A Field Guides Birding Tours Report

Arizona's Second Spring I 2022

July 23-August 1, 2022 with Chris Benesh guiding

Field Guides Birding Tours
The spectacular view from outside our rooms at the Southwest Research Station in Cave Creek Canyon, Chiricahua Mountains was breathtaking! Photo by guide Chris Benesh.

When the high and low pressure cells shift and begin to bring in gulf moisture into southeast Arizona, the arid landscape undergoes a marvelous transformation. No two years are the same, and conditions can vary quite a bit from week to week from hot and dry to cooler and wet. Our monsoon can be thought of as a second Spring, as many species wait until the arrival of the rains to being nesting. Thankfully, the Arizona monsoon rains had arrived for us in 2022 and we were able to witness the greening of the landscape. It was a little patchy, with Cochise Lake in Willcox being virtually dry (“where are all of the shorebirds?”). But we got to experience it in full force in the Chiricahuas, where we actually we driven out of the high country shortly after taking in the Spotted Owls, and witnessed flood conditions in Cave Creek Canyon. Highlights in the Chiricahuas included a wonderful pair of Montezuma Quail, Elegant Trogon, White-eared Hummingbird, Buff-breasted Flycatcher, and of course the Spotted Owls. The Chihuahuan desert grasslands skirting these mountains held some good sparrows, Crissal and Bendire’s thrashers, and nesting Burrowing Owl. To the west the smaller Huachuca Mountains form another smaller, but wonderful sky island. Ash Canyon served up Lucifer Hummingbird, several Violet-crowned Hummingbirds, our first Gray Hawk, perched Zone-tailed Hawk, Arizona Woodpecker, and cooperative Greater Pewee and mix of warblers. From there we headed west to Patagonia, Nogales, and the I-19 corridor along the Santa Cruz, picking up many new species. Among these, Tropical Kingbird, Rose-throated Becard, Five-striped Sparrow, and Varied Bunting stand out. And our evening in Madera Canyon turned the tide on our nightbirding luck a bit with Whiskered Screech-Owl showing nicely for us, along with the flutter of Mexican Whip-poor-will.

Thanks to all of you for making this tour special, and for your patience with weather-related challenges. And finally, hugs to Tamara who had to leave the tour way too soon. Best wishes to you.

—Chris Benesh

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)

BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING-DUCK (Dendrocygna autumnalis)

A couple of birds perching in trees near the Bridge Road bridge in Tubac and two at the Amado Pond.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Enough persistence paid off for us in our quest for the near mythical Montezuma Quail. One last road drive before leaving the Chiricahuas produced a pair of these lovely birds not far from the research station. The male here was photographed by Chris Benesh.

CINNAMON TEAL (Spatula cyanoptera)

The poorly seen teal at Willow Tank was likely this species as other observers had noted it there around the same dates.

MEXICAN DUCK (Anas diazi)

REDHEAD (Aythya americana)

A long-staying male at Canoa Ranch.

RING-NECKED DUCK (Aythya collaris)

A long-staying bird at the Amado Pond.

RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis)

Odontophoridae (New World Quail)

SCALED QUAIL (Callipepla squamata)

A couple seen at the edge of the golf course in Willcox.

GAMBEL'S QUAIL (Callipepla gambelii)

MONTEZUMA QUAIL (Cyrtonyx montezumae)

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The South Fork of Cave Creek Canyon has long been a hotspot for breeding Elegant Trogons, and as Trina Anderson’s picture attests, we shared some good luck there!
Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)

WILD TURKEY (Meleagris gallopavo)

Podicipedidae (Grebes)

PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps)

EARED GREBE (Podiceps nigricollis)

CLARK'S GREBE (Aechmophorus clarkii)

Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]

BAND-TAILED PIGEON (Patagioenas fasciata)

EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto) [I]

INCA DOVE (Columbina inca)

Field Guides Birding Tours
Trina captured this tender allopreening going on with a family of Spotted Owls in the high country of the Chiricahuas.

COMMON GROUND DOVE (Columbina passerina)

WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica)

MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)

Cuculidae (Cuckoos)

GREATER ROADRUNNER (Geococcyx californianus)

YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO (Coccyzus americanus)

Caprimulgidae (Nightjars and Allies)

LESSER NIGHTHAWK (Chordeiles acutipennis)

A few flying around at dusk near Continental.

MEXICAN WHIP-POOR-WILL (Antrostomus arizonae arizonae)

Apodidae (Swifts)

WHITE-THROATED SWIFT (Aeronautes saxatalis)

Field Guides Birding Tours
A visit to the George Walker House in Paradise turned out to be a little slice of it when this White-eared Hummingbird dropped by. Photo by Chris Benesh.
Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)

RIVOLI'S HUMMINGBIRD (Eugenes fulgens)

BLUE-THROATED MOUNTAIN-GEM (Lampornis clemenciae)

LUCIFER HUMMINGBIRD (Calothorax lucifer)

After a long wait, a male Lucifer put in an appearance at the Ash Canyon Bird Sanctuary.

BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRD (Archilochus alexandri)


COSTA'S HUMMINGBIRD (Calypte costae)

RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus rufus)

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Just outside of Portal we stopped in to check out a famous family of Thick-billed Kingbirds, one of few pairs breeding this far east. The adult photographed here by Chris Benesh had just grabbed a morsel to bring to its young nearby.

BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus platycercus)

BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRD (Cynanthus latirostris)

WHITE-EARED HUMMINGBIRD (Basilinna leucotis)


Quite a few sightings of this species at various locations on the tour.

Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)

Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)

KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)

Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)

LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla)

WESTERN SANDPIPER (Calidris mauri)

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A wonderful surprise was coming across this nesting Burrowing Owl just outside of Portal, as this species seems to be in decline locally. Photo by Chris Benesh.

SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)

Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)

GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens)

BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)

Cathartidae (New World Vultures)

TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

MISSISSIPPI KITE (Ictinia mississippiensis)

NORTHERN HARRIER (Circus hudsonius)

A male was seen flying across Highway 80 on our way to Douglas.

COOPER'S HAWK (Accipiter cooperii)

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This Bendire’s Thrasher at Willow Tank showed quite well for us, improving upon the brief views we had had of one in Willcox. Photo by Chris Benesh.

GRAY HAWK (Buteo plagiatus)

SWAINSON'S HAWK (Buteo swainsoni)

ZONE-TAILED HAWK (Buteo albonotatus)

RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)

Strigidae (Owls)

WHISKERED SCREECH-OWL (Megascops trichopsis)

Nice views of one in Madera Canyon one evening.

BURROWING OWL (Athene cunicularia)

SPOTTED OWL (Strix occidentalis)

Trogonidae (Trogons)

ELEGANT TROGON (Trogon elegans)

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Raven identification is one of the more difficult challenges facing birders in southeast Arizona where two species occur. We finally had an opportunity to study cooperative Chihuahuan Ravens on our way to Douglas. The two pictured here look like an adult and a juvenile. You can see the extremely long bristle-like feathers on the bill of the adult, a key field mark for this species. Photo by Chris Benesh.
Picidae (Woodpeckers)

ACORN WOODPECKER (Melanerpes formicivorus)

GILA WOODPECKER (Melanerpes uropygialis)


HAIRY WOODPECKER (Dryobates villosus)

ARIZONA WOODPECKER (Dryobates arizonae)

NORTHERN FLICKER (RED-SHAFTED) (Colaptes auratus cafer)

GILDED FLICKER (Colaptes chrysoides)

It took us quite a while to track them down but we ended up seeing at least four in the Tucson Mountains.

Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)

AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)

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The splendor of the Chiricahuas has to be seen to be believed. The rock formations, such as this, are awe inspiring. Photo by Chris Benesh.

PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus)

A few of us caught sight of one soaring over the ridge in Ramsey Canyon.

Tityridae (Tityras and Allies)

ROSE-THROATED BECARD (Pachyramphus aglaiae)

Good views of a pair of birds high overhead in the trees near their nest near Tubac.

Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)


Thanks to a tip from my birding friend Diane, we saw this species well in Montosa Canyon including its nest.

GREATER PEWEE (Contopus pertinax)

After missing them in the Chiricahuas it was nice to see them well in Miller Canyon.

WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE (Contopus sordidulus)

PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHER (Empidonax difficilis)

CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHER (Empidonax occidentalis)

BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHER (Empidonax fulvifrons)

Great looks at this species at East Turkey Creek in the Chiricahuas.

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Once we made our way to the Huachucas, we encountered this Zone-tailed Hawk hanging out along the roadside after a recent rain. Photo by Chris Benesh.

BLACK PHOEBE (Sayornis nigricans)

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)

TROPICAL KINGBIRD (Tyrannus melancholicus)

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We cruised some neighborhoods in Sierra Vista looking for raptors and came across a family of Red-tailed Hawks. Here a young one is trying its luck at hunting. So far so good. Photo by Chris Benesh.

CASSIN'S KINGBIRD (Tyrannus vociferans)

THICK-BILLED KINGBIRD (Tyrannus crassirostris)

This species has been increasing in numbers in the state and we saw the well known family in Portal and another on the Ruby Road.

WESTERN KINGBIRD (Tyrannus verticalis)

Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)

BELL'S VIREO (Vireo bellii)

HUTTON'S VIREO (Vireo huttoni)

PLUMBEOUS VIREO (Vireo plumbeus)

WARBLING VIREO (Vireo gilvus)

Laniidae (Shrikes)

LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE (Lanius ludovicianus)

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Trina Anderson snapped this lovely shot of a young male Broad-billed Hummingbird feeding on wildflower nectar at the Ash Canyon Bird Sanctuary.
Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)

STELLER'S JAY (Cyanocitta stelleri)

WOODHOUSE'S SCRUB-JAY (Aphelocoma woodhouseii)

One was seen along the Paradise Road.

