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Field Guides Tour Report
Arizona's Second Spring I 2015
Jul 25, 2015 to Aug 3, 2015
Megan Edwards Crewe

Montezuma Quail is typically among the most coveted quarries on an Arizona tour. This year, we had them in spades, with a total of SIX by tour's end! Photo by participant Scott Harvell.

If you tell your non-birding friends that you're headed to southeastern Arizona in the middle of summer, you're likely to hear some smart-aleck comment about you needing your head examined. Who, they'll say, goes to a desert when it's going to be the hottest?! But we birders know something they don't; when the summer monsoons start, it's often COOLER than it is earlier in the year. Those cooling monsoon rains bring lots of lush growth, which stimulates many birds to breed, bringing a cacophony of song and a flurry of activity -- Arizona's "second spring". And our ten day visit is timed to take maximum advantage of all that activity.

Our route spanned a variety of habitats, from the saguaro-studded Sonoran desert west of Tucson to the cool, pine-scented heights of the Huachuca Mountains, from the hot flats and alkaline pools at Willcox to rolling hillsides covered with fat junipers east of Paradise, to craggy California Gulch and the ridiculously scenic Chiricahua Mountains. Though some of our hoped-for targets eluded us (darn those Tufted Flycatchers!), we still found plenty to enjoy.

A pair of wide-eyed young Spotted Owls peered down from their leafy perch while one of their parents snoozed nearby in a more sheltered spot. A river of Brazilian Free-tailed Bats flowed from under a Tucson bridge, while Lesser Nighthawks wheeled balletically nearby. A male Lucifer Hummingbird perched on a feeder, just across from a "Costifer" -- a presumed Lucifer/Costa's hybrid. A Five-striped Sparrow sang and sang and sang, edging ever closer as we watched, until it was eventually right over our heads. A total of SIX Montezuma Quail disported right out in the open, including a pair nibbling grass seeds under a swingset, and a gorgeous male stretching to reach a tasty morsel on cliff wall right beside the van. A couple of colorful male Varied Buntings sang challenges to each other across a hot canyon. A pair of Olive Warblers flicked through a roadside pine in the airy heights of Carr Canyon, not far from where a tiny, calling Buff-breasted Flycatcher led us on a merry chase before finally revealing himself. A female Elegant Trogon sat quietly on a branch mere feet off the ground, and a surprisingly green-tailed male called loudly a bit further up the canyon. A pair of Gilded Flickers surveyed their territory from matching saguaro cactus arms. Mexican Chickadees seemed particularly common this year, with several birds accompanying virtually every mixed flock we found in the Chiricahua highlands.

A Plain-capped Starthroat sipped from a backyard hummingbird feeder near Portal, flashing us with its distinctive white rump patch. Hundreds of Wilson's Phalaropes spun like tops on a lake, while Black-necked Stilts strode on long, pink legs and American Avocets snoozed on a nearby sandbar. A pair of Thick-billed Kingbirds brought mouthful after mouthful of wriggling supper to a nest full of youngsters still too small to see. A Greater Roadrunner eyed us from its perch in a roadside tree. Two Burrowing Owls snoozed in the shade of an air conditioning unit. A Greater Pewee made repeated sorties from perches in a towering pine. Adult Swainson's Hawks circled overhead on long wings, while youngsters rested on treetops and telephone poles. A busy mixed flock -- full of Pygmy Nuthatches, Red-faced Warblers, Painted Redstarts, Yellow-eyed Juncos, Pine Siskins and more -- swarmed through a campground on Mount Lemmon. An Arizona Woodpecker gobbled orange sections at the Santa Rita Lodge feeding station. And a Violet-crowned Hummingbird visiting the Paton's feeders late in the afternoon put a cap on a very productive last full day in the field.

Thanks to all for your fine companionship, your eagle-eyed spotting, your flexibility (when birds or weather or restaurants didn't cooperate quite as we might have hoped) and your determination to enjoy everything Arizona had to share. I hope to see you all in the field again soon! -- Megan

One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant

Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)

Families of Gambel's Quails were plentiful and obvious this trip. Photo by participant Pete Peterman.

BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING-DUCK (Dendrocygna autumnalis) – A half dozen snoozed and preened at the back edge of a Rio Rico pond on a hot afternoon.
MALLARD (MEXICAN) (Anas platyrhynchos diazi) – Dozens floated on the ponds at Sweetwater Wetlands, hastily paddling away across the water as we approached. This subspecies is a warmer brown overall than is the more widespread platyrhynchos, and males never get a distinctive breeding plumage.
RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis) – One snoozed among the plentiful Mallards on a pond at Sweetwater Wetlands.
Odontophoridae (New World Quail)
SCALED QUAIL (Callipepla squamata) – Our best views came along State Line Road, where we spotted a male singing from his perch on a dead branch; we had others along I-80 on our way out of Portal. The hunter's name for this species is "cottontop", a reference to its pale crest feathers -- which we could clearly see on our I-80 birds.
GAMBEL'S QUAIL (Callipepla gambelii) – Seen well on scattered days throughout the tour, including two family groups jousting over territorial rights along Paradise Road near Portal, and a big swarm of them (including plenty of youngsters) invading the brush pile under the feeders at Paton's. The family with the TINY babies scurrying across the road on our last morning gave us a few moments of angst until we were sure they were all safely up the curb. [N]

It's always nice when the vagrants cooperate, and this Plain-capped Starthroat did just that: showing up at exactly the same time we did! Photo by participant Pete Peterman.

