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Jake Mohlmann reports from sunny Arizona.

February 01: Jake Mohlmann reports from sunny Arizona.

We just wrapped up another successful WINGS Arizona in Winter tour through the southeastern portion of the state. Just over 1,000 miles of scenic roads were covered, exploring an assortment of habitats from the cactus-studded Sonoran Desert to the snow-capped peaks of the surrounding sky island mountain ranges.

Our excited group ready to explore Cave Creek Canyon

A major highlight for the group was chasing down birds in the upper reaches of the Chiricahua Mountains. The 2-track that leads up to the pine forests here gave us a chance to find a major target bird for any North American birder. Eventually some call notes led us to a flock that contained our quarry as we enjoyed eye level views of a small group of Mexican Chickadees in the only place that’s publicly accessible to see this very local species.

Birding the Chiricahua pine forests is the only accessible spot … 

… to see the Mexican Chickadee, of which we saw 4.

Being based out of an extremely comfortable bed and breakfast for the week was a nice feature, and gave us refuge at the end of the days to have home cooked meals and a fireplace to sit next to for reviewing the checklist every night. It also gave us lots of time to enjoy the showy birds that call this part of the country home, such as numerous days viewing both female and bright male Pyrrhuloxias at the feeders.


A male Pyrrhuloxia in the morning light.

To say the Sandhill Crane spectacle we witnessed was amazing would be an understatement. Our perfectly timed outing had us standing on a berm abutting a giant wetland where thousands of cranes came pouring in for hours, filling the skies of the giant Sulphur Springs Valley with a cacophony of bugling adults and whistling young.


Sandhill Cranes filled the skies of Sulphur Springs Valley

Both young and adult cranes flew by extremely close

Even the numerous parks around Tucson hold highlights this time of year. One never knows what will show up in these urban oases, but usually there’s something exciting to track down. As was the case this year when a couple of ‘pip pip pip’ notes led us right to the location of a wintering Greater Pewee seeking refuge from the wind near Reid Park, placed in the heart of the city.


This Greater Pewee was utilizing a small pond in the middle of Tucson.

Posted: February 01, 2022