Phil Jeffrey:: Arizona, May/June 2013 trip report


Arizona Birding Trip, May 30th - June 8th 2013

This trip to AZ occurred for two reasons: it was about seven years to my last trip to this region that contains many specialty birds; it's part of a series of trips over the last few years looking to attain the goal of seeing 700 species within the USA. After a "general" winter TX trip that fortuitously netted me Flammulated Owl (#677), a winter AZ trip got me Rosy-faced Lovebird, Le Conte's Thrasher and Western Screech-Owl (#s 678-680), the Massachusetts Fieldfare (#681) followed by a Florida trip for Thick-billed Vireo, Mangrove Cuckoo, Purple Swamphen and Nanday Parakeet (#s 682-685), then a NC pelagic for Black-capped Petrel and Band-rumped Storm-Petrel (#s 686, 687) The targets for this AZ trip were Spotted Owl, Northern Pygmy-Owl and Mexican Whip-poor-will. I got all three of those, plus the rarity bonus of Buff-collared Nightjar (#s 688-691).

Timing was dictated by wanting to cover NYC spring migration and the Hatteras Pelagic. Absent these considerations it would have been better to do this trip some time in May. In 2006 I was there the week before Memorial Day weekend.

Flights etc

I flew PHL-PHX via Southwest airlines. The PHL-PHX leg went fine and was even a little early, but the PHX-PHL leg was less satisfactory with a delay before take-off and further delays after boarding with slow bag loading. Service standard on that return leg was also below average for Southwest, and they usually do a good job. Three of my four flights on Southwest have been good, I'm hopeful this was more of an anomaly (and late day summer flights are more prone to knock-on effects of weather delays).

In contrast with my sub-par experience with Budget on the previous AZ trip in February, I rented from Dollar this time and via partnership with Southwest got a good deal on a SUV. I put about 2,200 miles on it, some of it on dirt roads, but also spent some time cleaning it up before returning it - I don't like to make it quite so obvious that I was using it off-tarmac although rental companies are surely not naive. Quite a decent SUV, the Escape, having a somewhat car-like ride but also taking difficult roads like Carr Canyon Rd with some aplomb. Unfortunately it was only doing about 25-26 mpg despite a lot of highway miles and going easy on the gas pedal. Needing to use the a/c a lot has something to do with this.

Sunrise/Sunset and Weather Forecasts

Phoenix Feb 7th: sunrise 5:20am, sunset 7:30pm
Weather forecast Phoenix
Weather forecast Tucson

Arizona almost open for business

I get that June is not high season in AZ, nevertheless attempts to plow $ into the local economy as opposed to national chains hit too numerous snags to be ignored. Let's enumerate the more obvious ones: Dragoon Mtns campground closed June 1st; Ramsey Cyn Preserve closed Tues and Weds (to be fair, it's like that all the time) and only 8-5pm; Portal (store) cafe closed for 3 weeks in June; both target local restaurants in Willcox closed on Sunday and one of those also closed on Monday. I can work around all of that, mainly by funnelling $ into non-local businesses instead, but it was a source of frustration since I had a little extra latitude on this trip to spend time in local restaurants. Instead I'm eating at Subway and Chipotle.

Planning Notes

I used three major resources: the AZ-NM mailing list; eBird sightings reports; the Tucson RBA. On previous trips I had availed myself of Stuart Healey's birding journal at However having done extensive planning for the 2006 May AZ-NM-CO trip I already had some idea of where to look for things.

I did one evening of guided night birding with a local Patagonia birder and guide Matt Brown - I met him on the Nome section of my 2012 AK trip and he has excellent local knowledge with led us straight to good looks at my life Mexican Whip-poor-will. This would have eluded me otherwise, and while I don't usually use guides (Matt is the first guide I've used personally) I particularly recommend him if you're looking for one in se.AZ. I also mined eBird sightings using the BirdsEye iPhone app while in the field (find local hotspots and sightings) although given my level of preparation this time it was not especially important. To a lesser extent I've used the Tucson Audubon's "Finding Birds in S.E. Arizona" book for which I have an older version. I took this book with me although I already knew directions to most places based on planning for prior trips. It lacks some destinations like Montosa Canyon and its level of detail sometimes leaves something to be desired. Such a lot of data is available online now that probably many of the books (e.g. ABA Lane guides) are getting a little out of date, nevertheless you need to be careful - there's not universal cell data coverage in s.e.AZ so you'll either need a laptop with downloaded pages, or some hard copies of the more critical data. There's a gap that eBooks could bridge here.

Sightings for Primary Targets

Upper case are life bird targets. Underlines are ones of interest. The notation here is somewhat cryptic - sightings refer to those that occurred in May and June 2013, and plausible locations are also listed based on eBird and AZ-NM list reports. Things in parentheses are of lesser utility. Links, where given, are almost always to eBird for "recent" sightings.

