Tuesday, June 6, 2017


Babs enjoys a nice scope view of the Rose-throated Becards with a kind birder.
 I have been wanting to write a little bit about birding Arizona during our intensely hot summer months. Specifically, the month of June. When guests come to visit, I have very little energy to go with them during a whole day and find birds.  Our temps average around 104-115 degrees during the month of June.  And while those temps are dangerous, there are things you can do to avoid dying on the trails. 

Varied Buntings breed in Arizona during the summer months
 It is NO secret that Arizona birding is one of the best places in the world to go and find unique and beautiful species of bird.  But the same can be said of our herpes, bugs and mammals.  Our summer months offer excellent opportunities to find rare and unique southwestern flora and fauna.   

With that being said, I often lack the energy to wake up and explore.  Why?  Well, sunrise here begins around 4:30 AM.  And the birds begin their song at that time.  So what can a birder do to make their visit to Southern Arizona more comfortable?

Bring a friend/s.  They help motivate.  For myself, I groan at the 4:30 AM wake up call but I am always excited about the incredible discoveries we made afterwards in the field.  Also, if there is an injury on one of our rugged trails, you'll have someone who can get help.  I cannot tell you how many times people will get heatstroke or nearly pass out after their first day out.  They overextend their birding excitement and wear out quickly.  This brings me to......

Canyon Tree Frog
 Water.  You MUST bring water with you at all times.  If your car breaks down, have water with you.  Put a water pack on your back and drink drink drink!  You'll prevent the severe headaches at night by staying hydrated.  And speaking of evening.....

Coue's Whitetail Deer
 It's one of the best times to go birding for rare and exciting nightjars, mammals, owls and more!  Again bring a buddy because there are many wild elements here in the desert.....like snakes.  Snakes love to hunt at night.  So do most of our critters.  

Lophocampa mixta, Tiger Moth.  Thanks Margarethe for the ID
As mentioned before, go early in the morning.  Best time to bird is anywhere from 4:30 AM until 10 or 11 AM.  Stay in the shade as often as you can.  Go to higher elevations or shady canyons to make your birding experience much more enjoyable. 

American Snout
Try to stay in a local area and bird so that you don't waste that valuable birding time in the car. For example, you could stay in Sierra Vista and then bird the many canyons and riparian hotspots around the city. As the day gets hotter, the bird activity dies down. Most birders at this point take a nap or get lunch. 

BUT if you are in your car, you can also bird.  How?  Well check this out.  Birding from your vehicle is a real thing.  My Wisconsin peeps often bird during the cold winter months from their warm vehicles.  It's no different here.  Places like Saguaro National Park(East Rincon Unit) offer a 9 mile loop where you can drive and park at your leisure for birds and critters.  For lunch, you can stop at the Javelina Picnic area under the shaded ramadas.  Birds, like the Canyon Towhee, Gilded Flicker or Black-throated Sparrows, will casually hang out and watch you relax and chow down.  

Western Screech Owl
So what is my technique?  Well I love the cold temps of our winter months here so I really utilize my time wisely outdoors.  When summer comes, I call up friends to go out for some early morning  birding.  If I don't, I sleep in and waste away inside my house. 

Blue Grosbeak
I tend to go later in the afternoon, around 5 or 6 PM when the intensity of the sun is less.  Temps are still hot but a breeze usually starts up and makes it a bit tolerable. 

Scaled Quail
 I also tend to hit the higher elevations and canyons for shade. And in the desert, I park and scan from my car.  

Gambel's Quail
 This past week was a fun one.  I went one evening to Madera Canyon and watched birds at the feeders.  There were a lot of great birds but the one everyone was thrilled to see at the feeders was the Varied Bunting.  They can be tricky to capture on camera because of the lighting conditions. Their colors are so wild that the camera often has issues sorting them out. 

Gila Woodpecker
And this past and current week should be titled the week of the "BLUE GROSBEAK".  They were most numerous around the San Pedro Riparian area.  We could not get over the dozens of blue dots flying around the feeders. 

Blue Grosbeak
We also stopped at Ramsey Canyon on an overcast day and did a survey in the humid, yet wonderful, shade of that canyon.  

