Scenic Arizona: A Birdy Winter Escape
World-class birding, spectacular scenery, and sunshine…in February?
Join Stefan and Randy for a February escape to the birders’ paradise of southern Arizona. From the exciting specialty species to the always-pleasing regulars such as Vermilion Flycatcher and Mountain Plover, this trip will delight any level of birdwatcher.
Species diversity is high in the winter, with many winter specialties, some of which can’t be predicted ahead of time, such as Rufous-backed Robin and Green Kingfisher. On this trip, we will allow schedule flexibility to maximize our chances for these birds, but also for the more regularly rare wintering birds such as Louisiana Waterthrush. We’ll explore many different habitats, from desert to oak/juniper woods, between Phoenix and the world-famous birding spot in the small town of Patagonia.
We’ll kick the trip off with a visit to the beautiful Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch, searching for target birds such as Neotropic Cormorant and Verdin. The next day we’ll search for several winter specialties in the Santa Cruz flats: Mountain Plover, Lark Bunting, Crested Caracara, and Chestnut-collared and McCown’s Longspur. We’ll also visit a whimsical garden park, the beautiful Desert Meadows Park in Green Valley, searching for hummingbirds among the cacti and flowers.
Just outside Patagonia, the beautiful Violet-crowned Hummingbird will likely be seen at Tucson Audubon’s Paton Center for Hummingbirds, a place dedicated to celebrating and conservating hummingbirds. We will make a few stops along the Santa Cruz river, birding the riparian areas. There are always a few rarities that we can look for en route.
We will also spend half a day in the lower elevations of Madera Canyon, one of the best birding locations in the country and always a participant favorite, a migratory bird haven in the northern Santa Rita Mountains. There are many other stops on the itinerary, all nestled in spectacular scenery, fantastic birds, and exciting possibilities.
Lastly, a major highlight of winter Arizona trips are the five thrasher species we could find. Thrashers are charismatic, larger-than-robin-sized, highly vocal birds closely related to mockingbirds and catbirds. The resident thrashers sing primarily in January and February and can be difficult to locate outside these months. We hope to find them nicely queued and singing, and with luck, we could get a “thrasher slam” by finding LeConte’s, Crissal, Bendire’s, Curve-billed, and Sage Thrasher (a winter visitor).