Location Considerations

Trip List

This is a somewhat lackluster trip list, for at least two reasons: the timing of the trip reduced diversity since I was dealing only with breeding species and no migrants; my focus on AZ montane canyons with only one water location (Willcox) and not that many desert riparian locations. Comparison with my 2006 AZ-NM-CO trip shows many more species obtained at wetter grassland locations and a far larger trip total. For the latter trip the more northerly locations added a fair number of additional species.

Eared Grebe Podiceps nigricollis Willcox
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis Willcox
White-faced Ibis Plegadis chihi Willcox
Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos Willcox
Blue-winged Teal Anas discors Willcox
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata Willcox
Green-winged Teal Anas crecca Willcox
Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris Willcox
Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis Willcox
Cooper's Hawk Accipiter cooperii
Common Black-Hawk Buteogallus anthracinus four in Sunflower along Sycamore Creek
Gray Hawk Buteo plagiatus nesting pair in Madera Cyn
Harris's Hawk Parabuteo unicinctus one in Willcox at a mall (!)
Swainson's Hawk Buteo swainsoni individuals in grassland
Zone-tailed Hawk Buteo albonotatus Madera Cyn, Mt Lemmon and Sunflower
Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis
American Kestrel Falco sparverius Santa Cruz flats and near Sunflower
Wild Turkey Meleagris gallopavo South Fork Cave Creek, Madera Cyn
Scaled Quail Callipepla squamata Portal, Sonoita
Gambel's Quail Callipepla gambelii Portal
American Coot Fulica americana Willcox
Black-bellied Plover Pluvialis squatarola Willcox
Killdeer Charadrius vociferus Willcox
Black-necked Stilt Himantopus mexicanus Willcox
American Avocet Recurvirostra americana Willcox
Spotted Sandpiper Actitis macularia Willcox
Laughing Gull Leucophaeus atricilla Willcox - an AZ rarity
Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis Willcox
Rock Pigeon Columba livia
Band-tailed Pigeon Columba fasciata Carr Cyn, Madera Cyn (at feeders!)
Eurasian Collared-Dove Streptopelia decaocto
White-winged Dove Zenaida asiatica perhaps the most abundant bird of the trip
Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura
Common Ground-Dove Columbina passerina one only over I-10
Greater Roadrunner Geococcyx californianus
Whiskered Screech-Owl Otus trichopsis heard-only, Madera and Harshaw Canyons
Northern Pygmy-Owl Glaucidium gnoma Miller Cyn, adult and nestlings
Spotted Owl Strix occidentalis Miller Cyn, male and nestlings
Lesser Nighthawk Chordeiles acutipennis Madera Cyn
Common Nighthawk Chordeiles minor one over Harshaw Cyn
Common Poorwill Phalaenoptilus nuttallii heard-only Carr Cyn, Madera Cyn, Harshaw Cyn
Buff-collared Nightjar Antrostromus ridgwayi Proctor Rd at Miller Cyn - total of two
Mexican Whip-poor-will Antrostomus arizonae Harshaw Cyn
White-throated Swift Aeronautes saxatalis
Broad-billed Hummingbird Cynanthus latirostris
White-eared Hummingbird Hylocharis leucotis Miller Cyn
Violet-crowned Hummingbird Amazilia violiceps Paton's in Patagonia
Blue-throated Hummingbird Lampornis clemenciae one at Miller Cyn plus a probable at Madera Kubo
Magnificent Hummingbird Eugenes fulgens
Black-chinned Hummingbird Archilochus alexandri
Anna's Hummingbird Calypte anna Paton's in Patagonia
Broad-tailed Hummingbird Selasphorus platycercus
Elegant Trogon Trogon elegans South Fork Cave Creek
Acorn Woodpecker Melanerpes formicivorus
Gila Woodpecker Melanerpes uropygialis only two in lowland riparian
Ladder-backed Woodpecker Picoides scalaris
Hairy Woodpecker Picoides villosus South Fork Cave Creek, top of Chiricahuas
Arizona Woodpecker Picoides arizonae surprisingly easy to find on this trip in all major canyons
Northern Flicker Colaptes auratus
Greater Pewee Contopus pertinax Carr Cyn
Western Wood-Pewee Contopus sordidulus
Buff-breasted Flycatcher Empidonax fulvifrons Carr Cyn
Cordilleran Flycatcher Empidonax occidentalis
Say's Phoebe Sayornis saya
Vermilion Flycatcher Pyrocephalus rubinus
Dusky-capped Flycatcher Myiarchus tuberculifer