Giant Mesquite Bug
An early morning trek with Babs lead us to a happy observation.  Rose-throated Becards are breeding in AZ again.  We suspect they were there last year but no one saw them. An old nest hangs nearby their current one suggesting that they were most likely present last year. While that trail has been there for some time, it wasn't as fixed up as it is now. While we were on the trail, there were some workers cleaning up the area for better access. It has been a good year for this species in AZ after not having many reports of them over the past several years.  

Nesting Rose-throated Becards-finally!

June is also the best month to escape the heat and take a holiday/vacation.  Many Arizonans head to San Diego or Rocky Point, Mexico during this time to enjoy the ocean and cool temps. If I take a vacation in June, I always make sure I'm home for July because the monsoon show is spectacular. Below I have several reports from our treks around Southern Arizona this past week.  Until next time...... 

For the Rose-throated Becards, click here.

For the Flame-colored Tanager and Ramsey Canyon, click here.  

For the Rufous-capped Warblers in Florida Canyon, click here.  This is the trail you need to explore early and with a friend.  It can be moderate to difficult due to the trail above the dam area.  The trail is steep with loose rock in some areas.  A walking stick is advised as is a water pack.  So why go?  It's one of the birdiest. Just be careful around the dam area.  

For the easy Varied Bunting add at the Santa Rita Lodge, click here

For the Blue Grosbeak excitement, click here


  1. Hello, Chris! Wonderful outing. I would think early morning birding is best the hot weather there. Your saw some beautiful birds and great sightings. The Varied Bunting and the Rose-throated Becard would be new bird for me. The tiger-moth caterpillar is lovely. Great photos. Are you going to Costa Rica? Happy Tuesday, enjoy your day and week ahead!

    1. Thanks Eileen. Yep. We are leaving next week. Lots of work to do between then and now:) I'm checking out gear to make sure it's all there and works. You do the same!

  2. The ascent of Everest seems like a piece of cake compared to birding Arizona, your bird pics are great though.

    1. I don't know Gordon. That sounds horrible too!:)

  3. I heard the mesquite bug was edible...
    Water is really key to Life.

    1. Water is everything. As for the bugs......um....I'll have to ask the bug experts. Interesting:)

  4. Wonderful photos and wildlife Chris. I am not sure I could cope with your temperatures!!

    1. That's why cloudy skies and rain are so attractive to us down here in Arizona. It's a rare treat when the cool weather happens in the summer.

  5. Great advice and awesome photos! It's nice to get some support for car birding! :-) Wow, that Rose-throated becard was an amazing find!

    1. It was a fun day out. Now it's in the house for several days to recuperate. I envy you right now. You probably have beautiful temps!

  6. Thanks for sharing all of your birding tips. Your pics are great! Enjoyed each of them.

  7. Thanks so much for your visit to my blog Chris. I always follow along on your blog here, also on Instagram and FB. Most of your birds are new to me so I find them very interesting and the photos you get are wonderful. I always am amazed how you can find them, especially the owls. Have a great trip and hope to see some photos when you get back. cheers, Nora.

  8. Wow! A spectacular post, Chris, with some delightful images.

    That advice stands good for more temperate climates too, especially when you get to my age!

    Best wishes to you both - - - Richard

  9. That's some really useful advice there Chris. I reckon if i was heading to Arizona birding, I would seek you out as a knowledgable and experienced guide. Loved your photos today, especailly that Blue Grosbeak, Screech owl and those buggy things.

  10. lol, yes this is the time of year when morning appears right after evening. Not too fun. Love your selection of beauties :)

  11. Hey Chris nice to catch up and see what you've been up to lately. I totally relate to the 4.30 sunrise moments in summer, same here, I have to admit waking up with the birds is something I really enjoy.. while I'm lying in bed with the ability to doze off again 😀 so good to see your beautiful birds again.

  12. beautiful nature and wildlife. I have soft spot for quails so thanks for her :)

  13. Sounds a bit like birding in high summer here - and I live in the parts of Australia that don't get really hot! Water, water and more water is (as you say) the answer.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne


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