MONTEZUMA QUAIL (Cyrtonyx montezumae) – Wow! We had up close and personal views of a half dozen of these gorgeous birds -- including a pair Sharon spotted under a swingset in Huachuca Canyon. Our closest views were of an unwary male right beside us as we wound our way along Ruby Road en route to California Gulch. Hard to believe we struggle to find these some years! It was no surprise that this was voted "Bird of the Trip".
Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)
WILD TURKEY (Meleagris gallopavo) – A couple of females with a bevy of poults straggled across the road and up the hill (with a few of the youngsters briefly defeated by the longer grass) as we started up Carr Canyon. [N]
Podicipedidae (Grebes)
PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps) – An adult dozed along the edge of the first pond at Sweetwater Wetlands, its bill still showing traces of its distinctive black and white pattern.
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)
GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias) – Two individuals flying over roads on two different days seemed a bit incongruous -- herons, in the desert? -- but these birds are remarkably good at finding water sources. In fact, they're year round residents across much of southernmost Arizona.
GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens) – One flew past over the first pond at Sweetwater Wetlands.
Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)
WHITE-FACED IBIS (Plegadis chihi) – A group of 20 or so foraged along the edge of Lake Cochise in Willcox, shifting away from us whenever we edged closer. Most were drabber youngsters, but the few adults among them still showed their beautiful bronze and green feathers -- though their distinctively white-bordered pink faces had already faded.
Cathartidae (New World Vultures)
TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura) – Daily, including a gang feasting on some dead creature in a Tucson field -- not far from the snoozing Coyote.
Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)
COOPER'S HAWK (Accipiter cooperii) – Single birds seen on many days, including one Heike found perched near the trail at Sweetwater Wetlands our first afternoon and a couple of youngsters bouncing around in the grass near the entrance to Esplendor in Rio Rico.
GRAY HAWK (Buteo plagiatus) – A youngster perched at the far end of a field at Kino Springs gave us a great chance to study it in the scopes. After a few minutes, it flew off, which let us see its flight profile as well. That stripey face is certainly distinctive!
SWAINSON'S HAWK (Buteo swainsoni) – Reasonably common throughout, with good views of many in flight -- including that gorgeous adult that glided past right over our heads on the road to Madera Canyon our last morning. The youngsters in a roadside tree just outside outside of Sierra Vista gave us great scoping opportunities, showing those distinctively long wings very well. Upon further reflection and lots of internet picture studying, I think the white-rumped youngster we saw being chased by adult Red-tailed Hawks in Miller Canyon was this species as well.
RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis) – Daily, both perched and in flight.
Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)
AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana) – A gang of them preened under some willows along the edge of one of the ponds at Sweetwater Wetlands our first afternoon.
Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)
BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus) – A handful among the shorebirds at Lake Cochise -- some snoozing, some striding around on their long, pink legs.

We saw the gracefully long-winged Swainson's Hawk on many days; this one soared over our heads on the road up to Madera Canyon. Photo by participant Scott Harvell.

AMERICAN AVOCET (Recurvirostra americana) – Scores -- some still showing their breeding colors, others already in their nonbreeding gray -- dotted the edges of Lake Cochise, scything through the water with their distinctive bills. Like the previous species, this is a migrant through southeastern Arizona.
Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)
SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (Charadrius semipalmatus) – We found one hunting along the edge of Lake Cochise, quickly picked out from the scurrying sandpipers by its stop and go foraging style.
KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus) – A few foraged in one of the nearly-dry reservoirs at Sweetwater Wetlands, and others chased each other around the edges of Lake Cochise. A calling group of a dozen or so overhead at Willcox showed well the restlessness of migratory birds.
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)
SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius) – Two with the Killdeers at Sweetwater Wetlands, and a couple of others around the edges of Lake Cochise. All of the birds we saw were adults, still sporting their distinctive spotty bellies.
GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca) – A handful snoozed or preened on the long sandspit at Lake Cochise, and others foraged in the waters there -- including one conveniently close to a Lesser Yellowlegs.

The gorgeous mountains east of Castle Rock Road in the Chiricahuas -- on one of our few cloudless mornings! Photo by participant Charm Peterman.

WILLET (WESTERN) (Tringa semipalmata inornata) – One stood between a pair of Greater Yellowlegs in Lake Cochise, looking pale and plain -- until it set out for the far side of the water with a flash of black and white wings.
LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes) – Regular at Lake Cochise, where they outnumbered their larger cousins.
BAIRD'S SANDPIPER (Calidris bairdii) – A handful of these larger peeps mingled with the Western Sandpipers along the edge of Lake Cochise, distinguished by their larger size, longer, slimmer shape (wings extending beyond their tails) and buffy throat and breast.
LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla) – A number of these small shorebirds pattered along the edges of Lake Cochise, outnumbered by the next species. These were darker backed -- and paler legged -- than the Westerns.
WESTERN SANDPIPER (Calidris mauri) – The most common of the peeps along Lake Cochise, distinguished by their longer, droop-tipped beaks, their black legs, and their smaller size. Many Western Sandpipers spend their winter in southern Arizona.
LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodromus scolopaceus) – A number of these methodical feeders probed the mud along the edges of Lake Cochise, giving us good opportunity to study them and talk about how Short-billed Dowitchers would differ.
WILSON'S PHALAROPE (Phalaropus tricolor) – Hundreds and hundreds whirled on the surface of Lake Cochise, or pattered along its shores. Most were already largely in their winter garb, though a few still showed traces of their fancier breeding plumage.
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

On our first evening, we were treated to a wonderful ballet performed by thousands of Brazilian Free-tailed Bats and a handful of Lesser Nighthawks like this one. Photo by participant Scott Harvell.

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) – Common in cities and towns across our tour route. [I]
BAND-TAILED PIGEON (Patagioenas fasciata) – One high in a dead pine on the road to Rustler Park sat long enough for everyone to study it in the scope, and a few folks saw another couple fly past as we climbed up Hamburg Trail in pursuit of Tufted Flycatchers.
EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto) – Small numbers on several days, including one -- looking decidedly pale -- singing from a wire near Sweetwater Wetlands our first afternoon, and others around Portal.
INCA DOVE (Columbina inca) – Especially nice looks at a handful scrounging under the tables outside the Portal store each day, with others at the Paton's feeders.
COMMON GROUND-DOVE (Columbina passerina) – A pair flew off ahead of us along Ruby Road with a flash of orangish wings, and a male trundled around on the ground in a field at Kino Springs.
WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica) – Daily, often in sizeable numbers. The cooing "who cooks for you" song of this species was a regular part of the tour soundtrack.

