What do you do when you have a long weekend and 4 days to use? Simple – book a flight to Tucson and spend the next 4 days birding from dawn till dusk in the canyons and riparian areas of SE Arizona. This outstanding birding location requires little introduction to experienced birders and we had previously visited about 2-3 times over the last ten years.
Despite our relatively frequent visits we had never managed to get to the Huachuca Mountains and the famed Miller, Ramsey & Carr canyons and San Pedro riparian area. It was time to rectify our oversight of this small but rich corner of Southeastern Arizona.
We had booked 4 nights at Battiste’s Bed Breakfast & Birds in Hereford AZ, on the doorstep of Miller Canyon about 10 miles from the Mexican border, and used this as a base to bird the local area. In addition to outstanding proximity to some of North America’s best birding sites, Julie and Tony Battiste’s property has an impressive bird list itself including many of the local specialties and most notably a nesting pair of elf owls. Not many places can boast a yardlist that has elf owls, so there was no option for us but to stay in Owls Roost for 3 nights not 10 steps away from the nesting owls.
We had an aggressive itinerary – Miller Canyon, Beattie’s for the hummingbirds, Carr Canyon, San Pedro riparian area, Madera Canyon, Box Canyon Road and Patagonia-Sonoita reserve. Our target species included Mexican spotted owl, elf owl, white-eared hummingbird, buff-breasted flycatcher, Arizona woodpecker and we also wanted to be reacquainted with some of the Southwestern species that we hadn’t seen for a while (who gets tired of blue grosbeak and acorn woodpecker?).
We wouldn’t be disappointed and over the next 4 days we would see 138 species, 14 lifers and have numerous photo opportunities that would want us coming back (seriously, we have already booked our next stay at Battiste’s). This is truly one of the best birding destinations in N. America with surprisingly diverse habitat and a crippling species list. Being only 1.5hrs from Tucson International Airport makes it the perfect location for those with little spare time to take a short but memorable birding trip. Check our photos on the image gallery which will be updated in the next few days, and a full trip report which will be posted in the next few weeks. Check back often!