MEXICAN JAY (Aphelocoma wollweberi)

CHIHUAHUAN RAVEN (Corvus cryptoleucus)

COMMON RAVEN (Corvus corax)

Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)

MOUNTAIN CHICKADEE (Poecile gambeli)

MEXICAN CHICKADEE (Poecile sclateri)

Nice views of this species on the road to Barfoot Junction. This is the only accessible population in the United States.

BRIDLED TITMOUSE (Baeolophus wollweberi)

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Keith Wheatley shot this foraging male Black-headed Grosbeak at the Santa Rita Lodge in Madera Canyon.
Remizidae (Penduline-Tits)

VERDIN (Auriparus flaviceps)

Hirundinidae (Swallows)

PURPLE MARTIN (Progne subis)

A few of the desert breeders around Tucson.

TREE SWALLOW (Tachycineta bicolor)

VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW (Tachycineta thalassina)

BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)

CLIFF SWALLOW (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)

Aegithalidae (Long-tailed Tits)

BUSHTIT (INTERIOR) (Psaltriparus minimus plumbeus)

Sittidae (Nuthatches)

WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta carolinensis)

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A wonderful recent addition to the birdlife of Patagonia was a pair of nesting Mississippi Kites, and they could not have been more cooperative, as Keith Wheatley’s photo attests.

PYGMY NUTHATCH (Sitta pygmaea)

Certhiidae (Treecreepers)

BROWN CREEPER (Certhia americana)

Polioptilidae (Gnatcatchers)

BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (Polioptila caerulea)

BLACK-TAILED GNATCATCHER (Polioptila melanura)

Troglodytidae (Wrens)

ROCK WREN (Salpinctes obsoletus) [*]

CANYON WREN (Catherpes mexicanus)

We eventually spied him perched on a rock outcropping in Montosa Canyon.

HOUSE WREN (Troglodytes aedon)

BEWICK'S WREN (Thryomanes bewickii)

Field Guides Birding Tours
Montosa Canyon proved to be a really productive way to spend a morning. It took a bit of time to track them down, but eventually the Five-striped Sparrows showed really well for us. This species is perhaps the most range-restricted sparrow in the United States. Photo by Chris Benesh.

CACTUS WREN (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus)

Sturnidae (Starlings)

EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]

Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)

CURVE-BILLED THRASHER (Toxostoma curvirostre)

BENDIRE'S THRASHER (Toxostoma bendirei)

CRISSAL THRASHER (Toxostoma crissale)

We spotted one teed up in a tree along the Portal Road.

NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos)

Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)

WESTERN BLUEBIRD (Sialia mexicana)

A lone bird seen high up in the Chiricahuas.

HERMIT THRUSH (Catharus guttatus)

Field Guides Birding Tours
Montosa Canyon also got us finally our fill of the splendid Varied Bunting. Photo by Chris Benesh.

AMERICAN ROBIN (Turdus migratorius)

Ptiliogonatidae (Silky-flycatchers)

PHAINOPEPLA (Phainopepla nitens)

Peucedramidae (Olive Warbler)

OLIVE WARBLER (Peucedramus taeniatus)

We connected with this species at Rose Canyon Lake.

Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)

HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]

Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)

HOUSE FINCH (Haemorhous mexicanus)

PINE SISKIN (Spinus pinus)

LESSER GOLDFINCH (Spinus psaltria)

Passerellidae (New World Sparrows)

RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROW (Peucaea carpalis)

On our way out of Montosa Canyon we made a stop to watch some territorial birds.

Field Guides Birding Tours
We took a bit of time on our way out to track down a desert species that had been eluding us thus far, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, and ended up with great views of a pair. Photo by Chris Benesh.

BOTTERI'S SPARROW (Peucaea botterii)

Great looks of this species in grassland near Hereford.

CASSIN'S SPARROW (Peucaea cassinii)

FIVE-STRIPED SPARROW (Amphispizopsis quinquestriata)

CHIPPING SPARROW (Spizella passerina)

BLACK-THROATED SPARROW (Amphispiza bilineata)

YELLOW-EYED JUNCO (Junco phaeonotus)

SONG SPARROW (Melospiza melodia)

CANYON TOWHEE (Melozone fusca)

Field Guides Birding Tours
With a little bit of time on our hands, we swung by Kennedy Park in Tucson to see the Clark’s Grebe that had been found there a few days earlier. Thankfully it was still present. A rare bird in Pima County. Photo by Chris Benesh.

