Winter Southern Arizona Jan 15—21, 2018

Posted by Barry Zimmer


Barry Zimmer

Barry Zimmer has been birding since the age of eight. His main areas of expertise lie in North and Central America, but his travels have taken him throughout much of the wo...

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Once again, our Winter Southern Arizona tour was a huge success. We scoured a variety of habitats from the oak-juniper woodlands of Madera Canyon to the riparian habitat along the Santa Cruz River, to the Sonoran desert around Green Valley, and to the agricultural fields and desert scrub of the Sulphur Springs Valley in search of southwestern residents, winter specialties, and Mexican rarities. On all counts our trip was wildly successful.

Red-naped Sapsucker

Red-naped Sapsucker— Photo: Barry Zimmer


We began our journey around Green Valley, where we tallied such gems as Harris’s Hawk, Costa’s Hummingbird, Gila Woodpecker, Verdin, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Phainopepla, Canyon Towhee, the highly localized Rufous-winged Sparrow, Black-throated Sparrow, and Pyrrhuloxia among others. Heading up into world-famous Madera Canyon, we were met by a host of new birds. Feeders around the Santa Rita Lodge hosted a rare overwintering Rivoli’s Hummingbird, the highly sought Arizona Woodpecker, Acorn Woodpecker, two incredibly close Red-naped Sapsuckers, Mexican Jay, Bridled Titmouse, an absolutely stunning Painted Redstart, and a fierce-looking Yellow-eyed Junco among others. Further up canyon, we located a mixed species flock that contained Hutton’s Vireo, Brown Creeper, and a snazzy male Townsend’s Warbler, while the Procter Road area at the mouth of the canyon yielded White-throated Swift, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Hammond’s Flycatcher, Western Bluebird, and Canyon Wren. All those goodies were packed into Day One of our tour!

The following day we visited the agricultural fields and desert scrub of the Santa Cruz Flats to the northwest of Tucson. Two Bendire’s Thrashers, a Sage Thrasher, and a small group of Sagebrush Sparrows got the day off to a bang. A perched Ferruginous Hawk a short distance away allowed incredibly close scope views. By mid-morning we had arrived at a set of sod farms, where we were greeted by a flock of 46 Mountain Plovers. This threatened and declining species is often devilishly hard to find (a real needle in a haystack situation), and we were very fortunate to have them present when we pulled up. A couple of close Burrowing Owls, a bobbing Rock Wren, and a perched Prairie Falcon added to our ever-growing list. We had been so successful in such short order that we now had enough time to try to track down a vagrant Lewis’s Woodpecker that had been found in a nearby pecan grove. Within minutes we had located this beauty and soaked-in awesome scope views. A close, fly-by Crested Caracara, two Long-billed Curlews, an entertaining pair of Greater Roadrunners, a fluorescent male Vermilion Flycatcher, and an estimated 6,000 Yellow-headed Blackbirds were among the noteworthy additional finds before lunch. We had permission to visit some local feeders after lunch and were treated to a nice hummingbird show that included at least four flashy Broad-billed Hummingbirds. We finished the day at Sweetwater Wetlands where we found Cinnamon Teal, Orange-crowned Warbler, and a pair of Abert’s Towhees in the late afternoon.

Read Barry’s full report in his Field Report.