A Field Guides Birding Tours Report

Arizona's Second Spring II 2022

July 30-August 8, 2022 with Tom Johnson guiding

A few highlight moments from our time birding around Arizona's deserts and sky islands. In order of appearance: Monsoon skies over Southeastern Arizona, Box Canyon, Five-striped Sparrow, Varied Bunting, Burrowing Owl, Cave Creek Canyon, Buff-breasted Flycatcher, Blue-throated Mountain-Gem, Chihuahuan Meadowlark, Berylline Hummingbird, Greater Pewee, Zone-tailed Hawk, Swainson's Hawk, Mexican Spotted Owl, Mississippi Kite, Tropical Kingbird, Lucifer Hummingbird, Harshaw Canyon, Thick-billed Kingbird, Montezuma Quail, Ruddy Ground-Dove, Northern Pygmy-Owl, juvenile Short-tailed Hawk, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Townsend's Warbler, Hermit Warbler, another monsoon storm.

Few birding destinations in North America are more iconic than southeastern Arizona at the height of the summer monsoon season. Our tour underscored this with birds, mammals, and herps around nearly every turn throughout this gorgeous and varied landscape.

Our route included a night in Tucson, three nights in Portal, two nights in Sierra Vista, two nights in Nogales, and a final night back in Tucson. With these strategic stops around the region, we were able to experience the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts, riparian corridors, isolated ponds (crucial for birds in the desert), mountain canyons, and high elevation conifer forest. Monsoon activity was high and we enjoyed spectacular late afternoon thunderstorms during the week (remember the show while we waited for dinner outside Hereford?). A few interesting "road cruises" at night from Portal boosted our mammal and herp list. Though we saw a high diversity of birds overall, there were some true standout highlight birds: Short-tailed Hawk, Montezuma Quail, Berylline Hummingbird, White-eared Hummingbird, Elf Owl, Spotted Owl, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Ruddy Ground Dove, Rose-throated Becard, and Five-striped Sparrow.

Thanks for joining me in my home away from home in southern Arizona. I hope the triplist, video compilation, and photos help bring back some wonderful memories from the tour.

[In addition to the birds and mammals listed below, we saw quite a few reptiles and amphibians along the way. Some of the herps we found included Western Lyresnake, Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake, Mohave Rattlesnake, Black-tailed Rattlesnake, Southwestern Fence Lizard, Desert Spiny Lizard, Greater Short-horned Lizard, Arizona Striped Whiptail, Zebra-tailed Lizard, American Bullfrog, Great Plains Toad, and Couch's Spadefoot.]


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)

We saw these odd waterfowl on three occasions. Perhaps the most memorable sighting was when the two circled us in beautiful morning light at Willow Tank outside Portal.

WOOD DUCK (Aix sponsa)

One was an oddball sighting at the Benson ponds.

CINNAMON TEAL (Spatula cyanoptera)

A male flew past us at the Sweetwater Wetlands in Tucson.

MEXICAN DUCK (Anas diazi)

We saw pure-looking birds a number of times along the Santa Cruz River, Benson, and Willcox. Mexican Ducks frequently hybridize with Mallards in this region.

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After lots of careful searching, we enjoyed two awesome encounters with the stealthy and elusive Montezuma Quail. This male came running in to my whistled imitation of his "falling bomb" song, and he eventually posted up in some grasses for great scope views.

REDHEAD (Aythya americana)

A female was with other ducks at Benson.

RING-NECKED DUCK (Aythya collaris)

A female was an odd summer sighting at Benson.

RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis)

We counted 47 at Benson; others were at Willcox and Amado.

Odontophoridae (New World Quail)

SCALED QUAIL (Callipepla squamata)

At least three crossed the Portal Road in front of us; one stuck along the roadside long enough for great views as he paraded around before slipping away into the desert grassland.

GAMBEL'S QUAIL (Callipepla gambelii)

The common desert quail across our tour route. Particularly interesting was the flock of a dozen that investigated a road-killed rattlesnake near Patagonia.

MONTEZUMA QUAIL (Cyrtonyx montezumae)

We worked hard for this one, and eventually we found them! Two awesome sightings. The first was the curious male I whistled in to the roadside in the Chiricahuas. Later, we nearly parked on top of a pair near Patagonia - we watched those two from inside the van and then followed them through the grasses and across the creek. Almost everyone noted this as one of their Top 3 birds of the trip!

Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)

WILD TURKEY (Meleagris gallopavo)

Just a few encounters with singles.

Podicipedidae (Grebes)

PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps)

Three were at Benson; another one was at Willow Tank.

CLARK'S GREBE (Aechmophorus clarkii)

One of the first birds we saw on the tour was this odd summering rarity at Kennedy Park in Tucson.

Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]

Only found around towns and cities.

BAND-TAILED PIGEON (Patagioenas fasciata)

These large forest pigeons put in appearances on at least two occasions in the high parts of the Chiricahuas.

EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto) [I]

Widespread now around people.

INCA DOVE (Columbina inca)

We saw these scaly, long-tailed doves many times. Best views were at feeding stations like the Paton's in Patagonia.

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This male Lucifer Hummingbird was visiting the feeders at Ash Canyon Bird Sanctuary.

COMMON GROUND DOVE (Columbina passerina)

A bit more widespread than usual; usually separate from the more common Inca Doves.

RUDDY GROUND DOVE (Columbina talpacoti)

This rare singing male took up summer residence along Sonoita Creek by the Paton's yard in Patagonia. We had some good views of the bird as he puffed up and belted out his quiet hooting song.

WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica)

Very common in southern Arizona in summer.

MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)

Quite common in many locations. We saw 240 flush out of the fields at Rio Rico when a Peregrine Falcon tore through.

Cuculidae (Cuckoos)

GREATER ROADRUNNER (Geococcyx californianus)

Several sightings, including one that sang and bill-clapped from a ridge-top oak near Patagonia.

YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO (Coccyzus americanus)

We heard these stealthy birds in several locations and had good views after tracking one down in Patagonia.

Caprimulgidae (Nightjars and Allies)

LESSER NIGHTHAWK (Chordeiles acutipennis)

One bounded past us at dusk near Portal; later, we had great daytime views of four as they sailed around overhead at the San Pedro House.

COMMON POORWILL (Phalaenoptilus nuttallii)

Super views at a friend's property just outside Portal; we also heard a few in Miller Canyon.

MEXICAN WHIP-POOR-WILL (Antrostomus arizonae arizonae)

Heard a few times in the Chiricahuas; we eventually had nice views of a male just after dusk at Miller Canyon. This one says "Purple rip!"

Apodidae (Swifts)

WHITE-THROATED SWIFT (Aeronautes saxatalis)

Cruising overhead and against the rocks of upper Carr Canyon.

Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)

RIVOLI'S HUMMINGBIRD (Eugenes fulgens)

The second largest hummingbird that we saw; these were at montane sites and we had our best views at feeders like the ones at Ramsey Canyon and the Mount Lemmon Palisades Visitor Center.

BLUE-THROATED MOUNTAIN-GEM (Lampornis clemenciae)

Most of our sightings were around Portal but we also saw one visiting a feeder up on Mount Lemmon. The largest hummingbird of our tour.

LUCIFER HUMMINGBIRD (Calothorax lucifer)

A purple-throated male made several visits to the feeders at Ash Canyon Bird Sanctuary.

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Mixed flocks in the Chiricahua Mountains often held Mexican Chickadees. This species has quite a restricted range north of the Mexican border, and the high Chiricahuas are the best place to see it in the country.

BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRD (Archilochus alexandri)

One of the most common hummingbirds that we found on the tour; most abundant in mountain canyons, but seen in many habitats.


Our biggest numbers were at the feeders at Ash Canyon where I estimated 15 birds.

COSTA'S HUMMINGBIRD (Calypte costae)

Several were zipping around and singing in the desert slopes of Box Canyon. Later, we saw a scruffy immature male at the Ash Canyon feeders.

CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus calliope)

A female-type visited feeders one evening just outside our rooms at the Portal Peak Lodge.

RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus rufus)

We found small numbers of migrants in the Chiricahuas.

BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus platycercus)

Common (especially by wing trill) in the upper elevations of our tour route.

BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRD (Cynanthus latirostris)

A common and handsome canyon hummingbird.

WHITE-EARED HUMMINGBIRD (Basilinna leucotis)

An immature male visited the feeders and flowers of the George Walker House in Paradise.


A few visited feeders just outside our rooms in Portal; later we saw two more at Ramsey Canyon.

