Brian Rusnica

Townsend, MA
The best the desert has to offer
Best birds in the country? Spring in Arizona makes an awfully strong case. Best guides in the country? That's an even easier debate. This Wildside Tour was a real pleasure and an excellent value, packing in so many good birds in so many unforgettable places, all from one convenient central site. For the raptor-lover, Southeast Arizona in March will offer great looks at some of the most unique and specialized birds of prey that we have. The Tubac Hawkwatch is a terrific place to observe the very consistent, very condensed migration of the regal Common Black Hawk. The unique community around this hawkwatch made every visit exciting; the 2024 crowds were impressive and the energy and excitement were palpable. We finished just short of 20 species of raptors; with excellent looks at all of the Arizona specialties. In terms of the other birds, the wildly varied habitats we were able to explore on our trip showed many different sides of Arizona and how the extraordinary birds of the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts are able to make a living. Some of my favorite spots we visited were full of desolate beauty - Saguaro National Park, the San Rafael Grasslands, and Box Canyon. Other spots, however, were full of unique community spirit and showed how well people and birds can co-exist together: the Paton Center for Hummingbirds, Desert Meadows Park and the Santa Rita Lodge. Uncommon gems like the Green Kingfisher, Violet-crowned Hummingbird, and Painted Redstart created exhilarating moments.The common locals like Vermillion Flycatcher, Greater Roadrunner and Cactus Wren most certainly lived up to their charming reputations. All in all, I was most impressed with our guides; their experience and naturalist skills were incomparable and ensured that we were always just moments away from the next exciting encounter. Alex and Chris balanced seeking out the local specialties with regional rarities, all while showcasing the desert landscape and ensuring the guests got the experience they were looking for out of the trip. I hope to have the opportunity to bird with them again someday soon.