Nicolet Adventurers in SE AZ
Mar 28 - Apr 1, 2012
by Henry Detwiler

A fine trip through some southeastern Arizona birding hotspots with a great group from Nicolet College, Wisconsin

Click on thumbnail pictures for full-sized photos.

We met at the Tucson airport on Wednesday afternoon and packed three minivans full with 13 nature lovers, their luggage, and a couple of coolers. John and Mary were my companion guides and the indefatigable drivers. As we drove to Bisbee, our first stop was the Benedictine monastery at St. David. Here we walked a few of the trails and got a taste of our colorful avian residents.

Inca Doves
Inca Doves

Nicolet College "Wild Bunch"

Vermilion Flycatchers and Say's Phoebe were busy gorging themselves on insects, newly returning White-winged Doves were cooing, and a variety of sparrows were scurrying about on the ground. As we were climbing back into the minivans, this pair of Inca Doves settled on a branch above us.

vermilion flycatcher
Vermilion Flycatcher

copper queen hotel
Copper Queen Hotel

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

On Thursday morning, after a fine breakfast at the Copper Queen Motel, we drove west to the Coronado National Monument. Half a mile of hiking uphill on the "cavern" trail took us through recently (July 2011) burned oak woodlands and along a dry streambed. Birds were few, but we did manage a hunting Merlin, Rock Wrens, a Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Canyon Wrens, and a singing Rufous-crowned Sparrow. We enjoyed exploring the dry cave, and then hiked back downhill to our vans.

Rufous-crowned Sparrow

Scott's Oriole

Anna's Hummingbird

After grabbing some lunch we drove over to Mary Jo's to enjoy her extensive feeding operation. Here we watched and photographed several species of hummingbirds, Mexican Jays, finches, towhees, woodpeckers, Pyrrhuloxia, and flashy Scott's Orioles. A short stop at Ramsey Canyon yielded a few more bird species and lots of traffic through the Nature Conservancy gift shop.


The next morning we started out at the San Pedro House, where we were greeted by a bounty of bird species. Thrashers, towhees, finches, and sparrows were all visiting the many bird feeders, and provided exceptional close-up looks. We added Black-chinned Hummingbirds at the nectar feeders. A Red-tailed Hawk flew into one of the massive cottonwoods with a ground squirrel, and proceeded to dine on it in full view, as Juan captured it on his Canon's video.

Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher


Green-tailed Towhee
Green-tailed Towhee

Red-tailed Hawk with ground squirrel
Red-tailed Hawk & Lunch

After picking up sandwiches we drove onto Ft. Huachuca Army Base and had a picnic in beautiful Garden Canyon next to the stream. Once our bellies were full we hiked up Scheelite Canyon in search of owls and other targets. The Spotted Owls eluded us, but we enjoyed our climb through the scenic canyon and got wonderful views of colorful Painted Redstarts.

Clark's Spiny Lizard
Clark's Spiny Lizard

Painted Redstart
Painted Redstart

Canyon Towhee
Canyon Towhee

That evening we celebrated our bird spotting prowess with margaritas and fine Mexican food in Sierra Vista..

broad-billed hummingbird
Broad-billed Hummingbird

Saturday morning saw us visiting the Paton's residence in Patagonia, enjoying the multiple nectar and seed feeders. Broad-billed Hummingbirds were everywhere, and occasionally the star of the show, the Violet-crowned, would descend for a drink of sugar water. The seed feeders featured Lazuli Buntings, Northern Cardinals, and assorted finches.


Violet-crowned Hummingbird

bridled titmouse
Bridled Titmouse

Elf Owl

During an after-dinner owl prowl we heard one Common Poorwill, a number of Elf Owls, and two Whiskered Screech-Owls. Fortunately, with a bit of persistence we were able to get excellent looks at both of the owl species.

Lunch was a picnic at Santa Rita Lodge in Madera Canyon, where we watched more feeder action, including bold Mexican Jays and Lesser Goldfinches. A hike up the Vault Mine Trail was relatively quiet, but we did see Bridled Titmouse, Hutton's Vireo and Hermit Thrushes.

Mexican Jay

Lesser Goldfinch

Lucy's Warbler

Acorn Woodpeckers were all around our cabins, and provided many fine photographs. A few of us went over to Florida Canyon for an early morning walk, and added Lucy's Warbler and a few others.After lunch we made a beeline for Mt. Lemmon. Yellow-eyed Junco and Black-throated Gray Warblers were a couple of the nice birds we saw in the cool pine forest. The snow and wind at the higher elevations made the next stop at Agua Caliente Park all the nicer.

yellow-eyed Junco
Yellow-eyed Junco

Acorn Woodpecker

Only a couple of us spotted a hunting Zone-tailed Hawk (a nemesis bird for John), but almost everyone saw the good-sized Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake!

Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake
Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake

As we pulled out of the park, Mary yelled into our 2-way radios to stop--a Zone-tailed just flew over us! John screeched to a stop and was looking all over when Mary announced on the radio "April Fool's!" A fine ending to a great trip!

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