Sky Island Jewels
The Birds of Southeastern Arizona
July 19 - 30, 2016
Southeastern Arizona is often considered the premier birding location in North America, with a regional checklist of over 475 species. We will traverse desert scrubland, riparian canyons, and forested mountain ridges in our quest for this region’s special birds. The amazing diversity is highlighted by 11 species of owls, nightjars, trogons, many species of flycatchers, grassland sparrows, and much more! Most notably, we will be there at a peak time for hummingbirds, with over 10 species possible, including the rare species like Lucifer, Berryline, Violet-crowned, and White-eared!! This is the season known as “Second Spring”, when the monsoon rains of late summer bring a resurgence of growth, an increased level of avian activity, and cooling showers. This sparks the breeding of some species, such as the Botteri’s, Cassin’s, and Five-striped Sparrow. We will search for regional specialties like Mexican Chickadee, Rose-throated Becard, Common Black-Hawk, Yellow-eyed Junco, Elegant Trogon, Thick-billed Kingbird, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Olive Warbler, and Rufous-winged Sparrow - many found no where else in the United States. This area has also hosted a phenomenal number of Mexican strays, such as Aztec Thrush, Streak-backed Oriole, Rufous-backed Robin, Flame-colored Tanager, Rufous-capped Warbler, and Plain-capped Starthroat, and we will make every attempt to locate any that are present. We can expect to encounter over 180 species in our travels. The “Sky Island” mountains of the Santa Catalinas, Santa Ritas, Huachucas, and Chiricahuas provide an incredible range of birding opportunities, and spectacular scenery and world-renowned places like Madera Canyon, Ramsey Canyon, Patagonia-Sonoita Creek, and Cave Creek Canyon will be the backdrop on this unforgettable excursion!
Day One: Arrive at the Tucson airport by late afternoon and take a shuttle to our nearby accommodations. We’ll meet and get acquainted at 5:00 p.m., and then we’re off to a relaxing dinner and an introduction to the tour. If Burrowing Owls have returned to the city, we’ll make and effort to find this charming sight on our way. Overnight Tucson.
Day Two: We will start the morning at the Sweetwater Wetlands and its incredible mix of waterbirds and passerines, including the chance at warblers you wouldn’t normally expect. Black-crowned Night-Herons and Cinnamon Teal may distract you from the likes of Black-necked Stilt and Abert’s Towhee. Our last tour produced a rare Yellow-throated Warbler. This site is a testament to what can be done with a sewage treatment plant. We’ll make a stop at the nearby Sonoran Desert Musuem and a chance at Gilded Flicker, Costa’s Hummingbird, and other birds of the desert persuasion, such as Gambel’s Quail, Chihuahuan Raven, Verdin, Curve-billed Thrasher, and Cactus Wren. The saguaro cactus “forests” are a marvel themselves. Our afternoon will be filled looking for raptors in Aravaipi Canyon, with targets like Common Black-Hawk, Zone-tailed Hawk, Harris’ Hawk, and Gray Hawk; we also won’t ignore the smaller treats like Black-tailed Gnatcatcher and Lucy’s Warbler. If time permits, we may encounter Mississippi Kites in nearby Dudley. Overnight Tucson.
Day Three: The spectacular Mt. Lemmon and its broad range of habitats will fill our day. We’ll start in the chaparral looking for Black-chinned Sparrow and Rock Wren, then work our way up to the conifer forests at the top and the beautiful Red-faced Warbler and Pygmy Nuthatch. Along the way, several stops will provide opportunities for Mexican Jay, Yellow-eyed Junco, Cassin’s Kingbird, Grace’s, Townsend’s, Western Bluebird, and Black-throated Gray Warblers, Greater Pewee, Violet-Green Swallow, Mountain Chickadee, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Hepatic Tanager, and more. Our lunchtime stop lets us enjoy Broad-tailed and Magnificent Hummingbirds at our leisure. We’ll finish the day off looking and listening for Whiskered Screech-Owl, Flammulated Owl, and Mexican Whip-poor-will. Overnight Tucson.
