Day 1: Arrival and Orientation
Our Southeast Arizona birding tour begins in Tucson for our evening meet & greet dinner. Night in Tucson.
Day 2: Tucson area-Saguaro National Park
On our first morning, we search the Sonoran Desert’s Giant Saguaro cactus landscape for lowland birds such as Gilded Flicker, Gila Woodpecker, Costa’s Hummingbird, Verdin, Cactus Wren, Black-throated Sparrow and Phainopepla. Afterwards, in the heat of the day, we drive to higher elevations of the Chiricahua Mountains where we stay for the next few days. Night in Portal.
Days 3 & 4: Portal/Chiricahua Mountains
The Chiricahuas are a very special place. The spectacular vistas; the diverse habitats of deserts, canyons, and mountain highlands; and the rich history of the area all combine to make this a major highlight of any trip to southeast Arizona. The arid grasslands and deserts are good habitat for Prairie Falcon, Scaled Quail, Burrowing Owl, Juniper Titmouse, Bendire’s and Crissal Thrashers and Swainson’s Hawk. Cave Creek Canyon is just simply a joy to visit, and we explore the roadways and trails of this marvelous canyon. The wild and beautiful mountains are the only spot in the US one can reliably find Mexican Chickadees! The Chiricahuas are a treasure trove of amazing birds, with superb Elegant Trogons; several hummingbirds including Blue-throated, Rivoli’s and Broad-tailed; and Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers. In the high-elevation pinelands we look for specialties including Arizona Woodpecker, Greater Pewee, Pygmy Nuthatch, Yellow-eyed Junco, Hepatic Tanager and Short-tailed Hawk. Flocks of migrant warblers such as Townsend’s and Hermit mix with local breeders such as Olive, Grace’s, Virginia’s, and Red-faced Warblers and Painted Redstarts. Other goodies we should encounter include Mexican Jay, Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay, Western Bluebird, Scott’s and Hooded Orioles, and Black-headed and Evening Grosbeaks.
At some point we try for some nighttime birds like owls and goatsuckers, as well as noting any of the fascinating snakes, lizards and toads that appear in the evening. Night in Portal.
Days 5 & 6: Huachuca Mountains
We spend a final morning in Portal, looking for species we might have missed, before heading towards our next mountain range, the Huachuca Mountains. This is a great area for fantastic birds like Lucifer Hummingbird, Buff-breasted Flycatcher, Red-faced Warbler and Spotted Owl, and we spend two exciting days exploring this delightful mountain range.
The lush mesquite grasslands here are inhabited by Botteri’s, Cassin’s and Rufous-crowned Sparrows. Nearby mountains are cloaked in pine/oak woodlands that host a diverse array of woodland birds - Arizona Woodpecker, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Bridled Titmouse, Virginia’s and Black-throated Gray Warblers, Hepatic Tanager, Plumbeous and Hutton's Vireos, Spotted Towhee and Red Crossbill. Overhead we look for Zone-tailed Hawk, Northern Goshawk and Golden Eagle. Some very special birds we attempt to find include a loose colony of Buff-breasted Flycatchers, Eastern Bluebird, Spotted Owl, and Lucifer and White-eared Hummingbirds at hummingbird feeders.
Being so close to the Mexican border, these mountains have a long history of producing some real rarities. A few of the rarer species that have been somewhat regular the last few years include Tufted Flycatcher, Plain-capped Starthroat, Flame-colored Tanager and Rufous-capped Warbler – we will certainly try to find any of these species if they are present. We also have another chance here for Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher and Greater Pewee. Nights in Sierra Vista.
Day 7: Patagonia
Today, we visit the Patton Center, one of the best places in the US to see Violet-crowned Hummingbirds. We should also find Broad-billed, Black-chinned and Anna’s Hummingbirds, along with Yellow-breasted Chat, Bronzed Cowbird, Hooded and Bullock’s Orioles, and Lesser Goldfinch. The adjacent Sonora Creek Nature Conservancy is an excellent location for Thick-billed Kingbird and the hills nearby can be productive for Montezuma Quail and Black-capped Gnatcatcher. We also visit the rugged and exceptionally beautiful Atascosa Highlands to track down Five-striped Sparrows and Buff-collared Nightjars, both species that just barely slip over the Mexican border into the US. We are always on the lookout for Gray Hawk, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, Varied Bunting, three species of Myiarchus flycatchers (Ash-throated, Brown-crested, and Dusky-capped), Vermilion Flycatcher, Bell’s Vireo, and Lucy’s Warbler. Night in Douglas.
Day 8: Atascosa Highlands/Tubac
Today we work our way up to the Santa Rita Mountains. Rose-throated Becards have been found annually for a few years along the Santa Cruz River in Tubac, and we will certainly try for this strange sub-tropical bird. We should have time today to track down a species or two that we might have missed up to now. Night in Green Valley.
Day 9: Santa Rita Mountains
We spend our final days in the Santa Rita Mountains, birding legendary Madera Canyon. This scenic canyon is full of birds like Painted Redstart, Arizona Woodpecker, Whiskered Screech-Owls and Rivoli’s (Magnificent) Hummingbirds, and it can be another excellent spot for Trogons. Climbing into the Santa Ritas, we stop at lowland washes and dry watercourses, outstanding localities for desert scrub species where we look for Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Pyrrhuloxia, Bell’s Vireo, Rufous-winged Sparrow, Canyon Wren, and Greater Roadrunner. Night in Green Valley.
Day 10: Santa Rita Mountains and return to Tucson
Our final full day in the Arizona, we continue to bird the beautiful Madera Canyon, looking for species we might have missed before driving back to Tucson. Night in Tucson.
Day 11: Departure
Our Southeast Arizona birding tour ends today, you can depart anytime today.