Arizona I love you!

I went down to AZ for ten days and had a great trip. At this time of year most of the rarities and Arizona specialties have left (including the Tufted Flycatchers and Plain-capped Starthroat). The last Elegant Trogon left the day I got there and one apparently showed up the day I left LOL! However, at this time of year there are also very few birders and it's a great time to explore the year round birds of the Sonoran Desert.  Also, it is the best time of year to see the rare Lucifer Hummingbird and large numbers of Hummingbirds are still here. Plus the number of hawks and vultures is impressive to see as they gather to feed before their big migration. Last time I was here in Feb I got all the owls that occur here so I did not spend much time looking for them this trip. Many of the migratory owls have departed and at this time of year the resident birds are hard to find but I was surprised to still find a few owl species. I really liked birding in AZ in Sept because there are no people where normally the spots are crowded. At Madera Canyon there was only two of us and the same thing echoed at the other spots. Last time I was at Madera there was standing room only by the Santa Rita Lodge. You have to be prepared to bird in the heat with tons of water though, as it was quite hot. There were times around the Phoenix area where it was a bit unbearable with temperatures of 105F (40C). In the canyons past Tucson you had a breeze and it was around 78F (25C) which was perfect. On a happy note it is a dry heat, so the lack of humidity helps a lot. The heat was so hot the Cicadas were extra loud wherever you went.

I ended up getting 7 Lucifer Hummingbirds at Ash Canyon which was a lifer for me. At Madera, Miller, Ramsey and Ash Canyons there were many hummer varieties including: Broad-tailed, Rufous, Anna's, Magnificent, Broad-billed, Black-chinned, Calliope and Costa's, (Lucifer at Ash Canyon only). At Patagonia at "The Paton Center for Hummingbirds" I picked up 2 Violet-crowned Hummingbirds.

Another cool sight was seeing over 200+ Swainson's Hawks feeding on grasshoppers at Santa Cruz Flats. Other good birds there included Crested Caracas, Black Vultures and Harris's Hawks. At Madera and Nogales I got two lifers Gray Hawk and Zone-tailed Hawk.  It was really cool to hear the Gray Hawks  respond with their whistling calls, after my friend Ned Harris, mimicked the call with his mouth when we birded the Patagonia and Madera area together. They are beautiful and uncommon birds so I was happy to get some record shots and good views. 

I ended up finding my lifer Common Black Hawk in Tucson which was a thrill because I had searched for it unsuccessfully for so long.  Another fun find was Varied Bunting and Black-capped Gnatcatcher near Madera Canyon. There were several reports of Painted Buntings in the Tubac area but on each visit I dipped! Same thing happened with some reported Rufous-capped Warblers in Hunter Canyon. It was definitely my nemesis bird during this trip. On another day I picked up my lifer Botteri's Sparrow at a Rest Stop en route to Nogales (with plenty of signs of poisonous scorpions and snakes). One of the best things that happened to me was that I found a very rare bird for AZ, the second state record of Connecticut Warbler at Paton's in Patagonia. However, since I was unable to get a photo I am sure many (maybe all ;) ) in AZ would not believe this out of towner report.

The strangest thing I saw this trip was in Sedona, when I saw a Crissal Thrasher fighting a Woodhouse's Scrub Jay. First off, I have never seen a Crissal Thrasher outside of strictly desert habitat so seeing one at this high elevation in the treed setting was odd (however according to ebird it is not rare here). Secondly, the thing that was really strange was to see it going at it with a territorial Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay both were calling and then started fighting... never seen anything like it.

Some birders I met warned me about the dangers of Ruby Road near the Mexican Border and that I shouldn't go there, due to some crime incidents. Since it is a very untraveled and rough road and from the warning I got I decided to avoid that road. However, on other birding roads with similar "smuggling and illegal immigration" warning signs near the Mexican Border there were no signs of trouble during my daytime visits. Birding close to the border so much I frequently went through several border checkpoints as I've done on my previous visit last year and only once was stopped while birding and as usual there was no problems.

The people in Arizona were so friendly and welcoming wherever I went, it is always so much fun to bird here.

Here is the list of all the birds I picked up in various locations in no particular order in Southeastern Arizona and a few in Sedona:

LeConte's Thrasher
Bendire's Thrahser
Crissal Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher
Summer Tanager
Hepatic Tanager
Lark Sparrow
Black-chinned Sparrow
Botteri's Sparrow
Black-throated Sparrow
Dickcissel (uncommon)
American Wigeon
Clay-coloured Sparrow
Blue-winged Teal
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
Lesser Scaup
Long-eared Owl
Great-horned Owl

