Spring Grand Arizona May 10—20, 2017

Posted by Brian Gibbons


Brian Gibbons

Brian Gibbons grew up in suburban Dallas where he began exploring the wild world in local creeks and parks. Chasing butterflies and any animal that was unfortunate enough t...

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Our tour through Arizona was a study in contrasts: deserts and mountains, hot and cold, grasslands and woodlands. The variety of habitats allows for a great diversity in wildlife, which we sampled during ten days in the Catalinas, Santa Ritas, Huachucas, and Chiricahuas, to name the spectacular sky islands we visited. One of the world’s few venomous lizards, the Gila Monster, crossed our path in Aravaipa Canyon, and several nights of owling finally netted most of our target birds, but a couple of daylight sightings delighted even more. The striking Painted Redstarts and Red-faced Warblers thrilled us in the mountains, as the Gambel’s Quail did in the deserts. More than 1,200 miles showed us a swath of Arizona as we uncovered many of the specialties Southeast Arizona is known for.

Cactus Wren on blooming Saguaro

Cactus Wren on blooming Saguaro— Photo: Brian Gibbons


Our first afternoon was spent taking in the grounds of the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, a zoo and museum in one place and an excellent location for getting to know wild and common Sonoran Desert species. Here we saw our only Costa’s Hummingbirds and Black-tailed Gnatcatchers and the first Gila Woodpeckers, Verdins, Rufous-winged Sparrows, and Cactus Wrens. After dinner, we headed up the Catalina Highway where the owls were calling, but shy; we did see our only Mexican Whip-poor-will that evening. The next morning we headed north of town to Aravaipa Canyon, Common Black Hawk country. Along the way we spotted our first Gray Hawks and Zone-tailed Hawk before we made it into the canyon. A Gila Monster delayed our Black Hawk search as it crossed the road and wandered into the canyon. Finally, a cooperative Common Black Hawk sat on a cottonwood snag for everyone to enjoy. Later in the day we enjoyed a picnic dinner in Madera Canyon and then went owling as darkness fell; again we heard the diminutive Elf Owls, but they wouldn’t show themselves. We also heard a chorus of Whip-poor-wills on the slopes above. Whiskered Screech-Owls finally gave themselves up, and we saw a couple, as at least five called in the oak forest surrounding us.

In Green Valley we finally found a Gilded Flicker, a couple of siblings sticking their heads out of a hole in a Saguaro, ready to fledge. Madera Canyon in the daylight revealed tons of new birds; Mexican Jays, Broad-billed Hummingbirds, Acorn Woodpeckers, and Bridled Titmice were all evident as we wandered the canyon and watched the feeders at Santa Rita Lodge. A scratched sycamore even roused an unamused Elf Owl! Having enjoyed the morning, we headed to Olives for an excellent lunch and then on to the Amado Sewage Pond where we found our first Black-bellied Whistling-Duck.

Read Brian’s full report in his Field List.