Day Four: We’re off to spend the day in Madera Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains. Lower elevation grasslands may produce a mix of sparrows, including Botteri’s, Cassin’s, and Rufous-winged, and other scrubland species like Bell’s Vireo, Varied Bunting, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, and Blue Grosbeak. Nesting Black-capped Gnatcatchers have added a lot of excitement the last couple years. In the canyon proper, feeders outside lodges will yield a bonanza of hummingbirds – resident Black-chinned, Broad-billed and Magnificent compete with migrant Anna’s, Broad-tailed, and Blue-throated. Our last tour produced a dazzling Berryline Hummingbird, not to be outdone by a rare Flame-colored Tanager nearby. Acorn Woodpecker, Black-headed Grosbeak, Hooded Oriole, Lesser Goldfinch, and Painted Redstart will add a splash of color when compared to the muted Western Wood-Pewee and Dusky-capped Flycatcher. A walk in the higher elevations may reveal Band-tailed Pigeon, Elegant Trogon, Arizona Woodpecker, and Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher. We’ll leave the splendor of the Santa Ritas behind and head south along the Santa Cruz River to our next accommodations. Overnight Rio Rico.
Day Five: An early start will afford an opportunity to beat the heat and see Montezuma Quail on our way to California Gulch. This remote area in the Pajarito Mts. is one of the only places in the country to find the localized Five-striped Sparrow, along with the beautifully colored Varied Bunting. In the afternoon, we’ll change pace at several stops with water in the Rio Rico area to search for Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, “Mexican” Mallard, White-faced Ibis, Tropical Kingbird, and a mix of shorebirds, ducks, egrets, or herons. Eursian-Collared and White-winged Doves will entertain us right at our hotel. Overnight Rio Rico.
Day Six: This is a day to explore the rich Patagonia/Sonoita area, including a start at the famous Patagonia Roadside Rest. Here we’ll look for the special Thick-billed Kingbird and the even rarer Rose-throated Becard. The cottonwood lined banks of the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve always provide a lot to look at, such as Phainopepla, Gray Hawk, Gila Woodpecker, Vermilion Flycatcher, Black Phoebe, Black Vulture, Summer Tanager, Bronzed Cowbird, and Yellow-breasted Chat. We’ll relax at the Paton’s feeders, enjoying the display of many hummingbirds, particularly the beautiful Violet-Crowned, the star of the show at this site. After lunch, we’ll be heading east to the next range of sky islands – the Huachucas. We’ll have time to visit Ash Canyon, the only reliable spot for Lucifer Hummingbird in the U.S, before settling into our accommodations for the next two nights. Overnight Sierra Vista.
Day Seven: Our morning will take us to the canyons of Fort Huachuca - Garden, Sawmill, and Scheelite. – and the treasures they hold. Grasslands on the way in may yield sparrows or meadowlarks. Our target birds, however, are in the oaks and pines of the upper canyons - the likes of Greater Pewee, Elegant Trogon, Buff-bellied Flycatcher, Northern Pygmy-Owl Canyon Wren, Plumbeous Vireo, Virginia’s Warbler, and the wonderful “Mexican” Spotted Owl. We’ll move further south in the Huachucas in the afternoon, relaxing at the famous hummingbird feeders in Miller Canyon. This is THE place to see White-eared Hummingbird, weaving among the numerous Broad-tailed, Black-chinned, Anna’s, and the less numerous Magnificent and Blue-throated Hummingbirds. An evening excursion to Carr Canyon may yield Elf, Western Screech and Whiskered Screech-Owls, and Common Poorwill. Overnight Sierra Vista
Day Eight: We’ll greet the day in Ramsey Canyon, checking out its feeders and trails for a host of birds. The scrubland on the way in may yield a covey of Scaled Quail, Lark Sparrow, or Pyrrhuloxia, while the canyon itself is home to Peregrine Falcon, Golden Eagle, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Hutton’s Vireo, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Elegant Trogon, “Gould’s” Wild Turkey, Painted Redstart, and Western Tanager. We’ll move away from the canyons to the riparian belt along the San Pedro River. This oasis of green in the dry grasslands is a magnet for many lowland birds. We may encounter Lazuli Bunting, Say’s Phoebe, and Common Ground-Dove on our trek to the river’s edge, where the relatively lush vegetation may produce Warbling Vireo, “Red-shafted” Northern Flicker, Bewick’s Wren, Yellow Warbler, Abert’s Towhee, Blue Grosbeak, Green Kingfisher, and Northern Rough-winged Swallow. After lunch, we’ll leave the Huachucas behind and head east to the last stand of Geronimo and the Apaches – the spectacular landforms of Cave Creek Canyon in the Chiricahua Mountains. The scrubland at the mouth of the canyon often holds Loggerhead Shrike, Eastern Meadowlark, and Black-throated Sparrow. Settling in to our accommodations, we may be greeted by the calls of a local Elf Owl or a Coatimundi checking out the bird feeders. Overnight Portal.
