) River, then spent a couple very enjoyable hours at Kino Springs, where we added Black-bellied Whistling-Duck to our list. Then it was on to the town of Patagonia.
Click here for larger image
Here it is, most of downtown Patagonia. We checked into the place on the near corner, the Stage Stop Motel, had dinner, then drove out of town to listen for night birds along a side road. Click here for larger image
The next day we birded several different places within a few miles of Patagonia. In Wally and Marion Paton's backyard a bank of hummingbird feeders attracted a wide variety of species, including my first Violet-crowned Hummingbird. Also in the Paton's backyard was my first Abert's Towhee. While relaxing there we had close views of a male Cassin's Finch on the ground with the sunlight shining through its carmine-colored crown. Along Sonoita Creek we saw Gray Hawks flying among and over the large Fremont Cottonwoods, Black Phoebe flycatching along the creek, and Vermilion Flycatcher in many places. Later on, at The Nature Conservancy's Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve, we watched a newly fledged Say's Phoebe during its first hours out of the nest. We also visited the famous Patagonia Roadside Rest Area but were about a week early for Rose-throated Becard, as we were for Sulfur-bellied Flycatcher throughout the trip. We drove to Sierra Vista for the night. The next day we visited the Huachuca Mountains. A minor highlight was eating breakfast at the first McDonald's in the universe to have had drive-through service.
Leaving the Huachucas, we drove east and spent a productive afternoon at the San Pedro Riparian Area before heading northeast to Willcox for the night. We left Willcox at "oh-dark-hundred", way earlier than dawn, and arrived at Portal on the east side of the Chiricahua Mountains about an hour after sunrise. We stopped along the road a few miles from Portal and were fortunate to spot the only White-tailed Kite of the trip, then added Great Horned Owl in a Cottonwood on the main street in Portal.
We were even more fortunate to get a room at the Cave Creek Ranch in Portal as walk-in customers. This lodge was my favorite accommodation on the trip, with a breathtaking view of the Chiricahua Mountains towering above us. The Chiricahuas are among Arizona's most famous birding locations. In fact, two other birding groups arrived while we were there, one with Field Guides, Inc., the other with High Lonesome Tours.

Birds were abundant in the transition zone between the desert and the mountains and especially at feeders. We birded South Fork Canyon, searching in vain for a one-day-only Flame-colored Tanager. We had excellent views of Elegant Trogon and more Painted Redstarts, then headed up into the mountains for a wonderful day of high-elevation birding.

After dark we drove through South Fork Canyon, listening for and identifying Whiskered and Western Screech-Owls and Flammulated Owl by their distinctive calls. Phil pointed out to me the burry, unmistakable call of a bird that eventually might be split off as "Mexican Whip-poor-will".
Click here for larger image
A lazy morning at Cave Creek Lodge. Our porch was only 30 feet from Cave Creek. We enjoyed the sound of splashing water while relaxing in the shade of Arizona Sycamores. Click here for larger image
During the morning Phil and I birded in different directions. I wandered next door to another bird-famous backyard, that of the Spofford's, adjacent to the Cave Creek Lodge. Hummingbirds, thrashers, orioles, and sparrows were coming and going from the various kinds of feeders and food. I thought it odd to watch normally terrestrial Gambel's Quail calling from trees. Click here for larger image
Here's Phil birding in the Chihuahuan scrub behind Spofford's house. Verdin and Bewick's Wren were common there. Click here for larger image
After checking out of the Cave Creek Lodge, we headed west up the dirt road that crosses east-to-west over the Chiricahuas. Here's Phil birding along the road, where Red-faced Warbler and Mexican Chickadee were good finds. Click here for larger image
Here's a view to the east from high up on the road over the Chiricahua Mountains. Far in the distance are the Animas Mountains in extreme sw New Mexico. We birded Rustler's Park at the top of the road, where I added Olive Warbler to my life list. From there we birded slowly down the western slope of the Chiricahuas to the grasslands, took some time birding the Wilson's Phalarope-rich sewage lagoons in Willcox, then drove to Tucson for the night. Click here for larger image
On our last evening of the trip, Phil and I stopped southeast of Tucson near Davis-Monthan AFB and searched for Rufous-winged Sparrow in the desert scrub. That's Opuntia cactus on the left, Cholla cactus on the right. Although this area had become a mecca for dirt bikes, Curve-billed Thrashers and Cactus Wrens were plentiful. Click here for larger image
Bill looking for Rufous-winged Sparrow in the same place. Click here for larger image
After a lot of searching, we decided that we were in former Rufous-winged Sparrow habitat. Click here for larger image
It was challenging to get my camera balanced on the roof of the rental car, aim it properly, set off the self-timer, and get into position successfully. This time seemed to work. Click here for larger image
Cactus in the Sonoran desert south of Tucson. Click here for larger image
Same place, different view Click here for larger image