Day 1 - Tour begins in Tucson this afternoon. Night in Tucson.
Day 2 - Our first day of birding will take us high into the Santa Catalina Mountains, and Mt. Lemmon, reaching elevations of over 9000 feet. The drive takes us through several biogeoclimatic zones, and is the equivalent of driving from Canada to Mexico! The lower reaches of the mountains are in the Sonoran Desert zone, where Saguaro Cactus tower above all else. As we climb up the mountain, we go through various coniferous and mixed forest habitats, until we reach the 'Canadian' zone at the top, where spruce trees and snow are a common sight. Bird life varies accordingly with the habitat. Our first stops in Bear Canyon, offer up chances to see some exciting Arizona specialties, such as Painted Redstart, Grace's Warbler, Bridled Titmouse, Mexican Jay, Dusky-capped Flycatcher and more. Higher up yet, in the cool shade of tall conifers, we will look for Red-faced Warbler, Olive Warbler, Arizona Woodpecker, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Red-breasted Nuthatch and Yellow-eyed Junco, to name a few species. Atop Mt. Lemmon we often see Western Bluebirds, White-throated Swifts, Steller's Jay, Wild Turkey and Hairy Woodpecker. Feeders in the village of Summerhaven often have interesting species such as Cassin's Finch, Black-headed Grosbeak, Acorn Woodpecker, Rivoli's and Broad-tailed hummingbirds and occasionally Evening Grosbeak. Virginia's Warbler can be found here as well. As we descend back down the mountain to town, we may stop to photograph the stunning scenery and bizarre rock formations. Birds we sometimes see in the rocky habitat include both Canyon and Rock wrens, White-throated Swift, Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay, and Peregrine Falcon. Night in Tucson.
Day 3 - Early morning birding at Agua Caliente Park, or other local park in Tucson, depending on recent sightings. Here, we often are greeted by a Greater Roadrunner in the parking lot. Vermilion Flycatchers are often found here, as are Brown-crested Flycatchers and sometimes Northern Beardless Tyrannulet. The tall trees here are often good for migrants such as Townsend's, Wilson's, and Lucy's warblers, Plumbeous and Cassin's vireo, Lazuli Bunting, Western Tanager and various other goodies. Phainopepla can sometimes be found, and a short walk through the desert habitat usually produces Curve-billed Thrasher, Cactus Wren, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher and Gambel's Quail. Before leaving Tucson, we'll look for Harris's Hawks, an attractive raptor species that often hunts in family packs in Sonoran Desert habitat. We will return to the hotel for breakfast, and then begin drive south to Green Valley.
This afternoon we'll have our first taste of birding in the Santa Rita Mountains, where the famous Madera Canyon is located. Feeders at the lodge are often alive with birds, such as Rivoli's, Broad-billed, Broad-tailed and Black-chinned hummingbirds, Arizona Woodpecker, Mexican Jay, Wild Turkey and Lesser Goldfinch. Painted Redstarts sing from the sycamores, alongside Hepatic Tanager, Plumbeous Vireo, Black-throated Gray Warbler and more. This evening we have the option to do some nocturnal birding at Madera Canyon, home to Whiskered Screech-Owl, Western Screech-Owl, Elf Owl, Lesser Nighthawk, Common Poorwill and Mexican Whip-poor-will. Night at Green Valley.
Day 4 - This morning we will return to Madera Canyon. Along the way, we'll pause at Box Canyon, where birds like Botteri's Sparrow, Crissal Thrasher, Varied Bunting, Lucy's Warbler, and Pyrrhuloxia can be found. Five-striped Sparrows have been possible here for several recent years. Once at Madera Canyon, we can do some hiking of trails in search of birds like the much sought-after Elegant Trogon, as well as Greater Pewee, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Scott's Oriole, Hutton's Vireo, Plumbeous Vireo, Hermit Warbler and more. If there have been interesting sightings at Florida Canyon, we can take a look there as well. The area sometimes has Rufous-capped Warbler, though the walk can be a little rugged. Others to watch for here include Black-throated Sparrow, Cassin's Kingbird, Summer Tanager, and occasionally Black-capped Gnatcatcher as well.
In the afternoon, we'll begin driving south, pausing at the Amado Sewage Ponds to look for waterfowl or whatever else may be present. Along the De Anza Trail near Tubac, we can look for Rose-throated Becard, if they have been present. The area is also good for other riparian birds like Yellow-breasted Chat, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Black Phoebe, Bewick's Wren and more. Night at Patagonia.
