To Saturday, December 09, 2017
Arizona's “Hawk Alley,” the famous Sulphur Springs Valley on the west side of the Chiricahua Mountains, provides a winter home for 14 species of raptors, including both Bald and Golden Eagles, and Harris’s, Ferruginous, and Rough-legged Hawks. It also affords approximately 30,000 Sandhill Cranes a safe haven from the snows that blanket the northern United States. A visit to the Sulphur Springs Valley is just one of the treats that awaits participants as we explore one of the great avian wintering areas in our country. There is also a pronounced pattern of Mexican bird vagrancy at this time of year. Regular but rare species such as Least Grebe, Ruddy Ground-Dove, Violet-crowned Hummingbird, Green Kingfisher, and Rufous-backed Robin are not unexpected. So-called “mega-rarities” are impossible to predict, but recent years have seen the first U.S. winter records of Eared Quetzal, Nutting’s Flycatcher, Aztec Thrush, Blue Mockingbird, and Crescent-chested Warbler. Both Black-capped Gnatcatchers and Rufous-capped Warblers, formerly vagrants north of the international border, are now established as year-round residents. In the past decade Christmas Bird Counts have consistently turned up a handful or more Elegant Trogons, almost invariably the seasonally-colored red-and-green males. They join some of the most sought-after wintering birds in all of North America. Here the list includes American Bittern, Mountain Plover, Sprague’s Pipit, Baird’s Sparrow, and both McCown’s and Chestnut-collared Longspurs. Irruptive species that may number in the hundreds or only a handful, depending on wild food crops and the severity of the season, include Sage Thrasher, Mountain Bluebird, Cassin’s Finch, Lawrence’s Goldfinch, and a host of sparrows. More reliable are Crissal and Bendire’s Thrashers—already in full song, Eastern and Western Bluebirds, Scaled and Gambel’s Quail, as well as Green-tailed and Abert’s Towhees, and virtually the full complement of Sonoran Desert breeding birds. If awakening on a sunny winter morning to the chortling of Cactus Wrens, the whistled Whit-wheet! of Curve-billed Thrashers, and the variegated coos, calls, and songs of Greater Roadrunner, Inca Doves, Anna’s Hummingbirds, Gila Woodpeckers, Pyrrhuloxias, and the familiar “Cheery-cheery-cheery” of scarlet red Northern Cardinals sounds like a refreshing way to greet the holiday season, we cordially invite you to join us in Southeastern Arizona this December.
Leader: John Yerger
Cost of "Arizona Winter Specialties" includes all meals, accommodations, entrance fees, and transportation beginning and ending in Tucson, Arizona—$2195.
Photo: Rufous-backed Robin (female)
Photo by: Rick Taylor