BERYLLINE HUMMINGBIRD (Saucerottia beryllina)

Not one but two! These rust-winged Mexican hummingbirds put in rockstar appearances at the Southwestern Research Station near Portal and at the Ramsey Canyon Inn.

Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

COMMON GALLINULE (Gallinula galeata)

One was at Sweetwater Wetlands.

AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)

Fairly common on ponds and lakes, with our biggest numbers at Benson.

Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)

BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus)

Two were at Willcox.

AMERICAN AVOCET (Recurvirostra americana)

We found just three at Willcox.

Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)

KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)

These ring-necked plovers were at Benson, Willcox, and Willow Tank.

Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)

STILT SANDPIPER (Calidris himantopus)

Two were with other shorebirds at Willcox.

BAIRD'S SANDPIPER (Calidris bairdii)

Our high count of these long distance migrants was 7 birds at Willcox.

LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla)

Flocks at Benson and Willcox.

WESTERN SANDPIPER (Calidris mauri)

Four were mixed with Least Sandpipers at Benson.

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A well-camouflaged Greater Short-horned Lizard tried to take refuge under our van tire in Pinery Canyon, but we eventually convinced it to leave the roadside.

LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodromus scolopaceus)

These breeding plumage shorebirds were at Benson and Willcox.

WILSON'S PHALAROPE (Phalaropus tricolor)

Eight were swimming and spinning at Willcox.

SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)

We saw these teeterers at Benson, Willcox, and Amado.

SOLITARY SANDPIPER (Tringa solitaria)

Two flushed up and flew a circuit around us at Willow Tank near Portal.

LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes)

A southbound juvenile was at Willcox.

Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)

Singles were at Willow Tank and Willcox.

Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)

WHITE-FACED IBIS (Plegadis chihi)

In the flock of pure White-faced Ibis at Willcox, we saw a hybrid Glossy x White-faced Ibis that showed some of the bluish tones to the edging of the facial skin typical of Glossy Ibis.

Cathartidae (New World Vultures)

BLACK VULTURE (Coragyps atratus)

We saw these range-restricted vultures several times along the Santa Cruz River near Nogales.

TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)

Common and widespread.

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

GOLDEN EAGLE (Aquila chrysaetos)

One was at Box Canyon; later we saw another at Portal.

MISSISSIPPI KITE (Ictinia mississippiensis)

Two adults and a juvenile interacted overhead at St. David. Later, we saw an adult soaring over town in Patagonia where the species nested this summer.

COOPER'S HAWK (Accipiter cooperii)

A few sightings at Carr Canyon, Las Cienegas, and Tubac.

GRAY HAWK (Buteo plagiatus)

Quite a few sightings of these fancy raptors along riparian corridors.

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This immature male White-eared Hummingbird showed off in the garden at the George Walker House in Paradise.

SHORT-TAILED HAWK (Buteo brachyurus)

Wow! We found at least two recently fledged juveniles and an adult in the upper reaches of the Santa Catalina Mountains above Tucson. These compact Buteo hawks sailed around and called overhead, offering us repeated beautiful views. The species is quite rare in the mountains of southern Arizona.

SWAINSON'S HAWK (Buteo swainsoni)

These long-winged hawks were seen regularly over desert grasslands.

ZONE-TAILED HAWK (Buteo albonotatus)

At least four sightings of these vulture look-alikes soaring overhead. Perhaps the best sightings were at Willcox and in Las Cienegas.

RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)

These familiar hawks were widespread from lower desert habitats all the way up into the montane pine forest.

Strigidae (Owls)

WHISKERED SCREECH-OWL (Megascops trichopsis)

Heard and seen nicely at Miller Canyon.

WESTERN SCREECH-OWL (Megascops kennicottii)

When one called at dusk from a creek wash near Portal, we tracked it down for some nice views. Later we were clued in to a day-roosting bird near Sierra Vista that snoozed while we scoped it.

GREAT HORNED OWL (Bubo virginianus) [*]

We heard one hooting in Miller Canyon.

NORTHERN PYGMY-OWL (Glaucidium gnoma)

The bird that sang from a small tree near Patagonia was a real prize - great views in the scope.

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Patience and a little help from a thermal scope helped us find this diminutive Elf Owl during a fruitful night outing in the Huachucas.

ELF OWL (Micrathene whitneyi)

Awesome! After a bit of hide and seek, we eventually had some super nice roadside views of this tiny owl at Miller Canyon.

