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Jake Mohlmann reports from the Arizona: A Winter Week tour

February 06: Jake Mohlmann reports from the Arizona: A Winter Week tour

We just wrapped up another Winter Week tour through Southeast Arizona. The highlights were many, including perfect weather throughout. Our group got along swimmingly as we covered the vast desert valleys and snow-capped peaks scattered throughout the region.

Our group excited to bird Sweetwater Wetlands

Many of the resident species were enjoyed, especially the gregarious Bridled Titmouse, voted a favorite for one participant and a close second for others.

Bridled Titmouse allowed close approach

This tour is designed to visit areas where more tropical species reach the northern edge of their range. We were excited to get great views of a pair of Rufous-backed Robins in Patagonia, only confirmed breeding in the state since 2018.

A Rufous-backed Robin surveys from above

Another rare wintering species that we scored was a male Elegant Trogon. This bird was coming into a pyracantha bush full of berries and repeatedly sallied up to pluck the bright red fruit…almost as colorful as its own belly color.

A major highlight was this male Elegant Trogon

The Chiricahua Mountains are not to be missed for several reasons, most of which may be the fact that this range is the only place north of the Mexican border where the public can get access to this species. We lucked into a couple of them high up in the pine forests it prefers.

This Mexican Chickadee fed high in the conifers of the Chiricahua Mountains

We had fun with raptors on this trip. A multitude of Red-tailed Hawks of many flavors were seen daily, so we were excited to finally find a few regal Ferruginous Hawks in the mix in the Sulphur Springs Valley.

A Ferruginous Hawk sits in perfect light

In the San Pedro River Valley, we witnessed the rarest raptor of all. A seldom seen dark morph Northern Harrier was spotted hunting over the marshes of the Sierra Vista EOP.

The “Dark Ghost” hovers over the reeds

This was a good winter tour for seeing owls well. Among the highlights were both Whiskered and Western Screech-Owls in their natural habitats.

This Western Screech-Owl soaked in the morning sun

We spent time on several days looking for longspurs out in the desert grasslands. Finally, we scored a major highlight for some with fantastic looks (and photos) of a Thick-billed Longspur trying to blend in with cow pies.

A long-awaited Thick-billed Longspur finally showed

The Sandhill Crane show at Whitewater Draw often leaves visiting birders in awe as they watch swirling flocks of thousands of birds come in for an afternoon loaf. This year the birds got quite close.


Posted: February 06, 2024