My Virginia birding buddy for more than a decade, Walt Childs, moved to Arizona last October. He and his wife have settled in southeast AZ where he has birded many times over the years, and knows all of the back roads there like the back of his hand. Walt & I had previously birded there in April 2014 and January 2017. I was eager to go there again. In addition to the possibility of seeing and photographing more than 50 life birds, one of my birding objectives is to photograph 50+ New World warbler species. I had already reached 48, including Yellow-breasted Chat, although this species had been moved from the wood-warbler family a few years ago.
The first two weeks of May are ideal for my target species. Not only have some of the summer resident warbler species arrived in the area, but some of the northwestern U.S. warbler species are still in Arizona during migration. I had a decent chance of getting six more warbler species: Hermit, Red-faced, MacGillivray's, Rufous-capped, Virginia's, and Olive. The Olive Warbler had also been moved out of the wood-warbler family a few years ago, but is still on my target list. I had tried for Olive, Virginia's, and Rufous-capped Warblers on my previous two trips, and although they had been reported there, I missed them. I had heard a Virginia's Warbler in 2014, but never saw it.
In additon, although I have taken good photos of a female Townsend's Warbler, my photos of a male of this species are very poor, and I wanted to take better ones. I had great photos of Black-throated Gray Warblers, but none of females of this species. And finally, I have had very quick looks at Zone-tailed Hawks in Texas and in Arizona, but had never gotten a photo of one.
So I emailed Walt my priority target list, and he not only planned where to go, but also did a trip to some of the places a couple of weeks ahead of time to see if he could find some of my target species. We had orignally planned to spend half of the six birding days in the Phoenix area, and the other days near Sierra Vista. But I asked Walt to modify the plan to stay three nights in Green Valley south of Tucson, rather than in Sierra Vista. Sierra Vista is too close to the southern U.S. border for my comfort these days. I didn't have a problem with day trips there, but preferred not to spend three nights there.
We ended up with 132 avian species during the six days, including 4 of my 6 target warbler species, and 13 life birds. We could have had even more avian species, but our plans changed a bit near the end of the trip. I took almost 6,000 photos, but have limited the number of photos in each day trip report, and included additional photos and a trip list at the end of the report. The map below shows where we birded.
Click here to start the trip from the Phoenix area to Mt. Lemmon on May 6.
Southeast Arizona Trip Map