Southwest Wings Madera Canyon Overnight Trip

The second tour I lead for this year’s Southwest Wings Festival was a Madera Canyon/Santa Cruz Valley Overnight trip.  Joined by birders from Phoenix, California, Oklahoma, and Kentucky, we left Sierra Visit in a light rain and dark skies.

Our first stop was the south entrance to Las Cienegas National Conservation Area.  The semi-desert grasslands in this spot quickly produced Botteri’s and Grasshopper Sparrows, several Swainson’s Hawks, Cassin’s Kingbirds, and a Pronghorn!

We then hit the Paton Birding Center in Patagonia, a site where more people have picked up their lifer Violet-crowned Hummingbird than any other single spot.  We got Violet-crowneds, as well as, Yellow-breasted Chat, Blue Grosbeak, Inca Dove, and many other birds at Paton’s.

A quick trip to the Patagonia Roadside Rest yielded Thick-billed Kingbird, Varied Bunting, Canyon and Bewick’s Wrens, Bell’s Vireo, and Western Tanager. The Rest is a good spot to hear the disjointed, almost bizarre, song of Yellow-breasted Chats.  It sound like about four or five different species are singing instead of one aberrant warbler!

From Patagonia it was on to Madera Canyon.  The very first bird that we saw at Santa Rita Lodge was Plain-capped Starthroat!  This rather drab but strikingly marked hummer has the longest bill of any North American hummingbird.  Everyone got on it, except for one person.  I was mentally pleading with it to show itself again so this person could get some photos.  Sure enough- about 15 minutes later it reappeared any everyone was happy.

We then hiked up the Carrie Nation trail to see if we could get on an Elegant Trogon.  After a long walk, we waited for about 45 minutes without success.  All was not lost, however, as we did see a Western Wood-Pewee on a nest, Greater Pewee, Plumbeous and Hutton’s Vireos, and American Robin.

The next morning, we rose early to head into Montosa Canyon.  We got Rufous-winged Sparrow and several Scaled Quail on the drive in.  We picked up Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, but missed on Black-capped.  There were also no Five-striped Sparrows detected.

After a filling breakfast at the Amado Inn B&B, we headed to Rio Rico, where we added Tropical Kingbird.  There was a flock of about 20 Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks hanging out in a pasture with a bunch of cows.

From there, we headed southwest to Pena Blanca Lake.  The area was pretty quiet, but we did see several Western Tanagers, in addition to Vermilion Flycatcher and Blue Grosbeak.


Overall, this tour produced 83 species!




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