Is there anything cuter than a wide-eyed young owl, Spotted in this case? Photo by participant Scott Harvell.

MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura) – Also daily, though generally in smaller numbers than the previous species.
Cuculidae (Cuckoos)
YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO (Coccyzus americanus) – A bird singing over our breakfast spot at the Patagonia roadside rest area drew everybody's attention -- and eventually gave us great views when he moved to a small tree further up the hill.
GREATER ROADRUNNER (Geococcyx californianus) – Common throughout, including a pair going all x-rated in the middle of State Line Road. We had spectacular views of one right beside the van in Tucson, as we headed back to the hotel after our first visit to the Burrowing Owls; to be any closer, it would have had to have been IN the van!
Strigidae (Owls)
GREAT HORNED OWL (Bubo virginianus) – Our search for Western Screech-Owls on our first evening in Portal was unterrupted by the appearance of one of these big predators, which thrashed through the tree we were watching, then moved to a big dead snag -- where it sat for long minutes peering around in all directions. Eventually, it flew off, but the screech-owls must have wisely stayed silent and unmoving, because we never found them!
NORTHERN PYGMY-OWL (Glaucidium gnoma) – One tooted vigorously from the forest where we searched for the Tufted Flycatchers. Sadly, nobody got a very good look at it before it flew off, followed by a comet trail of angry, stuttering little birds.
BURROWING OWL (Athene cunicularia) – Our first afternoon's view (of the head of one peering from its Tucson burrow) was vastly improved upon our last morning, when we found two adults standing in the shade of a nearby electrical box. Though they are perfectly capable of digging their own burrows, these owls more typically use burrows excavated by other species.
SPOTTED OWL (Strix occidentalis) – A hike up the rocky trail through Miller Canyon netted us fabulous views of two wide-eyed youngsters and a sleepy adult on our first afternoon in the Huachucas. Apparently, downy youngster feathers are pretty itchy! [N]
Caprimulgidae (Nightjars and Allies)
LESSER NIGHTHAWK (Chordeiles acutipennis) – A half dozen or so danced over the flats near Tucson's Ina Road bridge, including a few that made relatively close passes overhead.
COMMON POORWILL (Phalaenoptilus nuttallii) – A nocturnal serenade of 6 to 8 birds calling from the dry hills all around us just outside Portal was rather enchanting. Too bad none of them made an appearance! [*]
Apodidae (Swifts)
WHITE-THROATED SWIFT (Aeronautes saxatalis) – A big flock fed in front of the storm clouds along Paradise Road, mixing with equally numerous swallows. We saw others -- from above! -- along Ruby Road as we neared the California Gulch turnoff.
Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)
MAGNIFICENT HUMMINGBIRD (Eugenes fulgens) – A male, looking big and dark -- at least until he flashed his snazzy gorget and head feathers -- made repeated visits to one of the feeders on the corner of the deck at the Santa Rita Lodge gift shop. We saw another male in Ramsey Canyon the following day, and both males and females around Portal. The white postocular spot on the male -- and the green tail on both sexes -- are distinctive.
PLAIN-CAPPED STARTHROAT (Heliomaster constantii) – Talk about perfect timing! As we pulled up to Mark and Lori's house, Mark was already in the yard, calling "It's here; it's here; it's here!" and gesturing to a feeder in the back. And so it was, showing us its distinctively white-marked back as it sucked down nectar before retiring for the night. A few folks spotted another briefly at the Santa Rita Lodge -- just after most of the group headed off to the gift shop or the bathrooms!
BLUE-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD (Lampornis clemenciae) – Fine views of a male and several females perched in trees at Rose Ann and Richard's, and a nice example of its cobweb nest glued to a cable at Maya's. This big hummingbird has a dark blue tail with large white tips -- both of which quickly distinguish it from the greener Magnificent Hummer.

A male Lucifer Hummingbird (l.) sits across the feeder from a "Costifer" -- an apparent Lucifer x Costa's hybrid. Photo by participant Scott Harvell.

LUCIFER HUMMINGBIRD (Calothorax lucifer) – It took some patience (in the late afternoon sun), but we all got good views of a male visiting the feeders at Ash Canyon B&B.
BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRD (Archilochus alexandri) – One of the most common hummingbirds of the trip, seen nearly every day. The ones approaching the feeder within arm's length of where we stood in Madera Canyon (at Santa Rita Lodge) were particularly obliging.
ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRD (Calypte anna) – We saw a few at Santa Rita Lodge, but our best studies came at Ash Canyon B&B, where numbers jousted at the feeders. Their flashy rose-gold heads (and subtly thicker necks) are distinctive.
BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus platycercus) – We heard the distinctive whirr of the adult male's primary feathers on several occasions, and saw this highland species in Miller and Ramsey canyons and in Portal.
RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus rufus) – A gorgeously rusty adult male buzzed back and forth over the flowers around the Rustler Park campground, entertaining us briefly as the threatening clouds loomed ever closer.
ALLEN'S HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus sasin) – An adult male perched on a pine branch near the Rustler Park campground was a bit of a surprise. It stayed long enough for everyone to get a quick look in the scope.

Greater Roadrunners were a regular part of the Arizona scenery, scurrying across roadways (appropriately) throughout our tour route. Photo by participant Charm Peterman.

BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRD (Cynanthus latirostris) – Easily the most common of the tour's hummingbirds, seen in big numbers on most days -- including swarms of them around the feeders at Paton's. Most show a significant amount of pink on the beak.
VIOLET-CROWNED HUMMINGBIRD (Amazilia violiceps) – Our last new hummingbird, seen at Paton's on our final evening. One made repeated forays in to a handful of the feeders, occasionally perching for a few minutes on dead branches above them. That snowy belly and bright pinky-orange bill are distinctive.
Trogonidae (Trogons)
ELEGANT TROGON (Trogon elegans) – Some fine spotting by Scott netted us our first -- a female sitting quietly mere feet off the ground near the turnaround spot in Huachuca Canyon. We found a green-tailed male (which certainly caused an initial bit of furor) further up the canyon. Eventually, though, he called, proving that he WASN'T a Mountain Trogon.
Picidae (Woodpeckers)
ACORN WOODPECKER (Melanerpes formicivorus) – Every day but the first, often in significant numbers -- like when five of them crowded onto a single telephone pole near our picnic spot at Pena Blanca.
GILA WOODPECKER (Melanerpes uropygialis) – Seen on several days, with especially nice views of one visiting the orange halves at the Ash Canyon B&B. The big white circles seen in the wings of this species in flight are distinctive.

The squeak-toy song of the Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher was a regular part of the tour's soundtrack. Photo by participant Pete Peterman.

HAIRY WOODPECKER (Picoides villosus)
ARIZONA WOODPECKER (Picoides arizonae) – One visiting the fruit feeders at the Santa Rita Lodge allowed great study as it nibbled -- great spotting, Bert! We saw another on our walk up Huachuca Canyon.
NORTHERN FLICKER (RED-SHAFTED) (Colaptes auratus cafer) – These proved quite common in the dead pine forests of Barfoot and Rustler parks in the Chiricahuas. We heard others in Carr Canyon.
GILDED FLICKER (Colaptes chrysoides) – A pair sitting atop saguaro cacti near the entrance to Ironwood Campground were one of the highlights of our first afternoon. The white rump and golden feather shafts were clearly visible, even on the perched birds.
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)
AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius) – Scott spotted our first -- a female that glided past overhead as we birded along Paradise Road. We saw others hunting over fields near Ruby Road and in the Sonoita grasslands.
PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus) – A big female dove into the trees near the Ina Road bridge and emerged carrying a lifeless White-winged Dove, which it carried off into the distance, leaving a trail of fluttering, falling feathers in its wake. We saw another pair near the hoodoos on Mount Lemmon -- one zooming back and forth over the road, the second sitting briefly atop one of the ridges.
Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)
GREATER PEWEE (Contopus pertinax) – This was one of our 11th-hour finds -- an eventually cooperative bird which hunted through the scented pine forest high up in Carr Canyon -- conveniently close to some of our omnipresent Western Wood-Pewees for good comparison. Its large size, pointy crest and bright orange lower mandible are distinctive -- as is its call.
WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE (Contopus sordidulus) – Common and widespread, hunting from dead sticks and treetops throughout the tour, including a couple of just-fledged youngsters low in the trees where we finally found our Greater Pewee. Their slightly burry calls were a regular part of the tour soundtrack. [N]
WILLOW FLYCATCHER (Empidonax traillii) – Two hunted low in bushes around one of the ponds at Kino Springs, allowing good scope studies.
DUSKY FLYCATCHER (Empidonax oberholseri) – A calling bird attracted our attention in Huachuca Canyon, distracting us briefly from our search for Elegant Trogon.
CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHER (Empidonax occidentalis) – We heard them calling a few times in the highlands, but our best views came in the Chiricahuas, where we found one hunting low over Turkey Creek, right near where it crosses the road.
BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHER (Empidonax fulvifrons) – It took some scuttling up and down a dirt road (and a lot of peering up into trees), but we eventually got fine views of one singing little bird near one of the campgrounds in Carr Canyon. This is one of the most distinctive of Empidonax flycatchers.
BLACK PHOEBE (Sayornis nigricans) – A couple hunted over one of the ponds at Sweetwater Wetlands, and others did the same in one of the gullies along Paradise Road and at Kino Springs. This species is typically found near water.
VERMILION FLYCATCHER (Pyrocephalus rubinus) – Our first was a pair hunting near our picnic breakfast spot at Pena Blanca; the male's head virtually glowed in the early morning sunshine. We found others hunting over the fields and around the ponds at Kino Springs.
DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus tuberculifer) – We heard the mournful call of this southern species on several days in the highlands, but our best views came on the hike up to the Tufted Flycatcher spot, when we spotted one foraging over the trail. We saw another well in Rustler Park. This is the smallest of the Myiarchus flycatchers, and it has an all gray undertail.
ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus cinerascens) – Seen especially well along Paradise Road, where one foraged right near the road; we could easily see that dark tail tip (and more washed-out plumage) that help to separate it from the next species.

The lushness of Arizona's vegetation in high summer is a revelation for those who've never visited during the monsoon season before. Photo by participant Charm Peterman.

BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus tyrannulus) – A pair provisioning their cavity nest high in a sycamore along Paradise Road (fortunately nearly eye level, thanks to the slope of the nearby hill) gave us great views as they paused on branches near the treetop. This is the largest of the Myiarchus flycatchers found in North America, and the rufous on their undertail goes all the way to the tip of the tail. [*]
SULPHUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHER (Myiodynastes luteiventris) – Common in most of the canyons, with especially nice views of a noisy family group along the trail up Ramsey Canyon. The "squeak toy" call of this species was a regular part of the canyon soundtrack. [N]
TROPICAL KINGBIRD (Tyrannus melancholicus) – A couple hunted around the first pond at Sweetwater Wetlands, panting in the late afternoon heat. The twittering call of this species is diagnostic.
CASSIN'S KINGBIRD (Tyrannus vociferans) – Abundant throughout much of the tour, with especially nice studies of our first -- right outside our Tucson hotel! That dark hood and its black, buff-tipped tail, help to separate it from the similar Western Kingbird.
THICK-BILLED KINGBIRD (Tyrannus crassirostris) – A pair breeding in a Portal yard gave us long, leisurely studies, returning again and again to the same dead branch perches between ferrying mouthfuls to their unseen nestlings. We saw another pair near our picnic breakfast spot at the Patagonia roadside rest area. [N]
WESTERN KINGBIRD (Tyrannus verticalis) – One on a telephone wire along State Line Road showed its white-edged tail nicely as it sallied out after insects; its paler gray head and stubby bill were also apparent. We had others along I-80 in New Mexico and near Ruby Road.
Laniidae (Shrikes)

Blue-throated Hummingbirds were especially showy around Portal, where we found several perched birds -- and a nest constructed completely of cobwebs! Photo by participant Charm Peterman.

LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE (Lanius ludovicianus) – Regular on telephone wires and fence strands all across our tour route; there were certainly plenty of barbed-wire fences for them to stick their treasures on!
Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)
BELL'S VIREO (Vireo bellii) – Our first was an incredibly scruffy bird, heavy with molt, flitting through bushes along Paradise Road. We had great views of another pair bringing mouthful after mouthful of food to a hidden nest near the top of California Gulch. We got to hear the jumbled song of this small vireo on both occasions. [N]
PLUMBEOUS VIREO (Vireo plumbeus) – Our best views came in Huachuca Canyon, where we found an adult feeding a begging youngster near our first Elegant Trogon. This, the least colorful of the former "Solitary Vireo" trio, breeds throughout the mountains of southeastern Arizona. [N]
HUTTON'S VIREO (Vireo huttoni) – Regular in the highlands, where a pair seemed to accompany virtually every mixed flock we encountered. The monotonous, repetitious song of this small vireo was another regular part of the tour soundtrack.
WARBLING VIREO (Vireo gilvus) – A pair foraging in a gully along Paradise Road were nicely cooperative, feeding at eye level -- great spotting, Scott!
Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)
STELLER'S JAY (Cyanocitta stelleri) – A small group of these handsome jays rummaged through the pines in Barfoot Park, occasionally calling to each other.
WESTERN SCRUB-JAY (Aphelocoma californica) – An inquisitive bird along Paradise Road showed its white throat and vague "necklace" reasonably well, but our best views probably came at Carr Canyon, where we could clearly see one's distinctive eyebrow.
MEXICAN JAY (Aphelocoma wollweberi) – Abundant throughout, often in big, noisy gangs.
CHIHUAHUAN RAVEN (Corvus cryptoleucus) – Unfortunately, our only view came as we were hurtling along I-10, when several of these smaller ravens rose from the roadside, conveniently close to a much larger Common Raven. This smaller species has a far more restricted range in the US.
COMMON RAVEN (Corvus corax) – Daily, in virtually every habitat we visited, including two with a big stick nest on one of the telephone poles along I-80. [N]
Hirundinidae (Swallows)
TREE SWALLOW (Tachycineta bicolor) – Charm spotted one zooming over a pond at Sweetwater Wetlands, while the rest of us stalked our first Abert's Towhees.
VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW (Tachycineta thalassina) – We saw several big flocks hunting in the Chiricahuas, including scores sharing the skies with a mob of White-throated Swifts on our afternoon along Paradise Road.
BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica) – Easily the most widespread of the tour's swallows, seen nearly every day -- and we probably just weren't paying attention on the days we missed them!
CLIFF SWALLOW (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) – An apparent migrant group swarmed along I-80, all streaming steadily south, as we departed stormy Portal.
Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)
MEXICAN CHICKADEE (Poecile sclateri) – These hyperactive little birds proved to be quite common this year, with at least a pair accompanying every mixed flock we found in Barfoot and Rustler parks. Their hoarse, raspy calls were regular at the highest points of the Chiricahuas.
BRIDLED TITMOUSE (Baeolophus wollweberi) – Common across much of our tour route, including a busy gang near the feeders in Madera Canyon and one with a passel of Bushtits along Paradise Road.
JUNIPER TITMOUSE (Baeolophus ridgwayi) – It took some persistence, but we all eventually got a good look at one (or more) of the family of four that bounced through the junipers near Paradise Road. This species was split from the former "Plain TItmouse" complex -- and its former name was certainly appropriate too!
Remizidae (Penduline-Tits)
VERDIN (Auriparus flaviceps) – Especially nice views of a male foraging in some scrubby growth right near the entrance to the Ironwood Campground our first afternoon.
Aegithalidae (Long-tailed Tits)

We spotted big, social groups of Cactus Wrens on several days of the tour. Photo by participant Charm Peterman.

BUSHTIT (INTERIOR) (Psaltriparus minimus plumbeus) – A gang of 20 or more swarmed along the margins of Paradise Road, flitting into nearby bushes to check us out and then bouncing off again. We saw another noisy mob near the start of the Carr Canyon road.
Sittidae (Nuthatches)
RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta canadensis) – A couple with a mixed flock in Barfoot Park hitched along some slender twigs, pulling seeds from the cones at their tips.
WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta carolinensis) – By far the most common and widespread of the tour's nuthatches, seen on most days of the tour. The subspecies found in Arizona is quite long-billed; some taxonomists feel there may be as many as four cryptic "White-breasted Nuthatch" species across the country!
PYGMY NUTHATCH (Sitta pygmaea) – Noisy gangs of these short-tailed little birds twitched through the trees with several mixed flocks high in the Chiricahuas, and others did the same on Mount Lemmon. In both cases, they had the few migrants we found during the tour in tow.
Certhiidae (Treecreepers)
BROWN CREEPER (Certhia americana) – Single birds with a couple of the mixed flocks we found up Ramsey Canyon and high in the Chiricahuas. This species is resident in the higher mountains of southeastern Arizona.
Troglodytidae (Wrens)

Some of our Arizona sunsets were pretty spectacular! Here's one from the Ina Road bridge. Photo by participant Charm Peterman.

