by Dianne Benham
If you thought Arizona would be too hot in August for enjoyable birding, you would be mistaken! Sixteen PAS members, in two separate groups, recently experienced this birding trip and found the adventure perfectly delightful! August is monsoon season in SE Arizona, and is the wettest month of the year. The monsoons not only cool things down periodically, with the afternoon thundershowers, but also help create a climate and environment that is conducive to birds found nowhere else in the United States! It is these Arizona specialties that we set out to see, and see them we did!
For three days each group birded with Tucson Audubon members, Pat and Ken Isaacson, who served as our guides and showed us the best that SE Arizona has to offer! Group 1 ended with a total tally of 98 species, thirteen of which were hummingbirds!! As this trip report is being written, Group 2 is still in Arizona, so we don’t have their final tally yet.
When this trip was first announced, it immediately filled and had a waiting list of far more than we were able to accommodate. We made the decision to open Group-2, which followed immediately on the heels of Group-1. With an ending number of 8 birders per group, our guides were able to do a fantastic job of getting all of us on the birds!
Some of the amazing and memorable birds we were lucky enough to see were the Five-striped Sparrow, the Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Rivoli’s Hummingbird (it’s huge!), the Violet-crowned Hummingbird, the White-eared Hummingbird, Caliope Hummingbird (it’s tiny!) and the rare ones–Plain-capped Starthroat, Lucifer Hummingbird, and Berylline Hummingbird. We saw Varied Bunting, Whiskered Screech Owl, Elegant
Trogons, Painted Redstarts, Botteri’s and Cassin’s Sparrows and many more!
Some trip highlights included our visit to Ramsey Canyon where we huddled under the overhang of the visitor’s center during a thunderstorm where it actually hailed! Our birding day almost ended then, but just as we were about to drive away, the storm ended and the blue sky returned—so back we went! We were so fortunate that the rain stopped, because we were able to see the Berylline Hummingbird at the feeders, the Violet-crowned Hummingbird on her nest, and best of all, a family of Elegant Trogons, including three juveniles and two adult males! Absolutely stunning! The Group-1 trip concluded with an exciting night of owling in Madera Canyon, where our guides were able to call in and light up a Whiskered Screech Owl for all to see and photograph. The Mexican Whip-Poor-Will and other owls, including the Elf Owl, and were also heard that night.
The weather cooperated, and our sixteen members enjoyed another fantastic PAS birding adventure. This is a trip not to be missed, so I encourage you to join us the next time PAS puts SE Arizona on our travel agenda!
Juvenile Elegant Trogan
Yellow-billed Cuckoo Five-stripe Sparrow Rivoli’s Hummingbird
Palomar Audubon Arizona eBird Trip Report link.