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Greg Miller Big Year Series: SOUTHEAST ARIZONA

Arizona-2014-2 Welcome to another world—the world of birding in Southeast Arizona. It is a legendary location in North America. It is absolutely one of the must-see birding locations for the continent. The best time to come is between late spring and early fall. The breeders are special here. And it is a region that turns up rare birds with amazing regularity.

Over 360 species of birds have been reported in Arizona this week of the year according to eBird. It is a special time to visit. Most of the breeding birds are still here enjoying what locals call Second Spring. It’s actually the rains of the summer monsoons that cause the desert to bloom and the birds sing again like it is spring. It can get hot on the desert floor during the day. But that is the time to retreat into the mountains where it is far more pleasant and the birds are plentiful.

We’ll see all manner of habitats and a ton of birds. This is a fantastic trip!


  • Tour Cost
  • Number of Days (Length of Tour)

    7 days / 6 nights



    $1900.00 per person, based upon double occupancy from Tucson, AZ.


    Although we will eat our meals as a group, meal costs are not included in this trip for light to average eaters, this will save you money rather than adding in an "average" food cost per person.


    Single Supplement

    If a single room is preferred, or we are unable to get a roommate for you, a single supplement fee of $500.00 will be assessed.


    What is Included / Not Included in the Cost

    Included in the cost are all accommodations, transportation, entrance fees and permits, from Tucson, AZ.

    Participants will be responsible for purchasing their own meals and making their flight arrangements.



    $500.00, check, paypal or credit card, along with your completed Wildside Nature Tours Registration Form.


    Final Payment

    The balance due or full payment, by check, is due 120 days prior to the departure date.

  • Itinerary
  • Brief Itinerary

    Day 1: Arrivals at Tucson International Airport in Tucson, AZ (TUS)

    Day 2: Willcox; Cave Creek Canyon

    Day 3: Chiricahua Mountains

    Day 4: Whitewater Draw; San Pedro River; Sierra Vista; Ramsey Canyon

    Day 5: Patagonia; Kino Springs

    Day 6: Montosa Canyon; Madera Canyon; Tucson area

    Day 7: Departures from Tucson International Airport in Tucson, AZ (TUS)


    Full Itinerary


    Day 1 ~ Arrivals at Tucson International Airport in Tucson, AZ (TUS)

    Arrival at Tucson International Airport in Tucson, AZ. Orientation at dinner. Night in Tucson, AZ. If all of our arrivals are earlier in the day, we’ll spend the afternoon birding nearby Tucson area hotspots.


    Day 2 ~ Willcox; Cave Creek Canyon

    Water in the desert is always worth checking for birds. Lake Cochise will be our first destination as we head for the famous Chiricahua Mountains. In addition to shorebirds, this area is also one of our best chances at Scaled Quail.


    A legendary location for birders of North America is Cave Creek Canyon in southeastern Arizona. This will be our first stop in the mountains. Our lists will grow with a bang here. Birds include Acorn and Arizona Woodpeckers, Blue-throated and Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, Black-throated Gray and Grace’s Warblers, Painted Redstart, Bridled Titmouse, Mexican Jay, Plumbeous Vireo, and Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher. Of course, the Chiricahua Mountains are probably best known for Elegant Trogon. We’ll look for this one, too. Night in Portal, AZ.


    Day 3 ~ Chiricahua Mountains

    Starting out near Portal and lower elevations we’ll look for Crissal Thrasher, Black-throated Sparrow, Cassin’s Kingbird, Greater Roadrunner, Juniper Titmouse, and if we are extremely lucky—Montezuma Quail. A little higher we’ll be looking for Rufous-crowned Sparrow and Virginia’s Warblers. Habitat will go through several steps of change as we gain in elevation to the highest locations. Here we’ll look for Band-tailed Pigeon, Olive Warbler, Pygmy Nuthatch, Red-faced and Hermit Warblers, Yellow-eyed Junco, and Zone-tailed Hawk among others. Night in Portal, AZ.