Whiskered-Screch Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Long-billed Dowitcher
Northern beardless Tyrannulet
Rosy-faced Lovebird
Wild Turkey
Great Blue Heron
Lincoln's Sparrow
Magnificent Hummingbird
Broad-tailed Hummingbird
Broad-billed Hummingbird
Violet-crowned Hummingbird
Anna's Hummingbird
Neotropic Cormorant
Tropical Kingbird
Common Black Hawk (uncommon)
Ruddy Duck
Barn Swallow
Canyon Towhee
Abert's Towhee
Lucy's Warbler
Tropical Kingbird
Cassin's Kingbird
Nashville Warbler
MacGillivray's Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Orange-crowned Warbler
Wilson's Warbler
Townsend's Warbler
Black-throated Gray Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Brewer's Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lazuli Bunting
Indigo Bunting
Common Gallinule
Gray Flycatcher
Cordilleran Flycatcher
Greater Yellowlegs
Spotted Sandpiper
Solitary Sandpiper
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
European Starling
American Coot
Red-tailed Hawk
Least Sandpiper
Vaux's Swfit
Eurasian Collared Dove
Western Tanager
Brewer's Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Yellow-headed Blackbird
House Sparrow
American Goldfinch
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Western Kingbird
Zone-tailed Hawk (uncommon)
Black Vulture
Gray Hawk (uncommon)
Ash-throated Flycatcher
Vermillion Flycatcher
Plumbeous Vireo
Bell's Vireo
Pied-billed Grebe
Hooded Oriole
Inca Dove
White-winged Dove
Harris's Hawk
Gila Woodpecker
Gilded Flicker
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Great-tailed Grackle
Lesser Nighthawk (the sky filled with them at night over lighted parking lots)
Acorn Woodpecker
Red-tailed Hawk
Arizona Woodpecker
Yellow-eyed Junco
Rufous-winged Sparrow
Rufous-crowned Sparrow
Peregrine Falcon
White-breasted Nuthatch
Bridled Titmouse
Gamble's Quail
Cactus Wren
Turkey Vulture
Common Raven
Blue Grosbeak
Lark Bunting
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
Bewick's Wren
Loggerhead Shrike
Painted Redstart
Black-capped Gnatcatcher (rare)
Snowy Egret
Dusky-capped Flycather
Brown-crested Flycatcher
Great Egret
Black-necked Stilt
Mexican Jay
Burrowing Owl
Rock Wren
Eared Grebe
Bank Swallow
American Avocet
Tricolored Heron (rare bird for AZ)
Swainson's Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk
Sagebrush Sparrow
Green-tailed Towhee
Varied Bunting (uncommon)
Northern Cardinal
Thick-billed Kingbird (uncommon)
Louisiana Waterthrush (uncommon)
Black Phoebe
Say's Phoebe
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher
Lesser Goldfinch
Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay
Greater Roadrunner
Yellow-breasted Chat
Mourning Dove
Juniper Titmouse
House Finch
Chihuahuan Raven (they really sound different than our Common Ravens)
Northern Flicker
Northern Mockingbird
Bank Swallow
Red-winged Blackbird
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Green Heron
Greater White-fronted Geese
Louisiana Waterthrush (uncommon)
Golden Eagle
White-faced Ibis
Connecticut Warbler (self found and Rare for AZ)
Virginia's Warbler
Crested Caracara

Some of the locations visited:

Ramsey Canyon, Florida Canyon, Ash Canyon, Miller Canyon, Hunter Canyon, Encanto Park, Gilbert Water Ranch, Tubac, Anza Trail, Rio Rico, Sulphur Springs Valley, Zanjero Park, Amado Wastewater Treatment Plant, Veterans Oasis Park, Catalina State Park, Sedona (Dry Creek Rd), Madera Canyon, Patagonia Preserve, Paton Centre for Hummingbirds, Patagonia Rest Stop (where the famous Patagonia Picnic Table is), Nogales, Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Superior, Desert Botanical Garden (Phoenix), Sweetwater Wetlands, Santa Cruz Flats, Thrasher Spot in Tonopah, Arizona Sonora Museum, Kino Springs, Mount Lemmon and Kitt Peak.

Seeing the Lucifer Hummingbirds were definitely the highlight of my trip.

Here are some photos from my trip:

Male Lucifer Hummingbird in Hereford, AZ - Photos: Melissa Hafting
Female Lucifer Hummingbird at Ash Canyon B&B - Photo: Melissa Hafting
I was thrilled to get the Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay against the beautiful red rocks of Sedona. This was ny favourite shot I took this trip - Photo: Melissa Hafting
Male Broad-billed Hummingbird  in Madera Canyon - Photo: Melissa Hafting
Male Black-chinned Hummingbird in Madera Canyon - Photo: Melissa Hafting
Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay in Sedona - Photo: Melissa Hafting
Adult Gray Hawk - Rio Rico, AZ

Curve-billed Thrasher in Gilbert, AZ - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Juvenile Harris's Hawk in Eloy - Photo: Melissa Hafting
Rosy-faced Lovebird in Phoenix - Photo: Melissa Hafting
A rarity in AZ an immature Tricolored Heron in Gilbert - Photo: Melissa Hafting
Male Belted Kingfisher in Gilbert, AZ - Photo: Melissa Hafting
Cactus Wren portrait in Phoenix - Photo: Melissa Hafting
Violet-crowned Hummingbird in Patagonia, AZ - Photo: Melissa Hafting
Greater Roadrunner in Phoenix, AZ - Photo: Melissa Hafting
Male Vermillion Flycatcher in Tucson - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Cheers and thanks for looking.


  1. excellent post on arizona a place i must get to especially if you love it so much it must be good


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