Day Nine: A morning walk along the shaded trail in South Fork is a wonderful birding experience, and we’ll look for Elegant Trogon, Band-tailed Pigeon, Spotted Towhee, Canyon Wren, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Arizona Woodpecker, Hutton’s Vireo, Virginia, Red-faced, and Black-throated Gray Warblers, Canyon Towhee, and more. We’ll work our way up to Rustler Park and its spruce/fir forest for Mexican Chickadee – the only area to find this species in the U.S. We should also see Yellow-eyed Junco, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Pygmy Nuthatch, White-throated Swift, Stellar’s Jay, and Olive Warbler , and there’s always the possibility of a Short-tailed Hawk. We’ll swing through Paradise on the way back (as if we haven’t been in paradise already), hoping to see Juniper Titmouse, Western Scrub-Jay, and Black-chinned Sparrow. An outing for owls in the evening could turn up Barn Owl, Western Screech-Owl, and Great Horned Owl, as well as Mexican Whip-poor-will. Overnight Portal.
Day Ten: Our first stop will be in the lowlands for Bendire’s and Crissal Thrasher, and other scrubland birds – Pyrrhuloxia, Greater Roadrunner, and Blue Grosbeak. After that, it’s time to head over the mountains to Tucson, with another chance at Mexican Chickadee or other highland species we may have missed. Mid-day will find us sorting through numerous waterfowl, shorebirds, and other waterbirds at the Willcox Playa. We could see Cinnamon Teal, Ruddy Duck, Eared Grebe, Neotropic Cormorant, Green Heron, American Avocet, Long-billed Curlew, Baird’s Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher, Wilson’s Phalarope, Black Tern, Snowy Egret, and more. On a previous trip we even had California Gull and Red-necked Phalarope. Not bad for out in the desert! We’ll finish the day and tour off right with dinner and a summary. Overnight Tucson.
Day Eleven: Departure Flights.
Tour Pricing: $2595.00 per person based on double occupancy. Single occupancy supplement is $650.00
Tour Services: This tour includes ten nights of comfortable accommodations at hotels or guesthouses. All meals, from dinner on Day One to breakfast on Day Eleven, are included, excluding any alcoholic beverages. Ground transportation throughout the tour, starting at and returning to the accommodations in Tucson, will be provided, as well as any permit or entrance fees. This tour does not include airfare to/from Tucson, special gratuities, or items of a personal nature.
Also included are professional guide services for the duration of the tour. Brett M. Ewald will be the tour leader on this exciting excursion. As well as being an accomplished birder, naturalist, and biologist, Brett has traveled and birded extensively in North America, including time spent birding and leading tours in Arizona. He looks forward to sharing the wonders of the Sky Islands with you!
Terms and Conditions
Please fill out completely and sign the Extended Tours Registration Form and mail to Lakeshore Nature Tours, along with a $600.00 per person deposit. Make your check or money order payable to Lakeshore Nature Tours. Any balance due is required April 15, 2016. Confirmation and an informational packet, with finalized tour itinerary and details, will be sent upon guarantee of tour departure, based on adequate participation. Tour participants should not secure their flights to/from Tucson until directed from Lakeshore Nature Tours. A full refund of tour payments will be executed from Lakeshore Nature Tours for any cancellation resulting from inadequate participation. If the tour is full, a waiting list will be taken, and filled according to the date of registration. A $75 service fee will apply to a participant cancellation before April 15, 2016. Cancellations between April 15, 2016 and June 30, 2016 will forfeit the entire $600.00 deposit. After June 30, 2016, no refund will be available.
Participant Photo: © Al Stout
Photo: © Clay Taylor
Photo: © Clay Taylor
For more information, call, email or write:
12398 Platten Road
Lyndonville, NY 14098
Lyndonville, NY 14098