ROCK WREN (Salpinctes obsoletus) – Especially nice studies of a little family group -- with a couple of recently fledged youngsters -- in the scrubby area around the campsites at Rustler Park. Their habit of doing full body "pushups" is distinctive.
CANYON WREN (Catherpes mexicanus) – As usual, we heard FAR more of these than we saw. But we had fine views of one perched for long minutes on a series of rocks in the early morning sunshine near our picnic breakfast spot at Pena Blanca.
HOUSE WREN (Troglodytes aedon) – Common throughout, including a pair with a nest in a dead branch in the Chiricahuas. The subspecies found in southern Arizona -- cahooni -- has in the past been considered to be part of the "Brown-throated Wren" complex, which currently lumped with House Wren. [N]
BEWICK'S WREN (Thryomanes bewickii) – Seen and heard on scattered days, with especially nice studies of one along the trail up Miller Canyon. The pair near the start of the Carr Canyon road were a bit more elusive, showing very well for some and not at all for others!
CACTUS WREN (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus) – A displaying, wing-wagging quartet in the desert near the Ironwood Campground entrance distracted us completely from our search for Gilded Flickers. We saw others around Portal, including another group rummaging on the ground near Paradise Road and a few at Maya's feeders.
Polioptilidae (Gnatcatchers)

The Olive Warbler isn't olive OR a warbler -- but it's a pretty nifty little bird nonetheless. Photo by participant Scott Harvell.

BLACK-TAILED GNATCATCHER (Polioptila melanura) – Two danced around us near the entrance to Ironwood Campground our first afternoon, with the male showing well his diagnostically dark undertail and his little black cap.
Regulidae (Kinglets)
RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (Regulus calendula) – Scott spotted one with a mixed flock high in the Chiricahuas, but it got away before any of the rest of us got on it.
Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)
EASTERN BLUEBIRD (Sialia sialis) – A pair hunted among a mixed flock on Mount Lemmon. Eastern Bluebirds are resident in the higher mountains of southeastern Arizona. The subspecies (fulva) is found from southeastern Arizona down into the mountains of Mexico.
WESTERN BLUEBIRD (Sialia mexicana) – Heike and Bert spotted two -- showing their distinctive blue "bib" -- with a mixed flock on Mount Lemmon.
HERMIT THRUSH (Catharus guttatus) – Single birds seen on several days, including one rummaging around near the feeding station at the Santa Rita Lodge (Madera Canyon), one near the Spotted Owls in Miller Canyon and one with a big mixed flock on Mount Lemmon. We heard their lovely fluty songs in various mountain forests.
AMERICAN ROBIN (Turdus migratorius) – Scattered individuals, including a few carrying mouthfuls of food. [N]
Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)
CURVE-BILLED THRASHER (Toxostoma curvirostre) – One on the roof of the chiropractic center next to our Sierra Vista hotel proved cooperative, as did others around Portal. The sharp "whit WHIT" call of this species was a regular part of the tour soundtrack.
BENDIRE'S THRASHER (Toxostoma bendirei) – One perched atop a scruffy bush near the end of State Line road was a nice find on our way in to Portal. That relatively short, straight bill is an important field mark.
NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos) – Common and widespread. To many of us, the Arizona birds appear browner than our local (particularly east coast) birds.
Ptiliogonatidae (Silky-flycatchers)
PHAINOPEPLA (Phainopepla nitens) – Especially nice views of a female perched in a leafless tree across the road from Maya's house in Portal. We saw others, including several jet-black males, in flight on various days.
Peucedramidae (Olive Warbler)
OLIVE WARBLER (Peucedramus taeniatus) – A pair near the information board atop Carr Canyon were nicely cooperative as they foraged in nearby pine trees. Despite its name, this isn't actually a warbler; it's the sole member of its family: the Peucedramidae.
Parulidae (New World Warblers)
NASHVILLE WARBLER (Oreothlypis ruficapilla) – Our best views came at Mount Lemmon, where we found a couple with a mixed flock on our walk down the hill; some of the group saw another on our hike up the Hamburg Trail in Ramsey Canyon.
COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas) – We heard several singing from the cattails at Sweetwater Wetlands, and others churring from the scruffy growth around the ponds at Kino Springs. [*]
YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia) – A male flicked through the short trees near the start (end?) of the Proctor Loop trail at Madera Canyon on our last morning; unfortunately, I think Sharon and I may have been the only ones to see it.
YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (Setophaga coronata) – A couple of incredibly drab young females foraged with a mixed flock on Mount Lemmon.
GRACE'S WARBLER (Setophaga graciae) – Reasonably common in the highlands, with especially nice studies of a curious trio in a mixed flock among the junipers on the road up to Onion Saddle in the Chiricahuas.
BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER (Setophaga nigrescens) – Also reasonably common in the highlands, with fine views of several in Huachuca Canyon and others in the big mixed flock on Mount Lemmon.
HERMIT WARBLER (Setophaga occidentalis) – A female, quickly identified by her big yellow face, mingled with the mixed flock on Mount Lemmon. This species is a migrant through Arizona, but breeds much further north and west along the Pacific coast.

It's a bit funny to think of cactus growing in a FOREST, but that's exactly what they do in Saguaro National Forest. Photo by participant Charm Peterman.

RED-FACED WARBLER (Cardellina rubrifrons) – Our first few (in Ramsey and Huachuca canyons) proved frustratingly elusive for some; fortunately, the showy individuals in Rustler Park and on Mount Lemmon were much more obliging! This spectacular warbler breeds from Arizona and New Mexico down into Mexico, retreating somewhat further south into Central America for the winter.
PAINTED REDSTART (Myioborus pictus) – Another showy warbler, seen well on most days in the highlands -- including two having a long and energetic chase over the trail at Huachuca Canyon, a black-bellied youngster foraging along a tree branch in Miller Canyon, and a pair flitting from perch to perch near the ground on Mount Lemmon.
YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT (Icteria virens) – One danced through the willows around one of the ponds at Kino Springs, belting out his distinctively disjunct song. We saw others perched up and singing at Pena Blanca Lake and the Patagonia roadside rest area.
Emberizidae (Buntings and New World Sparrows)
SPOTTED TOWHEE (Pipilo maculatus) – Regular throughout, with especially nice views of one singing from the top of a juniper along the road up to Onion Saddle.
RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW (Aimophila ruficeps) – One singing from an agave plant downslope from Paradise Road was especially cooperative. We saw others in Madera and Huachuca canyons, and along Ruby Road on our drive to California Gulch.
CANYON TOWHEE (Melozone fusca) – More common on the second half of the trip, including several showy birds near the Portal water tower as we ate our picnic breakfasts each morning.
ABERT'S TOWHEE (Melozone aberti) – It took a bit of patience, but we all eventually got good looks at one of these range-restricted towhees at Sweetwater Wetlands -- when it finally stopped shuffling around in the dense undergrowth and bounced out into the path near the first pond. We saw others at Kino Springs.

