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12:15 PM Sat, Sept. 22nd

Birding on the way to Sierra Vista

Birding

A yellow breasted chat caught in a mist net where biologists were banding birds along the San Pedro River. (Eric Moore/Courtesy)

A yellow breasted chat caught in a mist net where biologists were banding birds along the San Pedro River. (Eric Moore/Courtesy)

One of the perks of owning a backyard wild bird and nature gift store is the opportunity to attending birding and nature festivals as a vendor. I consider these opportunities as a “working vacation.” We work hard on these trips, but we also push the limits during our free time to squeeze in as much birding time as possible.

Last Tuesday our Prescott store manager, Ryan, and I drove from Prescott to Sierra Vista for a festival—but we didn’t just drive, we birded along the way. Our first stop was along the De Anza Trail in Tumacacori, just south of Tubac, off of the Interstate 19. A pair of nesting rose-throated becards has been there since spring so we wanted to try our luck finding them.

We were fortunate to find their nest, which is an amazing, elongated structure approximately 3 feet in length. At its widest circumference it is probably 30 inches in diameter. The architect who designed that is quite talented! The first time I saw this species in Arizona was in 1974, over 44 years ago at the famous Patagonia rest stop off of State Highway 82. Ryan and I were pretty gleeful after seeing both the male and female. Continuing on, we made two more birding stops before arriving in Sierra Vista after dark.

On Wednesday, while Ryan set up our booth, I went on a bird walk to Huachuca Canyon as part of the festival. Huachuca Canyon is on the Fort Huachuca military base, but we had passes which allowed us to go birding there. If you have always wanted to see an elegant trogon, this is the place to go. 

Our bird walk was very fruitful, yielding many varieties of southeastern Arizona specialty birds including elegant trogon, sulphur-bellied flycatcher, buff-breasted flycatcher, dusky-capped flycatcher, Mexican jay, and Arizona woodpecker. On Thursday, while Ryan went to Huachuca Canyon on a festival-sponsored bird walk, I went birding by myself at the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area before I had to get back to open our booth. I saw 44 species there, and the highlight for me was seeing a male painted bunting! I have lived and birded in Arizona since 1965 and this is the first time in my life that I have seen this species in Arizona.

Ryan and I did daily early morning and late evening bird walks—and racked up an impressive list of species. We birded in Miller Canyon, Carr Canyon, Patagonia Lake, the Patagonia Rest Stop, the Paton House in Patagonia and Las Cienegas Grasslands National Conservation Area.

Regardless of how many times I have seen the same species, I have not lost my enjoyment and enthusiasm for the beautiful birds found in the deserts and Sky Islands of southern Arizona. Some of my favorite bird sightings included violet-crowned hummingbird, Lucifer hummingbird, pyrrhuloxia, and rufous-winged sparrows.

For the five days we were in southern Arizona I saw 127 species, which isn’t bad considering I was working from 9:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. each day. I didn’t add any new species to my life list, but I did add some species to my year list —bringing me to 584 species for the year.

On another note: If you have always wanted to see California Condors, the Peregrine Fund is hosting an open house on Saturday, Sept. 22 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. The public is welcome to observe from a viewing area the release of captive-raised condors. Spotting scopes will be set up, and project personnel will be available to answer questions. I hope to see you there. 

 Until next week, Happy Birding!

  Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn, with three locations in northern Arizona — Prescott, Sedona and Flagstaff. Eric has been an avid birder for over 50 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email him at eric@jaysbirdbarn.com.