Avian Jewels of Arizona Jul 16—24, 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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Our 2018 Avian Jewels of Arizona tour was chock-full of memorable moments and exciting highlights. From Tucson to the Chiricahua Mountains we tallied virtually all of our avian targets, saw unexpected rarities, and marveled at many mammals, reptiles, and butterflies in addition to all of the great birds.

We began with a brief late afternoon outing to Sweetwater Wetlands in Tucson. Among the over thirty species seen on our introductory outing were Gila Woodpecker (our first bird of the tour), the very localized Tropical Kingbird, Brown-crested Flycatcher, and the often shy Abert’s Towhee.

Elegant Trogon

Elegant Trogon— Photo: Barry Zimmer


The following morning, our birding began in earnest. A pair of Burrowing Owls inhabiting a bank parking lot (!) got the day off to an auspicious beginning. A walk through the residential areas of Green Valley ensued and yielded a wealth of new species. Stunning views of Rufous-winged Sparrow topped the list, but Zone-tailed Hawk, Gambel’s Quail, Verdin, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Phainopepla, and Black-throated Sparrow were likewise memorable. Grasslands en route to Madera Canyon produced Botteri’s Sparrow from ten feet away and skylarking Cassin’s Sparrows (both species hit the peak of their breeding during the summer monsoon season). Soon, we arrived at the famed Santa Rita Lodge, where the feeder set-up is renowned. I had taken one step out of my van, when I noticed an adult Gray Hawk soaring overhead—quite the nice greeting party! As we approached the feeders, birds were appearing at a dizzying pace—Bridled Titmouse, Broad-billed Hummingbird, Acorn Woodpecker, Black-headed Grosbeak, and Mexican Jay. Frankly, it was hard to know where to look first. Over a short time, a few other good birds arrived including the likes of two Costa’s Hummingbirds (rarely seen at this elevation), Rivoli’s Hummingbird, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, and a Rufous-crowned Sparrow. Suddenly, we heard the distinctive barking call of an Elegant Trogon coming from the creek bed right behind the lodge! We scrambled up the road to a point where we could access the creek trail and headed towards the call. We were quickly distracted by a pair of noisy Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers and then by an Arizona Woodpecker over our heads. Unfortunately, the trogon went silent, and lunchtime was rolling around quickly. We decided to head to lunch and then return immediately to look for the trogon. This strategy paid off well. Although it took a bit of patience, we eventually had nice scope studies of a spectacular male Elegant Trogon—the iconic bird of southeastern Arizona—on our first day!

Read Barry’s full report in his Field Report.