BURROWING OWL (Athene cunicularia)

Four were in the flats northeast of Portal.

SPOTTED OWL (Strix occidentalis)

We put in our time scanning for these scarce owls, eventually finding one on an open day roost.

Trogonidae (Trogons)

ELEGANT TROGON (Trogon elegans)

We heard a pair and had great views of a female as she hunted along the South Fork of Cave Creek.

Picidae (Woodpeckers)

ACORN WOODPECKER (Melanerpes formicivorus)

Common in mountain canyons.

GILA WOODPECKER (Melanerpes uropygialis)

Very common in lower desert habitats.


We saw this "desert Downy" on many occasions in lower desert habitats.

HAIRY WOODPECKER (Dryobates villosus)

Heard and seen a few times in montane forest.

ARIZONA WOODPECKER (Dryobates arizonae)

These brown-colored woodpeckers were at the George Walker House in Paradise and also in Carr Canyon.

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

We bumped into these flickers on several occasions in montane forest.

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Painted Redstarts look cool on the pages of a field guide, but in real life... wow! The way they flare their wings and tail is just spectacular.

GILDED FLICKER (Colaptes chrysoides)

One was in a saguaro forest west of Tucson on our first afternoon together.

Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)

AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)

These small falcons were seen regularly in grassland habitats.

PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus)

One pursued large flocks of doves at Rio Rico.

Tityridae (Tityras and Allies)

ROSE-THROATED BECARD (Pachyramphus aglaiae)

It took a bit of patience but we found female-types at two different nesting spots (Patagonia and Tubac). At the Tubac site, a bird eventually approached one of the messy, hanging nests and sat for a while, offering us some good scope views.

Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)


A noisy bird was near the Thick-billed Kingbirds around Patagonia.

GREATER PEWEE (Contopus pertinax)

Our first sighting was in the vicinity of Rustler Park; later we also found them in Pinery and Carr canyons.

WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE (Contopus sordidulus)

Quite common in woodland habitats.

CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHER (Empidonax occidentalis)

Good looks and listens to this, the local breeding version of "Western Flycatcher," at Pinery Canyon and Carr Canyon.

BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHER (Empidonax fulvifrons)

These distinctive Empids were in the Chiricahuas and also in Carr Canyon.

BLACK PHOEBE (Sayornis nigricans)

Just a few sightings; at Benson, Willow Tank, and Tubac.

SAY'S PHOEBE (Sayornis saya)

One was at Willow Tank.

VERMILION FLYCATCHER (Pyrocephalus rubinus)

These attractive flycatchers were in pastures and yards

DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus tuberculifer)

The mournful "peeeeer" calls of these slim Myiarchus flycatchers tipped us off to their presence at sites like Carr Canyon, Portal, Patagonia, and Tubac.

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Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks circled around a small water tank in the desert east of the Chiricahuas.

ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus cinerascens)

A few were in desert and grassland habitats near Tucson, Portal, and Las Cienegas.

BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus tyrannulus)

This was the big, noisy Myiarchus that we found at Sweetwater Wetlands, Patagonia, and Tubac.

SULPHUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHER (Myiodynastes luteiventris)

Our best views of these neotropical migrants were the squeaking birds at South Fork Cave Creek and in Pinery Canyon.

TROPICAL KINGBIRD (Tyrannus melancholicus)

These increasing Mexican flycatchers were at Sweetwater Wetlands, Rio Rico, and Amado.

CASSIN'S KINGBIRD (Tyrannus vociferans)

Very common from desert grasslands up into mountain canyons. We used overall coloration, face pattern, and tail pattern to separate these from Western Kingbird.

THICK-BILLED KINGBIRD (Tyrannus crassirostris)

Great views of these impressive flycatchers in the canyons south of Patagonia.

WESTERN KINGBIRD (Tyrannus verticalis)

Most of our sightings were along fencelines and utility wires running through desert grasslands.

Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)

BELL'S VIREO (Vireo bellii)

These small, active vireos were particularly common by voice in riparian areas.

HUTTON'S VIREO (Vireo huttoni)

These vireos often accompanied flocks of migrant songbirds through the oak forests of canyon country.

PLUMBEOUS VIREO (Vireo plumbeus)

These grayish vireos were in many of the canyon forests we visited.

WARBLING VIREO (Vireo gilvus)

Migrants were at Patagonia and in the Catalinas.

