Our goal at Southwest Birders is to increase your enjoyment of birds and nature. We offer custom birding tours that cover California, Arizona, and Texas. Our web site offers bird-finding tips, detailed site guides, quality bird & nature photos, and hundreds of illustrated trip reports going back to 2001. We hope you enjoy our web site, and welcome your feedback. GOOD BIRDING!
California Specialty Birds
Yuma County Bird Checklist (2016 Version)
Guide to Southwestern Thrashers
It was Friday the 13th and I traversed San Diego County from the deserts of Anza Borrego to Mt Palomar State Park to the seashore. From 27 to 75 degrees, and from sunup to sundown, I looked for chaparral species, montane birds, pelagics, waterfowl, and shorebirds. In the end it all added up to 122 species for the day, including many nice birds like Brown Booby, Snowy Plover, Nuttall's Woodpecker, and Wrentit. To see some photos and the day's list please click here.
I visited Florida in search of target species to add to our growing list of United States "Big Year" species. In just over a week we added 21 specialty species, including such beauties as Red-whiskered Bulbul, White-winged Parakeet, and White-crowned Pigeon. All the while avoiding the dinosaur-like green iguanas! We also spotted a couple of rarities: Smooth-billed Ani and Shiny Cowbird. To see some photos and our target list please click here.
I visited my parents in Southern Illinois for a week in August. Remarkably, I had nice cool weather and lots of singing birds; it seemed more like early summer than August! On one of my trips to Oakwood Bottoms I saw and heard at least a dozen Yellow-billed Cuckoos and sixteen Red-shouldered Hawks, along with six species of warblers. I always seem to get at least one rarity when I go back to visit--this time it was a Sanderling in the Mississippi River bottomlands. Indeed, the shorebird habitat was ideal on this trip. To see a few photos and a list of the birds I spotted, please click here.
Mike, Lauri, and I spent a couple of days wandering about San Diego County looking for new birds to photograph. Along the coast we enjoyed cool temps and birds like California Gnatcatcher, California Thrasher, Wrentit, and lots of terns: Elegant, Royal, Caspian, and Forester's. The next day we drove up to the Laguna Mts. and found California Quail, Lawrence's Goldfinch, Tricolored Blackbird, and lots of woodpeckers. To see some of the birds we encountered, come on over to our web site: Click here!
Debbie and Morris Finkelstein joined me for two days in San Diego, Riverside, and Imperial Counties in California, and one day in Yuma County looking for birds to photograph. We ventured from below sea level in the Imperial Valley to snow-capped peaks in the San Jacinto Mountains to locate Morris's targets. Among our many finds, we tracked down beautiful woodpeckers, elegant raptors, handsome quail, and a big stuffed pigeon. To see a few of the many birds we connected with during our three days of wanderings, head on over to the web site: Click here!
Michael Schade and I enjoyed a fine day of birding around Tucson, visiting Saguaro National Park, the Sweetwater Wetlands, Kennedy Park, the Amado wastewater treatment facility, and Madera Canyon. We enjoyed watching a bobcat stalk, catch, and devour a rat. And we enjoyed the many avian highlights, ranging from unexpected diving ducks to brilliant hummingbirds to specialty sparrows. To read about our day and see some of our photos, Click here!
Suzanne and I camped in the Laguna Recreation Area on Friday night, birded Agua Dulce Creek the next morning, and then headed west to San Diego. The excellent natural areas of this diverse metropolitan area didn't disappoint us, and we saw a wealth of birds. Two new birds that we added to our photo collection were Mitred Parakeets and Scaly-breasted Munias. Click to see what else we turned up!
Suzanne and I drove from the sizzling Yuma desert to the cool alpine heights of Mt. Lemmon on Saturday morning. We spent a weekend photographing some of the beautiful southeastern Arizona bird life, such as vibrant wood warblers, confiding Yellow-eyed Juncos, and packs of raucous jays. Camping out, we were treated to a ground-shaking thunderstorm. On Sunday morning we started off with 54 degrees on the mountain top; we descended to 94 degrees in Tucson that evening. Click here to view our photos and read more about our finds.