Day 5 - Pre-breakfast visit to the Patagonia Roadside Rest Stop. This is an excellent area for Thick-billed Kingbird, as well as Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Canyon Wren, White-throated Swift, Phainopepla, Zone-tailed Hawk, Gray Hawk and Black Vulture. We will return to town for breakfast and then head out for the rest of the morning to Patagonia Lake State Park. The lake is an excellent place to spot a number of waterbirds like Neotropic Cormorant, Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, Sora, Blue-winged Teal, Ruddy Duck, Pied-billed Grebe and shorebirds. Rarities often show up as well. Trails through riparian habitat are excellent for Bell's Vireo, Summer Tanager, Yellow-breasted Chat, Vermilion Flycatcher, Common Ground-Dove, and more.
We'll return to Patagonia for lunch and then spend some time at the Paton's Centre for Hummingbirds. Feeders here attract a nice selection of hummingbirds such as Broad-billed, Anna's, Rivoli's, Broad-tailed and the star attraction, Violet-crowned hummingbird. Other birds are also attracted to seed and fruit feeders, as well as water features. Lark Sparrow, Blue Grosbeak, White-winged Dove, Yellow-breasted Chat, tanagers, Lesser Goldfinch, Gambel's Quail and Curve-billed Thrashers are just some of the regular visitors. Night in Patagonia.
Day 6 - If we have missed any of the regular birds around Patagonia, we can have another look for them this morning. We'll then head east, through the Sonoita Grasslands, pausing to look for its inhabitants, such as the newly split Chihuahuan Meadowlark, as well as Chihuahuan Raven, Grasshopper Sparrow, Horned Lark, Swainson's Hawk and Loggerhead Shrike, to name a few. If we have not yet seen Scaled Quail, we will make an effort to see this species. We'll carry on into Sierra Vista, where we can visit Ash Canyon B & B, where feeders attract more exciting birds. The star attraction at Ash Canyon is Lucifer Hummingbird, so hopefully we see this rare and local hummer. Other birds to watch for here include Canyon Towhee, Wild Turkey, White-breasted Nuthatch, Bushtit, Acorn Woodpecker, Gila Woodpecker, and occasionally the sought-after Montezuma Quail. After dinner we may take a drive up to Miller Canyon to look for Common Poorwills on the road. Night in Sierra Vista.
Day 7 - This morning we will head up into Carr Canyon. This winding road climbs high into the Huachuca Mountains and the views are stunning along the way. Some of the birds we want to see here this morning include Buff-breasted Flycatcher, Olive Warbler, Red-faced Warbler, Virginia's Warbler, Greater Pewee, Arizona Woodpecker, Yellow-eyed Junco, Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay, Hepatic Tanager and Black-headed Grosbeak.
In the afternoon we can visit Miller Canyon. Here, hummingbird feeders attract a nice selection of hummers, sometimes including the rare White-eared Hummingbird. With luck, we'll spot the local roosting Spotted Owl in the canyon. In the later afternoon we will begin the drive to Portal, where we will spend the next two nights.
Day 8 - Early morning birding around village / hamlet of Portal. Local residents put out feeders for birds and don't mind visiting birders peering into their gardens. Portal is excellent for Blue-throated Mountain-gem as well as other hummingbirds. Northern Cardinals, Hooded Orioles, Cactus Wrens, Band-tailed Pigeons and Acorn Woodpeckers are commonly seen right around our lodge. After breakfast we will head into the Chiricahua Mountains, where our number one target will be Mexican Chickadee. Other birds are possible as well of course, and we'll try for things like Black-chinned Sparrow, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Juniper Titmouse, and Steller's Jay as we go along. Once we return to Portal, we may visit areas along the nearby New Mexico border that could potentially yield Bendire's and Crissal thrashers, Scaled Quail, Swainson's Hawk, Loggerhead Shrike and Greater Roadrunner. This evening, those who want to can take a walk through town, looking and listening for Whiskered and Western screech-owls, Elf Owls, Great Horned Owls and other nocturnal inhabitants. The area is good for nocturnal mammals like Collared Peccary, Ringtail and White-nosed Coati. Night in Portal.
Day 9 - Early morning birding for any species we have missed in the area thus far. After breakfast, we can do a little more birding around Portal before we begin driving back towards Tucson for the end of the trip. Along the way we will take a look for Mississippi Kites near St. David. Tour ends this afternoon back in Tucson.