Laniidae (Shrikes)

LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE (Lanius ludovicianus)

These elegant predators were often perched up in desert grassland habitats.

Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)

STELLER'S JAY (Cyanocitta stelleri)

The crested jays that we saw above Onion Saddle in the Chiricahuas. This interior population with the white eye accents may be split from the coastal and Central American populations in the future.

WOODHOUSE'S SCRUB-JAY (Aphelocoma woodhouseii)

Our first sighting was just outside the lodge in Portal; later we found more in the upper reaches of Carr Canyon. This species is widely distributed in the area's canyons, but tends to be shy.

MEXICAN JAY (Aphelocoma wollweberi)

Common in the region's heavily birded canyon forests. They are unafraid of people and frequently attend feeders, too!

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After our first Montezuma Quail sighting, I was both satisfied and relieved. And then we saw another pair! This male and female just happened to be walking along Harshaw Canyon at the spot where I intended to park. Good fortune for us!

CHIHUAHUAN RAVEN (Corvus cryptoleucus)

We found at least one pair in the grasslands of Las Cienegas.

COMMON RAVEN (Corvus corax)

The raven we encountered frequently in canyons and over mountain forest.

Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)

MOUNTAIN CHICKADEE (Poecile gambeli)

The only spot we visited in the range of this species was the upper reaches of the Santa Catalina Mts; we saw plenty up there in mixed flocks.

MEXICAN CHICKADEE (Poecile sclateri)

A frequent member of mixed flocks in the high Chiricahuas.

BRIDLED TITMOUSE (Baeolophus wollweberi)

These sharply appointed songbirds accompanied many mixed flocks in oak woodlands in canyons.

Remizidae (Penduline-Tits)

VERDIN (Auriparus flaviceps)

These small, spike-billed songbirds were most common in open, low Sonoran Desert scrub.

Hirundinidae (Swallows)

NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)

A few were at Sweetwater Wetlands and overhead at Las Cienegas.

PURPLE MARTIN (Progne subis)

The cactus-nesting birds that we saw around Tucson on our first day are of the subspecies hesperia.

TREE SWALLOW (Tachycineta bicolor)

Scattered sightings of small flocks, with a max of 12 at Willow Tank.

VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW (Tachycineta thalassina)

We found these small, white-hipped swallows up high in the Chiricahuas and also overhead at Ash Canyon.

BANK SWALLOW (Riparia riparia)

Four were mixed with other swallows at Sweetwater Wetlands.

BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)

The most common swallow we saw.

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This female Elegant Trogon patrolled the South Fork of Cave Creek as we watched from the bank.

CLIFF SWALLOW (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)

Particularly common in the Nogales area where we found many nesting on the side of our hotel!

Aegithalidae (Long-tailed Tits)

BUSHTIT (INTERIOR) (Psaltriparus minimus plumbeus)

Small, active flocks bounced around the scrub and forest at Carr Canyon and around Patagonia.

Sittidae (Nuthatches)

RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta canadensis)

We found just a few of these nasal-squeaking nuthatches at high elevation in the Chiricahuas and Catalinas.

WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta carolinensis)

These "Interior West" White-breasted Nuthatches (a possible future split) were fairly common in pine-oak woodlands at middle and upper elevations.

PYGMY NUTHATCH (Sitta pygmaea)

Ours were in mixed flocks up high in the Chiricahuas and Catalinas.

Certhiidae (Treecreepers)

BROWN CREEPER (Certhia americana)

These cryptic bark-mimics were in montane forest in the Chiricahuas, Huachucas, and Catalinas.

Polioptilidae (Gnatcatchers)

BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (Polioptila caerulea)

A few were tail-flipping in riparian areas with larger trees.

BLACK-TAILED GNATCATCHER (Polioptila melanura)

We encountered at least two in the open desert west of the Tucson Mountains.

Troglodytidae (Wrens)

ROCK WREN (Salpinctes obsoletus)

These wrens were doing pushups at the Box Canyon and also at the Patagonia Roadside Rest.

CANYON WREN (Catherpes mexicanus)

One was at Gates Pass; another two were heard at the Patagonia Roadside Rest.

HOUSE WREN (Troglodytes aedon)

These were at higher elevations in the Chiricahuas and Catalinas.

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This buffy juvenile Short-tailed Hawk was accompanied by a sibling and a parent in the skies over Mount Bigelow in the Santa Catalina Mountains. This record might represent the first breeding confirmation for this mountain range.

