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WINGS Birding Tours – Information

Arizona: Second Spring

Tour Information

Note: The information presented here is an abbreviated version of our formal General Information for Tours to Arizona. Its purpose is solely to give readers a sense of what might be involved if they take this tour. Although we do our best to make sure that what follows here is completely accurate, it should not be used as a replacement for the formal document which will be sent to all tour registrants, and whose contents supersedes any information contained here.

ENTERING THE UNITED STATES: Non-U.S. citizens will need a valid passport and may need a tourist visa. Consult your nearest U.S. Consulate for details. Canadian citizens should carry proof of citizenship in the form of a passport or birth certificate. U.S. citizens should bring some form of identification such as a driver’s license. 

Please note that non-US citizens are required by law to carry passports/visas or Green Cards with them at all times. We suggest you carry these documents with you in your day pack or some place that is easily accessible (not locked in your luggage). Because of proximity to the US-Mexico border, US Border Patrol checkpoints will be encountered on the roads and foreign nationals may be required to produce passports or Green Cards.

Fort Huachuca - Non U.S. citizens will need a military approved escort to bird Fort Huachuca. This location is often the only location where we encounter Elegant Trogon. We will try to find an appropriate escort, but should no such escort be available, we will try to schedule suitable alternative birding for any participants denied access to Fort Huachuca. 

US residents with a social security number and government-issued picture ID, will be pre-vetted for entry to Fort Huachuca (the US Army base in Sierra Vista, AZ, and a half-day stop on the tour).

PACE OF THE TOUR: Early mornings are always the best time for birding activity, and we will often be out in the field by 6:30am, sometimes preceded by a drive of 30 minutes or so. Breakfast will usually be at 6:00, except at Casa de San Pedro where it will be later, perhaps as late as 8:00 a.m. Daily temperatures are often very warm in the lowlands, and when possible, we will try to schedule a siesta during the hottest portion of the day. Lunches will be a combination of picnic lunches and sandwich shops.

 Much of the birding will be on roads and wider trails.  During our time in the Huachuca Mountains, depending on the rarities or scarce residents (e.g. Spotted Owl) that are present, we may go on several (perhaps three) hikes of up to four miles (round trip); these involve elevation climbs of over 1000 feet.  On a few nights, we will have optional owling and night bird excursions after dinner. When possible, we’ll schedule about an hour of free time before dinner.

HEALTH:  Arizona presents no real hazards to the visiting birdwatcher but certain factors must be considered.  The sun is intense in July. 

Sun and Dehydration:  A broad-brimmed hat, proper clothing and a strong sun screen lotion are essential.   

Spiny Plants:  The most common injury results from spines penetrating light weight shoes.  Almost every desert plant in Arizona is armed with thorns or spines and we recommend tough canvas or leather shoes of at least ankle height and tough (and preferably cool, light weight) trousers (and of course vigilance…) as the best safeguards. 

Elevation: Much of our birding is at elevations between 4000 and 9000 feet, and while we normally do not schedule anything strenuous at the higher altitudes, anyone with known cardiac or respiratory problems should consult his or her doctor before scheduling the trip.   We do two hikes at an elevation of between 6000 and 7000 feet but we take it at a very slow pace. 

Smoking:  Smoking is prohibited in the vehicles or when the group is gathered for meals, checklists, etc. If you are sharing a room with a nonsmoker, please do not smoke in the room. If you smoke in the field, do so well away and downwind from the group. If any location where the group is gathered has a stricter policy than the WINGS policy, that stricter policy will prevail. 

Miscellaneous:  Rattlesnakes are not a hazard but one always needs to use common sense and be alert in desert areas.  We actively look for reptiles and feel lucky to see one rattlesnake per trip.  Scorpions are nocturnal and rarely seen, and the tarantulas often seen on the highways are not dangerous.  

Chiggers or biting insects will likely be encountered occasionally in moist areas or especially (for chiggers) in areas of grass after the monsoons have started, and we suggest bringing insect repellents with a high concentration of DEET.   

CLIMATE:  Temperatures rise steadily from March through June with little rain, although rain and anomalously cool temperatures are possible beginning in July.  The monsoons usually start in July and should be at their peak in early August.  Temperatures, even in the lowlands, are much reduced from June.  Much of the most interesting summer birdwatching is in the deep mountain canyons between 4000 and 6000 feet where warm days and cool nights are the rule. At the elevations where we spend most of our time, the daytime highs average in the 90°s F and nighttime lows average about 60-65° F, although we do spend some time at lower elevations.

ACCOMMODATIONS:  We stay at standard motels, one elegant bed & breakfast, and one rustic lodge/cabins on this tour. Except for Portal, our accommodations have pools. All our lodgings have WiFi although may be limited in Portal.  

At Portal, (where we stay for two nights) we stay in a Ranch House and various cottages or connected rooms. The Ranch House has 4 bedrooms (each with two beds) with two shared bathrooms.  The make-up of the tour participants may require some single participants to share a room and bathrooms on these two nights.

FOOD:  Food on the tour is southwestern standard except for the very fine breakfasts and any catered dinners we might have at Casa De San Pedro B&B. WINGS tours are all-inclusive and no refunds can be issued for any missed tour meals.   

Food Allergies / Requirements: We cannot guarantee that all food allergies can be accommodated at every destination. Participants with significant food allergies or special dietary requirements should bring appropriate foods with them for those times when their needs cannot be met. Announced meal times are always approximate depending on how the day unfolds. Participants who need to eat according to a fixed schedule should bring supplemental food. Please contact the WINGS office if you have any questions. 

TRANSPORTATION:  We will be traveling by 12 or 15 passenger window van or minivan, depending on the group size.  Participants should be able to ride in any seat in tour vehicles.

Updated: 12 December 2022