Just returned from a fantastic birding trip to southeast Arizona where I notched up 200 species in 10 days before heading north to relax around the splendid scenery of the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley. This southern US state is not just about deserts and Roadrunners – in fact it is one of the most diverse in terms of numbers and habitats. This was my first proper trip to North America so most species would be of interest (like the gaudy Northern Cardinal) and in particular the Mexican specialities which just creep into the US here such as Mexican Chickadee.
We camped as usual for that back to nature experience when the weather allowed (electrical storms, flash floods, dust storms not withstanding) but regularly stayed in mountain lodges and cabins. I can recommend Santa Rita Lodge in the Santa Rita Mountains and The George Walker House in the Chiricahua Mountains – so much wildlife was observed without even leaving the properties and the hummingbird feeders hung at the windows made it all to easy to just sit and relax.
Some of the highlights were Aztec Thrush (a very popular bird attracting many US listers), Elegant Trogon, Arizona Woodpecker, Gray Hawk, Cactus Wren, Painted Redstart, Phainopepla, Crissal Thrasher, California Condor, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Varied Bunting, Painted Bunting, and Botteri’s Sparrow. But it was the hummingbirds which really stand out and the ease of observing and identifying them. This is possible due to the dedicated birders who open their gardens (festooned with hummingbird feeders) to the public, allowing comfortable and extended viewing opportunities – none of this brief view in a shady rainforest that I’m more used to. Notable properties we visited for hummers were Santa Rita Lodge, The Paton’s yard in Patagonia, Beatty’s Guest Ranch in the Huachuca Mountains, Portal Peak Lodge in the Chiricahua Mountains, and nearby, George Walker House in the hamlet of Paradise. Best of our 12 species were Magnificent, White-eared, Violet-crowned, Blue-throated, Calliope and Berylline Hummingbirds.
The scenery is a constant distraction and there wasn’t time to focus on the other organisms which continually vie for attention, particularly the reptiles and mammals. We met many birders, for the most part in Madera Canyon, and all were extremely friendly and helpful with local sites, weather conditions and advice. I have many photos to sort through and a fully illustrated trip report will be uploaded to my website within a couple of week at www.fssbirding.org.uk/trips.htm
Meanwhile, some alternative photographs can be found here