BEWICK'S WREN (Thryomanes bewickii)

These gnatcatcher-like wrens were mousing around noisily in riparian areas and lower stretches of mountain canyons.

CACTUS WREN (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus)

We had some nice views of these strikingly large wrens in the Sonoran Desert west of Tucson and the Chihuahuan Desert scrub east of Portal.

Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)

CURVE-BILLED THRASHER (Toxostoma curvirostre)

The most common thrasher in human-inhabited areas of southern Arizona - we saw lots of them.

BENDIRE'S THRASHER (Toxostoma bendirei)

One showed quite nicely near Willow Tank in the Portal area. This straight-billed thrasher is quite similar in appearance to Curve-billed, so care is needed to identify it properly.

CRISSAL THRASHER (Toxostoma crissale)

We heard these a few times east of the Chiricahuas, with our best views in the vicinity of Willow Tank.

NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos)

These mimids are widespread at lower elevations. Usually thought of as residents, they are actually quite migratory, and we caught a neat "morning flight" of over 30 individuals between the San Pedro House and Las Cienegas on August 5th.

Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)

EASTERN BLUEBIRD (Sialia sialis)

Two "Azure" Eastern Bluebirds were near Harshaw in the Patagonia Mountains.

WESTERN BLUEBIRD (Sialia mexicana)

We found a loose flock of about ten birds around Rustler Park in the Chiricahuas.

HERMIT THRUSH (Catharus guttatus)

We saw these spot-breasted thrushes a few times in the upper elevation stretches of our journey.

AMERICAN ROBIN (Turdus migratorius)

Smaller numbers in canyons and in higher elevation forest.

Ptiliogonatidae (Silky-flycatchers)

PHAINOPEPLA (Phainopepla nitens)

We found these nomadic songbirds in many locations. Great views in the Tucson Mountains and at Patagonia, where they were very common along Sonoita Creek.

Peucedramidae (Olive Warbler)

OLIVE WARBLER (Peucedramus taeniatus)

This one took us until the final afternoon to track down, but we did it! We had heard them calling in the Chiricahuas and the Huachucas, but it took until Plan C before we laid eyes on this odd songbird. At least three were in a mixed flock in conifer forest high in the Catalinas. Some people refer to the bird by one of its Spanish names, "Ocotero."

Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)

HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]

Common around people.

Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)

HOUSE FINCH (Haemorhous mexicanus)

We saw these desert songbirds on many occasions, including at birdfeeders.

RED CROSSBILL (Loxia curvirostra) [*]

We heard one calling near Rustler Park, but couldn't track it down for views this time.

LESSER GOLDFINCH (Spinus psaltria)

One of the most common and widely distributed birds in southern Arizona.

Passerellidae (New World Sparrows)

RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROW (Peucaea carpalis)

Great views on our first day west of Tucson, and then again near Rio Rico. We tracked them down by their metallic bouncing ball songs.

BOTTERI'S SPARROW (Peucaea botterii)

Small numbers sang up a storm in desert grasslands north of the Santa Rita Mountains and at Las Cienegas.

CASSIN'S SPARROW (Peucaea cassinii)

These monsoon breeders were very common in desert grasslands, especially in the area east of the Chiricahuas. It was great to watch their little parachute flight songs and then see them well in the scope as they perched up.

FIVE-STRIPED SPARROW (Amphispizopsis quinquestriata)

At least three sang from the Box Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains, with one showing off right alongside the road. This Mexican species is quite rare and local in the US. Fabulous!

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With lower-than-normal water levels at Willcox, shorebirds were a bit sparse this year. However, this Solitary Sandpiper spiced things up at Willow Tank.

CHIPPING SPARROW (Spizella passerina)

We found a few of these widespread sparrows in canyon settings.

BLACK-CHINNED SPARROW (Spizella atrogularis) [*]

Heard in upper Carr Canyon, but we couldn't get a view this time.

BLACK-THROATED SPARROW (Amphispiza bilineata)

A common and handsome sparrow of the desert flats; we ran into them on our very first afternoon west of Tucson, and then saw them again a few more times along the way.

LARK SPARROW (Chondestes grammacus)

Quite common in grasslands and riparian edges; at least 30 flushed when a Peregrine flew through at Rio Rico.

