Arizona Nightbirds

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DATES: 1-6 May 2018


Day 1:  Arrival in Tucson.  Participants should plan to arrive in Tucson as early as possible today since our first night will include owling in the Tucson area.  We will meet just inside the baggage claim exit (in the A/C) at 2 P.M. and drive to the hotel to unpack, rest a little, and prepare to owl!  Please meet in the hotel lobby at 5:00 P.M. prepared for dinner and owling (field clothes, flashlight, binocs, and camera with flash).  After dinner we will search for Western Screech-Owl and Elf Owl and perhaps Barn Owl in the desert north of Tucson.

Day 2:  Tucson area and Mount Lemon.   Today we will bird the low desert around Tucson for Gila Woodpecker, Gilded Flicker, Gambel’s Quail, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Phainopepla, Verdin, and Abert’s Towhee.

We’ll have an early dinner and head up Mt. Lemon for an exciting evening of owling!  Our first target will be Mexican Whip-poor-will.  This is Arizona’s largest nightjar and is found in Pine-Oak woodlands.  Our next target will be Spotted Owl near the top of the mountain.  Our chances are 50/50 for this charismatic dark eyed owl, but there are other goodies around if the Spotted’s are quiet.  Flammulated will be out next target.  The small owls are common and easy to hear, but seeing them is another story.  We have a good shot this early in the season.  Northern Saw-whet is possible but even this early in the season they are well into their breeding cycle and much less vocal than other owls.  And last, but certainly not least will be Whiskered Screech-Owl.  This species is common anywhere in the oak and pine/oak woodlands of the Sky Islands.

Whiskered Screech-Owl photo by Rick Bowers ©

Day 3:  Madera Canyon and California Gulch.  During the day we will bird the flats below the canyon for low desert birds like Cactus Wren, Curve-billed Thrasher, Canyon Towhee, and Rufous-winged Sparrow.  As the temperature rises we will slowly work our way up into the cool woodlands of Madera Canyon itself.  A visit to Santa Rita Lodge is always a pleasant retreat from the heat below and provides encounters with a wonderful mixture of pine-oak woodland birds.  These include hummingbirds, Hepatic Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak, Scott’s Oriole, and possibly Elegant Trogon further up the canyon.

In the late afternoon we will drive to California Gulch to look for Five-striped Sparrows before a picnic dinner in this scenic canyon.  After dinner we will look for Buff-collared Nightjars and Common Poorwills.  The evening is quite an experience even without the birds!

Buff-collared Nightjar photo by Rick Bowers ©

Day 4:  Huachuca Mountains.  From Nogales we will drive to Sierra Vista and the Huachuca Mountains.  At Fort Huachuca we will visit Garden, Huachuca, and Scheelite Canyons looking for Spotted Owl and Northern Pygmy-Owl, plus Acorn and Arizona woodpeckers, Buff-breasted and Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Hutton’s Vireo, Mexican Jay Bridled Titmouse, Painted Redstart, and hopefully Elegant Trogon.

After dark we will try for Whiskered and Western Screech-Owl in a wooded canyon of the Huachucas.  Common Poorwill may be seen this evening.

Common Poorwill photo by Rick Bowers ©

Day 5:  Huachuca Mountains.  We will continue to explore the Huachuca Mountains today looking for any diurnal as well a nocturnal species that we might have missed so far.  The exact itinerary for the day will be dictated by what owls and nightjars have eluded us.  During the day, when not looking for owls that can be found during the day, we will continue to add to our list of Southeastern Arizona specialty birds.

Day 6:  Huachuca Mountains to Tucson.  This morning we will say goodbye to the Huachuca’s and a wonderful trip through Southeastern Arizona enjoying the many avian riches of the fascinating region.  We will head back to Tucson after breakfast and arrive at Tucson International Airport around noon.  Please plan your flights home after 2 pm today.

LEADER:  Rick Bowers

IMPORTANT NOTE: Although this is a domestic tour, you will require your passport to gain entrance to Ft. Huachuca Military Reservation.  Some state driver’s licenses are accepted to receive a Fort Huachuca Access Badge, but this list decreases all the time and for most states a passport is the required form of identification.  To be sure you can enter the Fort, a passport is the only certain form of ID to obtain your Access Badge.  Please be positive your passport is current.

Intro Itinerary Tour Pricing Information Gallery Bird List Registration