Scott and I spent a great couple of days in Madera Canyon, California Gulch, and in the Huachucas looking for some specialties on Scott's target list. The first night we scored with Buff-collared Nightjar. The first full day we sorted through myriad hummingbirds. On Saturday morning we drove down to the incomparable California Gulch in search of Five-striped Sparrows, and in the afternoon resumed our search for more hummingbird targets. Click here to view more photos and read about our search for specialties.
Suzanne and I spent a fine three-day weekend in Madera Canyon, Gardner Canyon, and Mount Lemmon. Along Proctor Road Suzanne found us a Black-and-white Warbler, and we got great pictures of it and many of our Arizona specialties. We camped two nights in beautiful Gardner Canyon and were treated to a symphony of night songs--owls, nightjars, and insects. Suzanne got many new bird photos and I got my first photo of a Northern Pygmy-Owl. We chased Montezuma Quail and other birds in the lower canyons and then spent the last morning up in the cool forests of Mt. Lemmon. Click here to view our photos and read about our adventures.
Scott and I spent two and a half bird-filled days searching for rarities in Southeast Arizona. Over a long weekend we connected with Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Rufous-capped Warbler, Sinaloa Wren, Arizona Woodpecker, Gray Flycatcher, Mexican Jay, Rosy-faced Lovebird, and many others. In addition we visited some incredibly beautiful areas like Florida and Sycamore Canyons. Click here to see some of our photos and look at the weekend's bird list.
Andrew, Cynthia, and I spent three fine days searching out specialty and wonderful birds from Imperial and San Diego Counties. At the Salton Sea we saw Burrowing Owls, Neotropic Cormorants, Abert's Towhee, and many others. Anza Borrego State Park yielded striking Lawrence's Goldfinches, Phainopepla, and Costa's Hummingbirds. The mountains and seashores held many more species in store, such as Tricolored Blackbird, California Thrasher, and California Gnatcatcher. Click here to see photos and look at our bird list.
Brian, Lise, Suzanne and I enjoyed two fine weeks in Panama looking for vagrants that have shown up in the United States and Canada over the past years. We covered the jungles in the Canal Zone, the dry Pacific coast, the Chiriqui highlands surrounding Volcán Barú in the west, and the Santa Fe National Park, all awesome spots to watch and photograph birds. In the jungles we spotted a wealth of water-loving birds like Amazon and Ringed Kingfisher, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl was a neat find on the dry coast land, and the mountains we had amazing hummingbirds, warblers, and tanagers. Click here to see some of our photos and the bird list.
Suzanne and I had a wonderful time in Chile during November 2013, exploring the Andes and central coastline for six days, and then the Lake District and Chiloé Island for our final four days. We located 161 bird species, several mammals and reptiles, and enjoyed some incredible scenery. Click here to see some of our photos and look at the bird list.
For two weeks I was fortunate to lead a group of 14 Swedish friends on a birding journey through southern California. We started with a trip to the Channel Islands to see the Santa Cruz Scrub Jay, watched California Condors soaring along the coast a Big Sur, chased pelagics in Monterey Bay, marveled at the Giant Sequoias and forest birds in the Sierras, watched Prairie Falcons and swifts in the Kern Valley, enjoyed vagrant Blue-footed Boobies and gulls at the Salton Sea, and finished our tour off with more California endemics in San Diego. It was a great adventure, accumulating a list of 256 species. Click here to see some of our photos and look at the bird list.
David and I spent three full days exploring the dramatic scenery of southeast Arizona for specialty birds of the area, starting with Rufous-winged Sparrows in the desert grasslands and ending with Olive Warblers on top of Mt. Lemmon. In between, we turned up Five-striped Sparrow in scenic California Gulch, Northern Pygmy-Owl in the dramatic Sycamore Canyon, and Painted Bunting in the birdy Kino Springs, among many others. We were also lucky to see several Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnakes, Earless Lizards, and Ringtail. It was a great natural history tour! Click here to see a few more photos and read about more adventures.
