USA - Arizona & New Mexico........27th January to 9th February 2018
Many of the USA’s fine birdwatching venues are at their best in spring, but Arizona and New Mexico offer excellent year round birdwatching and this tour presents a welcome contrast to the gloom of a typical British winter. South-eastern Arizona’s majestic ‘sky Islands’ of canyon and mountain rise above the Sonoran desert and are home to a wealth of bird life ranging from Gambel’s Quail to Painted Redstart. The deserts have many special and distinctive species of their own such as Cactus Wren, Greater Roadrunner, Gilded Flicker, Pyrrhuloxia, Curve-billed Thrasher and the more difficult to locate Crissal Thrasher, while the pine clad mountain slopes harbour a number of excellent species, including Red-breasted & Pygmy Nuthatches, Williamson’s Sapsucker and Townsend’s Solitaire. We will spend time exploring Madera Canyon, Patagonia Lake State Park and the grasslands of the San Rafael Valley, an important wintering area for many species. From Sierra Vista we will look for wintering raptors and Mountain Plovers in the Sulphur Springs Valley and visit the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, an excellent site for wintering sparrows and finches and the birds that prey on them. In fact, raptors will be very much in evidence throughout, many of them occupants of grassland fence posts and roadside power poles. One of the main highlights of the tour is New Mexico’s famous Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, with its multitude of wintering Sandhill Cranes, Ross’s & Snow Geese, usually with a number of Bald Eagles in close attendance. This is truly one of the great birding spectacles.
Day 1: Early evening arrival in Phoenix and then transfer to a nearby motel.
Days 2 & 3: We move to Tucson on Day 2 and visit Arizona-Sonora Desert, where Gila Woodpecker, Gilded Flicker, Cardinal, Roadrunner, Cactus Wren and Pyrrhuloxia can be found. The Tucson Water Treatment Plant is a haven for wintering wildfowl, raptors and many other species. We’ll explore the pine-clad slopes of Mount Lemmon, which provide habitat for Townsend’s Solitaire, Mountain, Bluebird, Hermit Thrush, Yellow-eyed Junco, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, White-breasted & Pygmy Nuthatches and Red-naped Sapsucker.
Days 4 & 5: We drive south heading for Patagonia, passing close to the Mexican border. En route we’ll call in at Madera Canyon, hoping to see such species as Rufous-winged Sparrow, Arizona & Acorn Woodpeckers, Olive Warbler and Painted Redstart. At the home of the Paton’s, their bird feeders are a haven for a variety of species and we will hope to see Red-winged Blackbirds, cowbirds, wintering hummingbirds and sparrows. Patagonia Lake is good for wintering wildfowl, herons and perhaps Western Grebe.
Days 6 & 7: We drive to Sierra Vista for a two-night stay. During our two days in the area we’ll visit the Sulphur Springs Valley, a haven for wintering Sandhill Cranes, Mountain Bluebirds, Mountain Plovers and many raptors including Golden Eagle, Ferruginous Hawk and Prairie Falcon. The San Rafael Grasslands are where we should find longspurs and a number of wintering sparrow species, which could include Lark Bunting, Brewer’s, Savanna, Vesper & White-crowned Sparrows and if time permits we’ll visit San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area looking for White-tailed Kite, Green Kingfisher, Abert’s Towhee and Vermillion Flycatcher. Nearby Canyons are also options, with Spotted Owls a possibility.
Days 8 & 9: On day 8 after visiting Whitewater Draw, we’ll transfer to the delightful hamlet of Portal for two nights. Here amidst the beautiful Chiricahua Mountains, we’ll experience a wealth of birdlife. We’ll be looking for Great Horned & Northern Pygmy Owls, Crissal & Bendire’s Thrashers, Canyon Towhee, Acorn Woodpecker, Bridled Titmouse, House Finch, Olive Warbler, Mexican Chickadee, Pine Siskin, Lesser Goldfinch and a number of sparrow species.
Days 10 & 11: We transfer to Socorro, our base from which to visit Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge is famous for the tens of thousands of Snow & Ross's Geese and Sandhill Cranes that spend the winter there and at sunrise and sunset the sky fills with birds flying either to or from their roosting site. Other species of wildfowl include American Wigeon, Cinnamon Teal, Canvasback, Redhead, Bufflehead and Hooded Merganser. Such massive gatherings of birds attract raptors and amongst them should be Bald Eagles. This really is a spectacle not to be missed.
Day 12: After a further visit to Bosque del Apache we’ll drive to Albuquerque, where we spend the last night. On the way we’ll visit Bernardo National Wildfowl Management Area, with its thousands more cranes and geese, that often are more approachable than elsewhere on the tour – which could be the Grand Finale.
Day 13: Today we catch our flights to the UK (via Dallas), where we arrive on Day 14.
Tour ref: AA1842
Cost: £ 3,999
Deposit: £ 700
Single Room Supplement: £ 590
Leader: Richard Coomber
Max Group: 8 + Leader
Includes: Economy class scheduled flights (UK-USA-UK), en-suite accommodation, meals, transport in USA, reserve entrance fees and services of leaders.
Excludes: Travel insurance, drinks & items of a personal nature.