    Day 4 ~ Whitewater Draw; San Pedro River; Sierra Vista; Ramsey Canyon

    Whitewater Draw is more water in a dry land. We may find Vermilion Flycatcher and Lazuli Bunting here as well as American Avocets, Yellow-headed Blackbirds and maybe even Black Tern or Cassin’s Sparrow.


    Our best chance for Botteri’s Sparrow on this itinerary is probably here in grassy areas near the San Pedro River. Abert’s Towhees should be in the riparian area. Vermilion Flycatcher and Curve-billed Thrasher should be present, too.


    The Sierra Vista Environmental Operations Park is a water reclamation facility. Birds here may include Chihuahuan Raven, Bullock’s Oriole, Cassin’s Sparrow, Swainson’s Hawk, Yellow-headed Blackbird, and Western Kingbird.


    In the afternoon we’ll head up into the mountains west of Sierra Vista to the famous Ramsey Canyon. Southeast Arizona is the Hummingbird Central of North America. More hummers can be found here than anywhere else north of the Mexican Border. A dozen species of hummingbirds have been recorded here in Ramsey Canyon in eBird during the week that we are visiting! Magnificent, Blue-throated, Broad-billed, Broad-tailed, and Black-chinned are the most common. But all it takes is one of the highly prized, most sought after species like Berylline, Lucifer, or White-eared Hummingbirds—well, that will be cause for great celebration! Night near Sierra Vista, AZ.


    Day 5 ~ Patagonia; Kino Springs

    Some of the best birding in Southeast Arizona is in the Patagonia area. The diversity here is rich. This will be a really fun day birding as we’ll be visiting some of the most storied locations including in famous Patagonia Roadside Rest Area. Today we will be searching for Gray Hawk, Dusky-capped and Brown-crested Flycatchers, Black-headed Grosbeak, and Rufous Hummingbird. Two of the real gems here are the Thick-billed Kingbird and the Violet-crowned Hummingbird!


    Kino Springs is known to most as a country club. But to birders it is a pretty good place to see birds. Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks and Common Ground-Doves should be in good supply. This is one of our best chances for Tropical Kingbird, too. Although not much is guaranteed, it is the surprises that occur here that should keep a birder coming back to check what is here. At this time of year one might expect Lucy’s Warbler, Phainopepla, Gray Hawk, or Gila Woodpecker. Did you know that all 4 buntings have occurred here in August? (Lazuli (the only expected one), Indigo, Varied, and Painted Buntings). Night near Green Valley, AZ.


    Day 6 ~ Montosa Canyon; Madera Canyon; Tucson area

    Montosa Canyon is one of the rising star hotspots of Southeast Arizona. Five-striped Sparrows has been found here occasionally over the last few years. Since this saves one from making the epic trip to California Gulch (this rugged location is not everyone’s cup of tea), Montosa Canyon has seen increased birding activity. And since there are more birders, more birds are being found. And the list is growing. Of course we’ll hope to get lucky and be there at the same time the Five-striped Sparrow is there. But this location is good enough to merit birding here even without the rarity. We’ll look for Bell’s Vireo, Canyon Towhee, Pyrrhuloxia, and Varied Bunting. Other, less common birds may include Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Gray Vireo, Scott’s Oriole, and Common Black Hawk.


    The famous Madera Canyon can get pretty busy after late morning so our birding here may not be long. We’ll look for Arizona specialties of a drier habitat. We’ll drive to Tucson in the afternoon.


    Catalina State Park is dry and has both scrub and grassy areas. Cactus Wren, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Gilded Flicker, Gray Flycatcher, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, and Rufous-winged Sparrow are birds typical of this habitat.


    Our final destination is Sweetwater Wetlands. Cinnamon Teal, Gambel’s Quail, Harris’s Hawk, Lucy’s Warbler, Tropical Kingbird, Verdin, and Abert’s Towhees will be birds that we’ll search for at this birdy location. Night in Tucson, AZ.


    Day 7 ~ Departures at Tucson International Airport in Tucson, AZ (TUS)

    Departures from Tucson International Airport in Tucson, AZ (TUS).


  • Accommodations
  • We will use standard hotels close to our birding locations.

  • Additional Info
  • Maximum of 7 participants per 15-passenger van.