Black-chinned Sparrow eating a moth
Starting in Kofa Queen Canyon at midnight, I got Elf Owl, Great Horned Owl, and Western Screech-Owl. As the dawn began to break I began my hike up to the Signal Peak saddle, adding other desert birds, like Canyon Wren, Canyon Towhee, and Scott's Oriole, and eventually Black-chinned and Rufous-crowned Sparrows. Moving out of the desert and into the riparian areas I added various warblers, Willow Flycatchers, and a good sampling of shorebirds and waders. By the end of the day I'd also ticked two more owl species: Burrowing and Barn! Click here to see photos from the May big day and read more about it.
Went back to Illinois to visit my parents and do some birding in my old haunts. Had the good fortune to take Roger Yaeger out to some of these top birding spots and help out on the Illinois migratory bird count, too. The weather was gorgeous upon my arrival, but within three days the temperature had dropped 40 degrees and rainfall had replaced the sunshine. Click here to see more photos from southern Illinois and read about some of the other bird species we spotted in the rain!
Black-headed Grosbeak & Scott's Oriole
Al, Helga, Suzanne, and I headed over to the Chiricahua Mountains to search for a recently-sighted Crescent-chested Warbler and a "high-value" target for Al, the Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher. We dipped on those two birds, but came away with many other wonderful sightings! Click here to see lots more photos from our trip and to read about our birding adventure to this magnificent natural area.
Lena, Göran, and I spent a great week on the road enjoying the birds and wondrous natural history of the coastal redwoods, Big Sur, San Jacinto and Laguna Mountains, and the Salton Sea. We watched otters playing, California Condors cruising the thermals, Pigeon Guillemots vying for mates in Monterey Bay, barking sea lions and elephant seals, hooting Spotted Owls in the Big Sur, and crying rails in the marshes of the Salton Sea NWR. Click here to see more photos and read about the entire trip along the Pacific, through the mountains, and down into the Imperial Valley.
Want to see a Le Conte's Thrasher?
Hear a Black Rail?
Watch dozens of wintering Ferruginous Hawks feeding on gophers?
Now you can, by ordering a copy of Finding Birds in Yuma County, Arizona! This fine reference book provides detailed accounts of the fifteen best sites in southwestern Arizona. Each chapter contains the following information: habitat, target birds, description, birding suggestions, and driving directions.
The price is $18.00, which includes postage. Click here to preview a sample chapter and for ordering instructions.
Finding Birds in San Diego County, California
Published in 2016, this great guide book provides detailed accounts of the best birding sites in San Diego County. Each chapter contains the following information: habitat, target birds, site description, birding suggestions, and driving directions. The book ends with a comprehensive, seasonal checklist. The price is
$20.00 (which includes postage).
Click here to preview the Introduction and a sample chapter, and for ordering instructions.
Finding Birds at the Salton Sea and in Imperial County, California
This informative book provides detailed accounts of the best birding sites at the Salton Sea and in Imperial County. Each chapter contains the following information: habitat, target birds, site description, birding suggestions, and driving directions. The book ends with a comprehensive, seasonal checklist. The price is
$21.00 (which includes postage).
Click here to preview the Table of Contents, the Introduction, a sample chapter and for ordering instructions.
Finding Birds in Yuma County, Arizona
Revised and updated in Oct 2013, this informative guide provides detailed accounts of the best birding sites in southwestern Arizona. Each chapter contains the following information: habitat, target birds, description, birding suggestions, and driving directions. The latest revision adds a seasonal checklist. The price is
$18.00 (which includes postage).
Click here to preview a sample chapter and for ordering instructions.
Click here to look at a checklist of Yuma County birds.
Finding Birds in La Paz County, Arizona
This informative guide provides detailed accounts of the best birding sites in La Paz County. Each chapter contains the following information: habitat, target birds, description, birding suggestions, and driving directions. At the end of the guide is a seasonal checklist. The price is
$17.00, which includes postage.
Click here to preview a sample chapter and for ordering instructions.