Posts Tagged ‘Santa Rita Mountains AZ’

Today we took a quick trip to Madera Canyon’s Santa Rita Lodging birding area—a group of covered roadside benches just perfect for relaxed birdwatching. Adjacent to a small grassy field holding about fifteen nearby numbered bird feeders all in a row and designed to attract different birds—we less adventurous (or time-pressed) birders can come up with some great quick spots. Although Madera Creek isn’t running (we’ve had about 20% of normal rainfall) and both the oaks and sycamores look pretty peaked, this is a time for migration through and coming home for many bird species. In less than an hour we saw flocks of lesser goldfinches, broad billed and black chinned hummingbirds, wild turkeys, a black headed grosbeak and, probably most spectacularly, a lazuli bunting. Not bad for some essentially drive-by birdwatching.

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In the last week we’ve birded at two of the most renowned birding areas in the US—in Patagonia along Sonoita Creek (a rare riparian habitat with year-round water on the east side of the mountains) and near our Southern Arizona home on the mountains’ western flanks up Madera Canyon where Madera Creek is currently flowing.

Broadbilled hummingbirdfrom Wikipedia Commons

Broadbilled hummingbird
from Wikipedia Commons

Patagonia was pretty much a bust (although Stan just might have spotted a rare grey hawk) but Madera Canyon more than made up for it. On the paved handicapped accessible trail our big sighting was a Lucy’s warbler, a rare though nondescript little grey bird (thank heavens there was a more seasoned birder around to point it out). It was also great to see a person birding from her motorized wheelchair.


Hepatic Tanager
from Wikipedia Commons

But up the road at the Santa Rita Lodge, we hit the jackpot. It doesn’t hurt that the Lodge provides public covered seating and about 15 feeders, including multiple hummingbird feeders. Birding doesn’t get much easier and the results were spectacular: Wilson’s warblers; acorn, Arizona (Strickland’s) and Gila woodpeckers; black-chinned, Anna’s, rufous and (that unbelievably beautiful iridescent blue/green with an orange bill) broad-billed hummingbirds; Mexican jays; lesser goldfinches; a Scott’s oriole and a hepatic tanager.

Vermillion flycatcherfrom Wikipedia Commons

Vermillion flycatcher
from Wikipedia Commons

We completed this trifecta of birding destinations (truly people come from around the world to bird here) with a trip to Tumacacori (a Spanish mission on the Santa Cruz River at the base of the mountains), where, perched on an adjacent picnic table, we spotted a pair of vermillion flycatchers!. We also added the silky flycatcher and pyrrhuloxia to our life lists.

All that’s missing is that pinnacle of southern Arizona birding the elegant trogon, a supposedly common bird in spring and summer at both Patagonia and Madera Canyon. Maybe next time.

Here are some photos of the riparian habitats these beautiful birds live in:

Sonoita Creek © SR Euston

Sonoita Creek © SR Euston

Madera Creek © SR Euston

Madera Creek © SR Euston

Santa Cruz River at Tucmacacori© SR Euston

Santa Cruz River at Tucmacacori
© SR Euston

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