LARK BUNTING (Calamospiza melanocorys)

Flocks of 5 and 15 flew past us and perched briefly near Rodeo, New Mexico and also at Las Cienegas. This species migrates and winters in the grasslands of the southwestern states and northern Mexico.

YELLOW-EYED JUNCO (Junco phaeonotus)

These strange sparrows were very common in the higher reaches of the Chiricahuas, Huachucas, and Catalinas.

SONG SPARROW (Melospiza melodia)

We saw the pale desert subspecies in riparian areas at Tucson, Patagonia, and Tubac.

CANYON TOWHEE (Melozone fusca)

At least a dozen sightings, including one carrying a bright green grasshopper at Box Canyon.

ABERT'S TOWHEE (Melozone aberti)

These big, localized sparrows were at Sweetwater Wetlands near Tucson and also in the Santa Cruz River corridor at Tubac.

RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW (Aimophila ruficeps)

On our final afternoon, we had great views of one in the Molino Basin above Tucson.

SPOTTED TOWHEE (Pipilo maculatus)

Common in scrubby undergrowth at higher elevations in canyons and montane forest. Very common in the recently burned area of upper Carr Canyon.

Icteriidae (Yellow-breasted Chat)


These noisy songbirds were singing away at San Pedro House, Patagonia, and Tubac - always near river corridors.

Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)

YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus)

One made a brief stop at the Benson ponds.

EASTERN MEADOWLARK (CHIHUAHUAN) (Sturnella magna lilianae)

This bird is now officially known as the Chihuahuan Meadowlark (Sturnella lilianae); in fact, we had our best looks at the bird on the day that we received the official announcement that the AOS NACC had split the species from Eastern Meadowlark. Our best views were in the desert grasslands near Portal and Rodeo.

HOODED ORIOLE (Icterus cucullatus)

We crossed paths with these slim, long-tailed orioles several times, including at Portal, Texas Canyon, Rio Rico, and Patagonia.

SCOTT'S ORIOLE (Icterus parisorum)

One of these handsome orioles came in to check us out from the far side of Pinery Canyon in the Chiricahuas.

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It's pretty gratifying when one of the Turkey Vultures overhead turns out to have white tail bands and a feathered head! We enjoyed multiple fine views of Zone-tailed Hawks like this as they cruised past.

RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)

Just a few sightings around Willcox.

BRONZED COWBIRD (Molothrus aeneus)

We watched two stout-billed juveniles strutting around on the ground near some cattle at Patagonia.


Commonly seen in small groups throughout the tour route, especially in desert and grassland habitats near water.

GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus mexicanus)

Particularly common around Tucson, Patagonia, and the Santa Cruz River corridor.

Parulidae (New World Warblers)

LUCY'S WARBLER (Leiothlypis luciae)

We saw plenty of these early nesting songbirds - something like 17 individuals by my tally. Most were around Rio Rico and Tubac.

VIRGINIA'S WARBLER (Leiothlypis virginiae)

We found a few individuals in that Bushtit flock roaming around the campground in upper Carr Canyon.

COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)

A few buzzed at us from grasses in riparian areas along the Santa Cruz and San Pedro rivers.

YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia)

We bumped into migrants at many locations with taller trees near water including Willow Tank, the San Pedro River, Patagonia, and Tubac.

YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (Setophaga coronata)

Two Audubon's Yellow-rumps were mixed in with songbird flocks in the high Catalinas on our final day of birding.

GRACE'S WARBLER (Setophaga graciae)

Ours were at higher elevations with pines in the Chiricahuas, Huachucas, and Catalinas.

BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER (Setophaga nigrescens)

These striking warblers were with mixed flocks in oak, juniper, and pine forests.

TOWNSEND'S WARBLER (Setophaga townsendi)

Two migrants were with Hermit Warblers at the Palisades Visitor Center on our final afternoon.

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Scaled Quail scampered across the road in front of us in the grasslands just outside Portal.

HERMIT WARBLER (Setophaga occidentalis)

After seeing very few migrant warblers in the Chiricahuas and Huachucas, we found about 15 of these yellow-faced beauties in the high Catalinas on our final day.

RED-FACED WARBLER (Cardellina rubrifrons)

Repeated great experiences in the three taller mountain ranges we visited - fantastic views on the final day in the Catalinas.

PAINTED REDSTART (Myioborus pictus)

These black, white, and red dancers were wing-spreading and tail-flicking in the oak-dominated forests at middle elevations of the Chiricahuas and Huachucas.

Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)

HEPATIC TANAGER (Piranga flava)

These dusty-looking tanagers sang and "chack"-ed commonly in montane forest.

SUMMER TANAGER (Piranga rubra)

Common in riparian areas with taller trees.

WESTERN TANAGER (Piranga ludoviciana)

We saw migrants moving through sparse desert habitat on several occasions, as well as in more typical montane forest habitat.

NORTHERN CARDINAL (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Very common around Portal and in the river corridors at Patagonia and Tubac. These are bold, bright cardinals with long crests and bulky, rounded bills compared to the ones I see in the East.

PYRRHULOXIA (Cardinalis sinuatus)

Most of our sightings of these fancy desert cardinals came from the Tucson Mountains and the Portal area.

BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus melanocephalus)

Common in mid-elevation canyon forest; also frequently seen attending feeders.

BLUE GROSBEAK (Passerina caerulea)

Everywhere in the grasslands! These songsters were conspicuous at many locations, particularly around Portal.

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We made two careful searches before finding this Mexican Spotted Owl sitting quietly on its day roost.

LAZULI BUNTING (Passerina amoena)

Small numbers at Portal, Patagonia, and Amado.

VARIED BUNTING (Passerina versicolor)

We found these amazing blue-and-raspberry buntings on our first morning of birding together in the Box Canyon.


EASTERN COTTONTAIL (Sylvilagus floridanus)

The bunny of the oak-juniper zone in the Chiricahuas.

DESERT COTTONTAIL (Sylvilagus audubonii)

Common in open desert and grassland habitats.

BLACK-TAILED JACKRABBIT (Lepus californicus)

The large hare that we saw early in the trip.

CLIFF CHIPMUNK (Tamias dorsalis)

This is the only chipmunk in the region; we saw them regularly in the high Chiricahuas and other sites.

HARRIS'S ANTELOPE SQUIRREL (Ammospermophilus harrisii)

A few sightings of these cute, bushy-tailed squirrels early in the trip.

SPOTTED GROUND SQUIRREL (Spermophilus spilosoma)

Brief sightings at the edge of the golf course at Willcox.

ROCK SQUIRREL (Spermophilus variegatus)

The common grizzled-looking squirrel seen in rocky areas and canyon forest.

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One of the interesting aspects of this tour was actually being in the field when Chihuahuan Meadowlark was officially split from Eastern Meadowlark - it was fun to study this "new" species and listen to its melodic song.

ROUND-TAILED GROUND SQUIRREL (Spermophilus tereticaudus)

Our best sighting was at a rest stop along I-19 south of Tucson.

MEXICAN FOX SQUIRREL (Sciurus nayaritensis)

The huge rust-and-gray squirrels that we saw in South Fork of Cave Creek Canyon.

ARIZONA GRAY SQUIRREL (Sciurus arizonensis)

We had extended views as these squirrels raided the feeders and scolded us at the Ramsey Canyon Inn.

ABERT'S SQUIRREL (Sciurus aberti)

We had a few brief views of these exquisite squirrels with the big ear tufts on our final day in the Catalinas above Tucson.

MERRIAM'S KANGAROO RAT (Dipodomys merriami)

Seen during one of our night drives out of Portal. It outran me pretty easily.

HOODED SKUNK (Mephitis macroura)

One of these long-tailed skunks was along the road near Portal during a night drive.

COLLARED PECCARY (Tayassu tajacu)

Just one sighting in the Chiricahuas.

MULE DEER (Odocoileus hemionus)

A few were in the grasslands west of the San Pedro River.

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If you made it all the way to the bottom of this triplist, the least I can do is show you a flight photo of a Five-striped Sparrow. This was one of a couple of these Mexican rarities that we saw on our first full day of the tour in the Santa Rita Mountains.

WHITE-TAILED DEER (Odocoileus virginianus)

The small, gray deer we saw in mountain canyons were the "Coues" subspecies of White-tailed Deer. Though you'll often hear this pronounced as "cooz," the name honors army surgeon and naturalist Elliot Coues (whose family name is correctly pronounced more like "cows").

PRONGHORN (Antilocapra americana)

The pronghorn we saw were reintroduced by the state of Arizona to the Sonoita Grasslands.


[All photos & video by guide Tom Johnson]

Totals for the tour: 191 bird taxa and 17 mammal taxa