birdandhike logo
Home | Postcards

Birding in Southeast Arizona -- April-May 2012

Liz and I took a relaxing trip to Southeastern Arizona, stopping with friends and visiting some of our favorite places along the way. We had no definite schedule and ended up spending 12 days away from home. The birding was good, as expected, and we picked up three lifebirds and a few new human friends. Trip Map.

Day 01Hassayampa River

Day 01. April 25. Home to Phoenix.

We gave the cat an extra scratch behind the ear, left Mom in charge of the house, and headed south into Arizona. On Highway 93, a few miles south of Wickenburg, AZ, we stopped at the Hassayampa Rest Area. This rest area along the Hassayampa River is one of the most reliable places to drive up and see Vermillion Flycatchers, and we stop every time to see what is flying about. This time, we were treated to a rare Gray Hawk, several flycatcher species, and Lucy's Warbler. We continued to Phoenix, where we stopped to spend the night and visit friends from Las Vegas at their "other" home.

Day 2
Home away from home in Phoenix

Day 02. April 26. Phoenix.

We spent a relaxing day in Phoenix. Liz and Ginny went shopping and lounged around reading books, and I worked on the computer. It was nice to have the time to relax and take care of long-lingering problems on the website with time to do nothing else.

Day 3
Relaxing in Phoenix

Day 03. April 27. Phoenix.

Another relaxing day in Phoenix. A repairman came to work on the air conditioning system, agreed that there was a problem, and left. Ginny decided it was time for her to leave too, so Liz and I relaxed, walked out for Chinese dinner, and spent another night in a quiet Phoenix neighborhood.

Day 4
Campsite at Gilbert Ray
Day 04. April 28. Phoenix to Tucson.

Up and out early, Liz and I headed for Tucson. We got a campsite at Gilbert Ray Campground, ate lunch, then drove a few minutes to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. A world-class Zoo and Botanical Garden, the ASDM is one of our favorite places to combine birding with learning about plants and animals.

Day 5
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Day 05. April 29. Tucson to Portal.

After a quiet night in the mostly empty campground and a few minutes of visiting with other camping birders, we headed back to the ASDM for another day of birding. After lunch, we hit the road again, driving east and south to the far corner of Arizona and the Chiricahua Mountains. We arrived in the evening, got a campsite, and headed out on an evening walk. We ended up in another campground where we met campers from Alaska who know friends of ours up there. We chatted so long, that by the time we hiked back to our campground, we had heard a dozen Whiskered Screech Owls calling in the woods. After dinner, we drove to town where (no, we didn't party) we were delighted to hear the sounds of several pairs of Elf Owls calling in the darkness.

Day 6
Campsite above Portal

Day 06. April 30. Portal.

We birded the campground until after lunch, spending a couple of hours in a neighbor's campsite watching Blue-throated Hummingbirds, Magnificent Hummingbirds, Black-chinned Hummingbirds, Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, an assortment of sparrows, and even an unusually red Cliff Chipmunk. In the afternoon, we took a short hike up the South Fork of Cave Creek and saw a male Elegant Trogon calling woefully for a female. In the early evening, we drove to town hoping to see the owls at dusk. We still didn't see them, but were delighted again to hear them calling in the darkness.

Day 7
Hiking the South Fork of Cave Creek

Day 07. May 01. Portal.

We spent most of the day hiking up the trogon canyon. This time we saw no trogons, but we hiked farther up the canyon than we had ever hiked before. The area is beautiful, and we found a nice pool of water to take baths. In addition to lots of birds, we saw Canyon Treefrogs and a Black-tailed Rattlesnake. I got a great video of the snake striking at me as I nearly went over backwards to avoid it on the steep terrain.

We had learned of the one spot above town to get cell phone reception, so in the late afternoon we headed down to make a few calls. Then, on a whim, we drove a few miles over to Paradise and spent a few hours birding at the George Walker House. Jackie, the home owner, is part of a network that bands hummingbirds, and she spent several hours chatting with us as we sat on her porch and watched the sun set over her feeders.

Day 8
Backyard bird feeders

Day 08. May 02. Portal and Paradise.

We did some suburban birding around the town of Portal today. A number of residents set up bird feeders and invite visiting birders into their yards. We bird watched over an assortment of seed feeders, nectar (hummingbird) feeders, peanut butter feeders, jelly jars, and fruit feeders, and lots of birds and squirrels came in for free food. In the evening we went in search of the Buff-breasted Flycatcher colony, but without luck.

Day 9
Birding the burned forest near Rustler's Camp

Day 09. May 03. Portal to Chiricahua National Monument.

We packed camp and headed for the high country of the Chiricahua Mountains today, stopping for one last attempt at the Buff-breasted Flycatcher, and this time we found her on on her nest! At the top of the mountains, we birded the mixed forest where a massive forest fire last year killed large patches of forest near Rustler's Camp and Barfoot Park. We were a bit early for the birds, and our high hopes for Red-faced Warblers, Olive Warblers, Mexican Chickadees, and Greater Peewees were dashed. Darn, we will have to come back! We did some nice hikes and saw other species of birds, but not the ones for which we were looking. As darkness fell, we drove down the west side of the mountains and got a campsite at Chiricahua National Monument.

Day 10
San Pedro River National Conservation Area

Day 10. May 04. Chiricahua National Monument to Tucson.

We visited the tourist sightseeing overlooks at Chiricahua National Monument, did a little birding, then headed for the San Pedro River National Conservation Area. Along the drive, we were thrilled to see so many hawks on telephone poles and a park-full of birds in the tiny town of Elfrida. What we missed atop the Chiricahua Mountains, the San Pedro River made up for. We walked up to the edge of the "river" and were greeted by Yellow-breasted Chats, Summer Tanagers, Wilson's Warblers, Song Sparrows, and a host of other species. Topping off the end of the day, there was a big Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake by the parking lot! In the evening, we drove to Tucson and got a room with a real bed and a shower. We went downtown to the art district for dinner and were treated to a fire dancer show across the street from our sidewalk table (this civilization stuff sure can be wild!).

Day 11
Botanicals at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Day 11. May 05. Tucson to Phoenix.

Up and out of the room early, we joined the 7:30 birdwalk at the ASDM. We met some nice people and saw a few fun birds, including a Bronzed Cowbird, another lifebird. We birded the area and wandered among the botanical gardens and wildlife exhibits until closing time at 5:00, then drove north to Phoenix, where our Las Vegas friends graciously let us spend the night at their house again.

Day 12
Hassayampa Preserve

Day 12. May 06. Phoenix to Home.

After a relaxing morning, we pulled up stakes again and headed north. We stopped again at the Hassayampa Roadside Rest Area, and this time photographed the labors of the Vermillion Flycatchers: three fledgelings. Other than that, the site was pretty quiet. We drove north a couple of more miles and stopped at the Hassayampa Preserve, a Nature Conservancy Area. For all the years we've been driving through, this was the first time they were open and we had time to stop. The birding was great, and I got some nice photos of Lowland Leopard Frogs. Later, and almost home, we finally stopped in to see our local Harris' Hawk family who have taken up residence on the edge of Boulder City. They've been there about a year, so it was nice to finally make their acquaintance. From there, it was a quick drive through evening traffic to home and the end of another grand trip.

Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 120507

Postcards Trip Map   Copyright, Conditions, Disclaimer Home


Google Ads