A Travellerspoint blog

Day 1: Arizona!

semi-overcast 91 °F

Today my mom, dad, sister, aunt, uncle and I all arose in the 5 o'clock hour for our flight from Chicago Midway to Tucson, Arizona. My mom, sister, aunt, uncle, and I all took an early morning flight and my dad, as I am writing this at 7:30pm local time, is currently flying here on an evening flight.

It was a cramped 3 hour, 45 minute flight on Southwest Airlines, but we made it safe and sound, and now we are in southeast Arizona: THE best for birding in the entire country!

We landed at about 10:40am local time into Tucson, and we then purchased a single rental car and packed ourselves in like sardines: 5 people with so much luggage it didn't all fit in the trunk! Next, we drove around in circles on the outskirts of Tucson before we finally found the Bagin's restaurant for which we were looking. Lunch consisted of delicious southwestern-style sandwiches, and we were soon on our way again!

I think it is very strange that a place so desert-like is the birding hotspot of the country. Today, however, I learned that the canyons in the arid mountain ranges form micro-climates for tropical-like forests, thus attracting bird species that are more common in Mexico to these specific canyons of southeast Arizona. The country here is also beautiful - it is truly desert with hot temperatures and wild cacti. I promise to post some nature scenery photos, as well as photos of the house in which we are staying for the week, tomorrow.

Because it was only 12:45 and we had hours to kill until we were expected at our hacienda-house (3:00pm which got delayed to 4:30pm), we decided to visit a famous birding location on the way from downtown Tucson to the town in which our house is located; Tubac. That birding location is called Madera Canyon, and it was moderately good birding. Most of the birds seen were new to me since I have never been to the southwestern USA before, but it was a bit slower than expected because we were birding during the heat of mid-day (91 degrees at 2:00pm).

On our drive to Madera Canyon, I spotted my life bird CHIHUAHUAN RAVEN beside the road:

Our first stop was the expansive bird feeding setup at Santa Rita Lodge in Madera Canyon. There are simply so many feeders, and there were so many birds attracted to them! For starters, I was quickly introduced to the bullies of the feeding station: obnoxious MEXICAN JAYS, which were otherwise an awesome, agreeable life bird! They would fly in all the sudden in large groups and scare all of the smaller passerines away for a short while.

RED-NAPED SAPSUCKERS were present on the trees behind the feeders the whole time I was there. These are the western cousins of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, which occur in the eastern USA and migrate through my backyard in Chicago.

As well as comedic ACORN WOODPECKERS, like the one pictured below, which I last saw at Yosemite National Park in the spring of 2013.

The most abundant hummingbird species at the many hummingbird feeders was the gorgeous BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRD, and here is a photo of a male. Life bird!

Sometime this week I will visit Ash Creek Canyon to see the rare Lucifer Hummingbirds which have shown up there recently.

Along with PINE SISKINS, LESSER GOLDFINCHES such as this male pictured below, availed themselves of the seed feeders. The goldfinches were a life bird for me.

A quick drive up the canyon didn't yield much in the way of birds due to the afternoon heat, but we did find another good place for hummingbirds.




Back at the Santa Rita Lodge, I grabbed a quick photo of these two ACORN WOODPECKERS at their nesting tree:


HEPATIC TANAGER, awesome life bird!

To my annoyance, a beautiful life bird PAINTED REDSTART appeared at the feeding station for a short while but departed prematurely, not allowing for any pictures. I would have loved to photograph that beauty, so hopefully I will see it elsewhere!

Then, the rarest bird of the day showed up. An ARIZONA WOODPECKER, life bird! Madera Canyon is one of the few reliable places in the country to find this species.

Head of my life-bird BRIDLED TITMOUSE on the left, with a WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH at right:

A beautiful male RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD briefly joined the feeding party, but departed quickly, leaving me only with this sub-par photograph:

As it neared time to head to the grocery store, we left the canyon. I spotted this RED-TAILED HAWK (which I hoped would have been a rarer species) alongside the road.

After shopping, we drove to our hacienda-house and were pleased to be greeted by a beautiful, expansive house complete with a pool! I took a quick swim, and then snapped a photo of this female SAY'S PHOEBE sitting on her nest on the house we are renting:

Again, I promise to post photos of the house tomorrow!

Bird-of-the-day certainly goes to the ARIZONA WOODPECKER, the rarest species seen today. Runners-up to the common but beautiful BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRDS and the one nice HEPATIC TANAGER.

As well as more awesome birding, stay tuned for scenery and hacienda-house photos for tomorrow! The full bird species list for the day, highlighting my twelve life birds gained, is found below.

Good birding!

World Life List: 722 Species (12 life birds today)

  • life bird

38 species today:

Canada Goose
Turkey Vulture
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon

  • White-winged Dove

Mourning Dove
Black-chinned Hummingbird
Anna's Hummingbird

  • Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird

  • Broad-billed Hummingbird

Acorn Woodpecker
Red-naped Sapsucker

  • Arizona Woodpecker

Say's Phoebe

  • Plumbeous Vireo
  • Mexican Jay
  • Chihuahuan Raven

Common Raven

  • Bridled Titmouse

White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
American Robin

  • Northern Mockingbird

European Starling

  • Phainopepla
  • Painted Redstart
  • Hepatic Tanager

Chipping Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
House Sparrow
House Finch
Pine Siskin

  • Lesser Goldfinch

Posted by skwclar 19:37 Archived in USA

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Hi Henry--glad you are having great birding in Arizona. I am jealous! I am going to Buena Vista tomorrow. The Short-eared Owls are supposed to be everywhere. Then, sitting in the blind the next morning to see Prairie Chickens (I hope). Say hi to Mory.

by Bruce Bartel

I'm soooooo jealous! I've asked my parents to take me to Arizona many times,and hopefully I'll get to go there like you someday.

by isoo

Great life birds! Looking forward to more great pics. Enjoy!
The Gunkels

by Ann Gunkel

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