The trail up (and down) Miller Canyon is a bit on the rocky side -- but worth the effort! Photo by participant Charm Peterman.

RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROW (Peucaea carpalis) – One near the entrance to Ironwood Campground our first afternoon showed very well as it sang from a nearby bush. It was close enough we could even see that TINY rufous patch on the wing.
BOTTERI'S SPARROW (Peucaea botterii) – We heard more than we saw, but eventually had fine views of one perched up and singing along State Line Road. This species is superficially similar to the next, but its plumage is warmer toned (browner, rather than grayer) and its bill is larger. And its song -- a disjointed collection of chirps and rapid twitters -- is completely different.
CASSIN'S SPARROW (Peucaea cassinii) – Several males displaying over a scrubby area near our Sierra Vista hotel were fun to watch as they parachuted down in their distinctive song flights. We had others singing along I-80, near where we stopped to check out the raven's nest.
CHIPPING SPARROW (Spizella passerina) – Regular in the Chiricahuas, including a big flock bounding up off the side of the road up to Onion Saddle, and another gang working the edges of Paradise Road.
BLACK-CHINNED SPARROW (Spizella atrogularis) – We heard one sing several times from the big junipers along Paradise Road. [*]
LARK SPARROW (Chondestes grammacus) – A gang along the Paradise loop road in the Chiricahuas spent most of their time buried in the grass -- though a trio did sit up nicely in one of the roadside junipers for a while. Some of the group saw another pair along Ruby Road as we headed towards California Gulch.

Five-striped Sparrow is always one of the key targets on a trip to Arizona -- and ours proved spectacularly showy! Photo by participant Scott Harvell.

FIVE-STRIPED SPARROW (Amphispiza quinquestriata) – Yahoo! One singing from an agave partway down California Gulch was a highlight -- particularly when it then flew right towards us and landed in the tree right beside us!
BLACK-THROATED SPARROW (Amphispiza bilineata) – Regular throughout, including one singing from a bush near the entrance to Ironwood Campground and several along Paradise Road.
LARK BUNTING (Calamospiza melanocorys) – Some of us saw a small group bounding along the edge of I-10 as we headed toward Tucson; their large white wing patches are distinctive.
GRASSHOPPER SPARROW (Ammodramus savannarum) – A trio of them bounced across the grasslands near Sonoita, with a couple of them eventually landing on the barbed wire strands. Their insect-like songs were surprisingly loud for such small birds.
SONG SPARROW (Melospiza melodia) – Two rather ragged birds flitted through the cattails at Sweetwater Wetlands, and there were others around the ponds at Kino Springs. The birds in southeastern Arizona (of the subspecies fallax) are pale and ruddy.
YELLOW-EYED JUNCO (Junco phaeonotus) – Common in the highlands, including one mooching under some feeders in Madera Canyon, and many in the pine forests of Rustler and Barfoot parks.
Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)
HEPATIC TANAGER (Piranga flava) – Quite common in the highlands, including several along Huachuca Canyon and an eye-level pair near the information sign at Carr Canyon. We had great views of their distinctively gray cheeks (and dark bills) on several occasions.
SUMMER TANAGER (Piranga rubra) – A pair chased around near our picnic spot at Pena Blanca, and we saw another male at the Paton's feeders.
WESTERN TANAGER (Piranga ludoviciana) – Common throughout, including several in the pine forest where we searched for Tufted Flycatcher. This is our only regularly-occuring "tanager" with wing bars.
FLAME-COLORED TANAGER (Piranga bidentata) – We heard one at Ramsey Canyon -- coming closer and closer through the trees along the stream and then retreating back up the canyon -- on a brief stop before we headed up to look for the Tufted Flycatchers; unfortunately, thunder and lightning moved in BOTH times we went back to try to get a look! [*]
NORTHERN CARDINAL (Cardinalis cardinalis) – Another common and widespread species, including some noisy birds around our Portal hotel.
PYRRHULOXIA (Cardinalis sinuatus) – Our first -- and probably best seen -- bird was one sitting on a telephone wire en route to Sierra Vista; we saw others around Portal.
BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus melanocephalus) – Seen regularly throughout the tour, including an adult male feeding a youngster near the feeders in Madera Canyon.
BLUE GROSBEAK (Passerina caerulea) – It took us a few days to find our first -- a singing male Scott spotted near the entrance to Huachuca Canyon as we waited for the cops to open the gate -- but then we made up for lost time, with DOZENS seen over the next week. Maybe they really WERE following Scott!
VARIED BUNTING (Passerina versicolor) – We had a great "stereo serenade" from a pair of rival males in California Gulch, and good scope views of a lovely perched bird near the top of the gully there.
Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)
RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus) – Common at Sweetwater Wetlands, where they gathered in the bushes and trees around the ponds.
EASTERN MEADOWLARK (LILIAN'S) (Sturnella magna lilianae) – One checking out a puddle in a Sonoita parking lot gave us a particularly nice look. The evenly divided tail of this subspecies (the outer thirds on each side pure white, the middle third brown) is distinctive (as compared to both Western Meadowlark and other subspecies of Eastern Meadowlark), as is its song. Some taxonomists rank this as a separate species.

A Hooded Oriole in the palms outside our Rio Rico hotel put on a nice show as we gathered at the van one morning. Photo by participant Pete Peterman.

GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus mexicanus) – Most common around Sweetwater Wetlands -- and our Rio Rico hotel, where they bathed in the fountain outside the former front office.
BRONZED COWBIRD (Molothrus aeneus) – A female in Huachuca Canyon allowed scope studies of her distinctive red eye, and we saw others in Portal and Rio Rico. Like the rest of its genus, this species is a brood parasite.
BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD (Molothrus ater) – Rather common throughout, particularly in Portal, where they gathered like Christmas ornaments in the trees around the Portal store.
HOODED ORIOLE (Icterus cucullatus) – Those in the palms outside our Rio Rico hotel gave us particularly nice chance for study -- and photography; we saw others around Portal.
SCOTT'S ORIOLE (Icterus parisorum) – One sang from a few treetops near the Santa Rita Lodge feeders on our first morning, seen by some of the group. We had longer -- and better -- views of another male along Paradise Road.
Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)
HOUSE FINCH (Haemorhous mexicanus) – Common and widespread throughout, including a few especially bright birds near the start of the road up Carr Canyon, and a noisy mob visiting the feeders at the Ash Canyon B&B.
RED CROSSBILL (Loxia curvirostra) – A pair in the pines edging the campground at Rustler Park were a nice surprise; they sat long enough for everyone to check out their distinctively crossed bills in the scope.

A Western Tiger Swallowtail visits one of the many blooming thistles we saw this trip. Photo by participant Scott Harvell.

PINE SISKIN (Spinus pinus) – A half dozen or so -- looking distinctively streaky -- mingled with one of the mixed flocks we found at Rose Lake Campground on Mount Lemmon.
LESSER GOLDFINCH (Spinus psaltria) – Common and widespread, including dozens on some tube feeders at Santa Rita Lodge; I heard rumors of a goldfinch "tick tack toe" game being invented!
Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)
HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) – Abundant pretty much throughout, especially around cities and towns -- and feeders. [I]

BRAZILIAN FREE-TAILED BAT (Tadarida brasiliensis) – Watching hundreds (thousands?) swirling under the Ina Road bridge and then heading out in a unfurling ribbon of bats was pretty darned impressive. And that sunset wasn't bad either!
EASTERN COTTONTAIL (Sylvilagus floridanus) – A few nosed along the edges of trails and roads in the highlands.
DESERT COTTONTAIL (Sylvilagus audubonii) – Scattered individuals, including a handful scurrying across State Line Road and I-80. In general, this species prefers drier habitats than the previous, and it lacks the rusty nape of the Eastern Cottontail.
BLACK-TAILED JACKRABBIT (Lepus californicus) – One hiding in plain sight along I-80 as we drove to Portal was cooperative -- though it took a while for some to find it initially! The movement of those dark-tipped ears almost looked like a small bird scurrying through the brush.
CLIFF CHIPMUNK (Tamias dorsalis) – A few of these little squirrels were seen along the road to Onion Saddle and on Mount Lemmon.
HARRIS'S ANTELOPE SQUIRREL (Ammospermophilus harrisii) – This species, which is found at lower elevations than the previous, was seen around Portal. Unlike the Cliff Chipmunk, it shows a white stripe on its side.

The Coyote is common across Arizona, at home (as we saw) in both rural and urban settings! Photo by participant Scott Harvell.

SPOTTED GROUND SQUIRREL (Spermophilus spilosoma) – We spied a few of these spotty little squirrels -- which are much smaller than the next species -- on one of the rocky outcrops at Pena Blanca.
ROCK SQUIRREL (Spermophilus variegatus) – Common and widespread, with especially nice studies of several trundling around under the feeders at the Santa Rita Lodge our first morning. Their spotted pelage is distinctive.
ROUND-TAILED GROUND SQUIRREL (Spermophilus tereticaudus) – One -- looking more than a little scruffy -- carried mesquite pods into its underground burrow near one of the paths at Sweetwater Wetlands.
ARIZONA GRAY SQUIRREL (Sciurus arizonensis) – One clambered up a tree near the start Carr Canyon. Though they look like gray squirrels found elsewhere in North America, this range-restricted species (found only in eastern Arizona, western New Mexico and Mexico) is actually more closely related to the Fox Squirrel.
ARIZONA COTTON RAT (Sigmodon arizonae) – One of these sizable cotton rats poked repeatedly out of a brush pile at Sweetwater Wetlands, and another nosed around under the feeders at Paton's.
COYOTE (Canis latrans) – Scattered individuals, including a wary loner along State Line Road, one snoozing under a tree (near something dead) in Tucson and a rather unhealthy-looking specimen along Ruby Road.
STRIPED SKUNK (Mephitis mephitis) – One scuttling past the Portal post office, as we waited for the owls (any owls!) to make an appearance, was enough to make us turn the lights on for a minute.

A Round-tailed Ground-Squirrel entertained us our first afternoon as it wrestled some mesquite pods into its burrow at Sweetwater Wetlands. Photo by participant Scott Harvell.

BOBCAT (Lynx rufus) – One casually walking along the stream beside the road towards Onion Saddle in the Chiricahuas was a surprise; unfortunately, it was far enough away -- and cryptic enough -- that not everyone spotted it before it walked off into the bushes.
COLLARED PECCARY (Tayassu tajacu) – A clown car's worth of females and youngsters scampered across the road in front of our van as we drove down out of Madera Canyon; they just kept coming and coming!
WHITE-TAILED DEER (Odocoileus virginianus) – Small numbers seen in canyons across the tour route, including one trotting across the parking lot at Ramsey Canyon, and some wandering along the roadsides high in the Chiricahuas.
PRONGHORN (Antilocapra americana) – A small group of them (which turned out to be a bigger group than we'd initially thought, when we turned around and went back for a closer look) in a field along I-80, some grazing, and others sprawled out for a snooze in the grass.


Totals for the tour: 169 bird taxa and 17 mammal taxa