Ash-throated Flycatcher Myiarchus cinerascens
Brown-crested Flycatcher Myiarchus tyrannulus
Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher Myiodynastes luteiventris Madera Canyon, South Fork Cave Creek
Cassin's Kingbird Tyrannus vociferans
Thick-billed Kingbird Tyrannus crassirostris Patagonia Rest Stop
Western Kingbird Tyrannus verticalis
Loggerhead Shrike Lanius ludovicianus
Bell's Vireo Vireo bellii
Gray Vireo Vireo vicinior Mt Ord
Plumbeous Vireo Vireo plumbeus
Hutton's Vireo Vireo huttoni
Western Scrub-Jay Aphelocoma californica Mt Ord
Mexican Jay Aphelocoma wollweberi
Chihuahuan Raven Corvus cryptoleucus desert lowlands
Common Raven Corvus corax montane
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris Willcox
Violet-green Swallow Tachycineta thalassina one or two in montane
Cliff Swallow Petrochelidon pyrrhonota highway river bridges
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Mountain Chickadee Poecile gambeli
Juniper Titmouse Baeolophus griseus
Verdin Auriparus flaviceps Mt Ord
Bushtit Psaltriparus minimus
White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis
Pygmy Nuthatch Sitta pygmaea Mt Lemmon
Brown Creeper Certhia americana South Fork Cave Creek and Madera Cyn
Cactus Wren Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus Carr Cyn
Rock Wren Salpinctes obsoletus
Canyon Wren Catherpes mexicanus
Bewick's Wren Thryomanes bewickii
House Wren Troglodytes aedon
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Polioptila caerulea Madera Cyn and South Fork Cave Creek
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher Polioptila melanura Montosa Cyn
Hermit Thrush Catharus guttatus South Fork Cave Creek, Mt Lemmon
American Robin Turdus migratorius
Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos upper desert, one at Carr Cyn campground
Curve-billed Thrasher Toxostoma curvirostre Florida Wash
European Starling Sturnus vulgaris
Phainopepla Phainopepla nitens
Olive Warbler Peucedramus taeniatus one singing bird at Mt Lemmon
Orange-crowned Warbler Oreothlypis celata one singing bird at Mt Lemmon
Lucy's Warbler Oreothlypis luciae uncommon desert (Portal, Florida Wash etc)
Virginia's Warbler Oreothlypis virginiae Carr Canyon
Yellow Warbler Setophaga petechia Patagonia and Sunflower
Yellow-rumped Warbler Setophaga coronata Audubon's race Mt Lemmon
Grace's Warbler Setophaga graciae Carr Cyn, Mt Lemmon, South Fork Cave Creek
Black-throated Gray Warbler Setophaga nigrescens
Red-faced Warbler Cardellina rubrifrons Carr Cyn and Mt Lemmon
Painted Redstart Myioborus pictus
Yellow-breasted Chat Icteria virens Patagonia
Hepatic Tanager Piranga flava
Summer Tanager Piranga rubra
Western Tanager Piranga ludoviciana
Spotted Towhee Pipilo maculatus
Canyon Towhee Melozone fuscus
Abert's Towhee Melozone aberti Patagonia
Rufous-crowned Sparrow Aimophila ruficeps Madera and Montosa Cyns, Patagonia rest area
Rufous-winged Sparrow Peucaea carpalis Florida Wash (Madera)
Botteri's Sparrow Peucaea botterii Proctor Rd (Madera), lower Carr Canyon Rd
Black-chinned Sparrow Spizella atrogularis Mt Ord
Lark Sparrow Chondestes grammacus Paton's in Patagonia
Black-throated Sparrow Amphispiza bilineata
Yellow-eyed Junco Junco phaeonotus
Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis
Pyrrhuloxia Cardinalis sinuatus Portal
Black-headed Grosbeak Pheucticus melanocephalus
Varied Bunting Passerina versicolor Madera Cyn, Florida Cyn, Montosa Cyn
Eastern Meadowlark Sturnella magna Willcox area grasslands
Great-tailed Grackle Quiscalus mexicanus
Brown-headed Cowbird Molothrus ater all too frequent in canyons
Hooded Oriole Icterus cucullatus Portal
Bullock's Oriole Icterus bullockii Portal
Scott's Oriole Icterus parisorum Portal, Mt Ord, Madera Cyn, South Fork Cave Creek
House Finch Haemorhous mexicanus
Pine Siskin Carduelis pinus one or two at feeders in Patagonia and Madera Cyn, also top of Chiricahuas
Lesser Goldfinch Carduelis psaltria
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Near misses: Costa's Hummingbird (probably at Sunflower along Sycamore Creek), Warbling Vireo (probably at Mt Lemmon), Northern Goshawk (possibly at Madera Canyon).

Trip Report