ABERT'S TOWHEE (Melozone aberti)

RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW (Aimophila ruficeps)

SPOTTED TOWHEE (Pipilo maculatus)

Icteriidae (Yellow-breasted Chat)


This amazing species was recently placed in its own family.

Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)

EASTERN MEADOWLARK (CHIHUAHUAN) (Sturnella magna lilianae)

This is now officially a full species, Chihuahuan Meadowlark, S. lilianae.

HOODED ORIOLE (Icterus cucullatus)

BULLOCK'S ORIOLE (Icterus bullockii)

SCOTT'S ORIOLE (Icterus parisorum)

Field Guides Birding Tours
I consider myself pretty good at flycatcher identification in general, but occasionally I am confronted with a bird that puzzles me. This greenish Empidonax at Sweetwater Wetlands was one such bird. Pacific-slope would be the expected greenish one on this date, but this one sure gave off at least a bit of Yellow-bellied Flycatcher vibe. We wisely left it unidentified. Photo by Chris Benesh.

RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)

BRONZED COWBIRD (Molothrus aeneus)


GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus mexicanus)

Parulidae (New World Warblers)

LUCY'S WARBLER (Leiothlypis luciae)

VIRGINIA'S WARBLER (Leiothlypis virginiae)

Seen on Mt. Lemmon and again in Miller Canyon.

COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)

YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia)

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We didn’t see a huge variety of reptiles, but one of the most colorful was this Yarrow’s Spiny Lizard hanging out at the Southwest Research Station. Photo by Chris Benesh.

GRACE'S WARBLER (Setophaga graciae)

BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER (Setophaga nigrescens)

RED-FACED WARBLER (Cardellina rubrifrons)

Good views of this species at Rose Canyon Lake and again in Miller Canyon.

PAINTED REDSTART (Myioborus pictus)

Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)

HEPATIC TANAGER (Piranga flava)

SUMMER TANAGER (Piranga rubra)

WESTERN TANAGER (Piranga ludoviciana)

NORTHERN CARDINAL (Cardinalis cardinalis)

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While we were exploring around the San Pedro House, we came across this well patterned caterpillar. After a bit of sleuthing I determined that it is Xylophanes falco, the Falcon Sphinx Moth. Photo by Chris Benesh.

PYRRHULOXIA (Cardinalis sinuatus)

BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus melanocephalus)

BLUE GROSBEAK (Passerina caerulea)

LAZULI BUNTING (Passerina amoena)

Two popped up in the grasses at the Amado Pond.

VARIED BUNTING (Passerina versicolor)

Nice views of this species on the Ruby Road and again in Montosa Canyon.

PAINTED BUNTING (Passerina ciris)

There was a male feeding in grasses on the far side of the Amado Pond.


EASTERN COTTONTAIL (Sylvilagus floridanus)

DESERT COTTONTAIL (Sylvilagus audubonii)

BLACK-TAILED JACKRABBIT (Lepus californicus)


One was spotted on our way into Madera Canyon. Always a treat to see this special species.

CLIFF CHIPMUNK (Tamias dorsalis)

SPOTTED GROUND SQUIRREL (Spermophilus spilosoma)

ROCK SQUIRREL (Spermophilus variegatus)

ROUND-TAILED GROUND SQUIRREL (Spermophilus tereticaudus)

MEXICAN FOX SQUIRREL (Sciurus nayaritensis)

We saw a couple of these large, attractive tree squirrels. This one occurs in the United States only in the Chiricahuas.

ARIZONA GRAY SQUIRREL (Sciurus arizonensis)

ABERT'S SQUIRREL (Sciurus aberti)

One seen on Mt. Lemmon where this species was introduced years ago.

GRAY FOX (Urocyon cinereoargenteus)

NORTHERN RACCOON (Procyon lotor)

STRIPED SKUNK (Mephitis mephitis)

COLLARED PECCARY (Tayassu tajacu)

A couple of these were seen as we were departing the motel on the second morning of the tour.

MULE DEER (Odocoileus hemionus)

One was seen below Montosa Canyon.

WHITE-TAILED DEER (Odocoileus virginianus)

This was the common deer in all of the sky islands.


COACHWHIP (Masticophis flagellum)


A large one spotted crossing the trail between the San Pedro House and the river.

ORNATE TREE LIZARD (Urosaurus ornatus)

CLARK'S SPINY LIZARD (Sceloporus clarkii)

The most memorable was one looming over our dinner at Pizza Mimosa.

YARROW'S SPINY LIZARD (Sceloporus jarrovii)

SONORAN SPOTTED WHIPTAIL (Aspidoscelis sonorae)

DESERT GRASSLAND WHIPTAIL (Aspidoscelis uniparens)

TIGER WHIPTAIL (Aspidoscelis tigris)

Totals for the tour: 166 bird taxa and 17 mammal taxa