|Birding near Sierra Vista
Easy birding on Carr Canyon Nature Walk
Carr Canyon (520) 378-0311
Coronado National Forest, Sierra Vista Ranger District.
The road into Carr Canyon provides relatively easy access to the higher elevations of the Huachucas. This unpaved mountain road provides an opportunity to penetrate Arizona's high country without a long hike. Look for such high-altitude birds as red crossbill, yellow-eyed junco, olive warbler, and Steller's jay. Other birds to be seen include golden eagle, Strickland's woodpecker, warblers and, of course, hummingbirds. There are campsites at Reef Townsite and Ramsey Vista. From Sierra Vista take Fry Blvd. to Rt. 92, south 8 miles, then turn right on Carr Canyon Rd. Free
Coronado National Memorial (520) 366-5515
Birds often seen in the Memorial include acorn woodpecker, gray-breasted jay, Gambel's quail, Montezuma quail, painted redstart, white-winged dove, and many species of hummingbirds. Visitor center has books and maps for sale. Wheelchair accessible (drawing by Bob Savannah, USFWS), Day use only, picnicking but no camping, but many bed and breakfast accommodations are available in Hereford and in Sierra Vista. 20 miles south of Sierra Vista, 5 miles off Hwy 92. Free
Empire-Cienega Resource Conservation Area (520) 722-4289
West of Sierra Vista, this area of open grassland provides many opportunities for birders. From Sierra Vista take Highway 90 to Highway 82 (Mustang Corners). Then take 82 west to Sonoita. The RCA is about 7 miles north of Sonoita along Highway 83 at Empire Ranch Road. Free
Fort Huachuca Military Reservation
Note: Since Fort Huachuca is an active military installation, access may be limited when military actions are in progress. Two forms of picture identification are necessary to enter when a security alert is in force.
This scenic area within Fort Huachuca contains some of the most diverse plant and animal life in the Huachuca Mountains. Garden Canyon offers good opportunities to view Montezuma quail, elegant trogon, Mexican spotted owls and various warblers in addition to white-tailed and mule deer and javelina. Garden Canyon is also known as a wonderful spot for butterfly enthusiasts. Depending on the current level of international tensions, to enter the fort you may need to show your driver's license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance. For information call the Sierra Vista Convention and Visitors Bureau at (800) 288-3861 or (520) 458-6940. Free
Huachuca Canyons (520) 378-0311
South of Sierra Vista on Highway 92 are the roads leading west into the legendary birding spots in the canyons of the Huachuca Mountains. Ramsey, Carr and Miller Canyons are favorite birding areas. Free
Kartchner Caverns State Park
In addition to the caverns, this new Arizona state park offers a Discovery Center, campground, above-ground hiking trails, and a hummingbird garden. The hummingbird garden attracts many beautiful butterflies as well as birds and is listed as an attractive butterfly viewing location by the Southeast Arizona Butterfly Association. The park is also an access point to the Guindani Trail Loop where you will find birds of the desert and lower elevation oak woodlands. Located on Highway 90, about 10 miles south of the #302 exit from Interstate 10, Kartchner Caverns State Park is open daily, 7:30 am to 6 pm. An entrance day-use fee of $l0 per vehicle (4 people) secures admission to the park including Discovery Center, picnic grounds and hiking.
Miller Peak Wilderness Area (520) 378-0311
Coronado National Forest, Sierra Vista Ranger District
Miller Peak Wilderness is presently characterized by oak and grass vegetation and elevations vary from 5200 fl. to 9466 ft. at Miller Peak itself. This 20,190-acre wilderness area is home to a large number of species of reptiles and mammals as well as the birds, which include fourteen species of hummingbirds. Access is by foot or horseback only; machines are prohibited in wilderness areas. Check the fire danger signs before entering the area. Free
Parker Canyon Lake (520) 378-0311
Coronado National Forest, Sierra Vista Ranger District
Parker Canyon Lake attracts ducks and other waterfowl as well as ospreys and bald eagles. Great blue heron, gray hawk and Montezuma quail may also be seen at this aquatic habitat. Spring warblers and hummingbirds can be seen in season. There is a campground and a maintained hiking trail which circles the lake. West of Sierra Vista. Free
Ramsey Canyon Preserve (520) 378-4952
Owned and operated by The Nature Conservancy
On the eastern flank of the Huachuca Mountains, this canyon is renowned for its numerous hummingbirds and the elegant trogon is often spotted there as well. Hummingbirds are usually to be seen between March and October. Beginning in March and running through to October, guided nature walks are offered on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 9 am. Preserve opens to the public at 8 am. Call ahead to confirm walk dates: (520) 378-4952.
The preserve is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., 7 days a week from February through October. Open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday through Monday from November - January (closed Tuesday and Wednesday). The preserve is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's days.
Fees are $5.00 per adult, $3.00 for Nature Conservancy members and Cochise County residents. Children under 16 years of age are free. The first Saturday of each month is free at Ramsey Canyon Preserve. Annual passes, and passes that allow entry into both Ramsey Canyon Preserve and Patagonia/Sonoita Creek Preserve are also available.
For information call (520) 378-4952
To reach Ramsey Canyon Preserve go 6 miles south of Sierra Vista on Hwy 92 to Ramsey Canyon Road, then turn left. Parking is limited. A bookstore, open 9-4, sells books, tee shirts and gifts.
San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area
Bureau of Land Management
The San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, forty miles of riparian vegetation, supports an abundance of plants and animals. It is one of the premier birding areas in the nation. The SPRNCA runs along the San Pedro River, from the Mexican border to Benson and has 10 access points. A network of trails covering almost the whole length of the Conservation Area is a magnet for bird lovers. This riparian area is home to over 100 species and is on the migratory path of many more. In all over four hundred species have been sighted. Raptors include gray hawk, Swainson's hawk, Mississippi kite, and crested caracara. Upland and songbirds include the ground dove, scaled quail, northern cardinal and summer tanager.
There are parking areas along the San Pedro River at Fairbank (Hwy 82), Charleston Road, Hereford Road, and Palominas (Hwy 92). Find visitor information at San Pedro House Books and Gifts (shown above) along Hwy 90 , 8 miles east of Sierra Vista, open daily 9:30 - 4:30. Call the Sierra Vista Convention and Visitors Bureau for a free birder's guide. (800) 288-3861 or (520) 458-6940 Free
Sierra Vista Wastewater Wetlands
The Wastewater Treatment ponds about 3 miles east of Sierra Vista on Highway 90 provide aquatic vegetation which attracts waterfowl, rails, shorebirds, songbirds and raptors. Flocks of yellow-headed blackbirds roost among the cattails from fall through spring and many varieties of ducks are to be seen from the specially-constructed viewing platforms. City of Sierra Vista: (520) 458-3315.
Free Sierra Vista EOP Bird Walks
In cooperation with the City of Sierra Vista, SABO, the Friends of the San Pedro River, and Huachuca Audubon Society offer 2-hour birding tours of the wastewater wetlands at the Environmental Operations Park on the city's east side. These Sunday morning tours begin at 8 a.m. from October through March and 7 a.m. from April through September. The tours spend approximately 2 hours exploring areas normally off limits to the public. No reservations are required for these tours, and there is no charge to participate, but all three organizations appreciate donations. For more information call SABO at (520) 432-1388.
A little further afield...but worth the drive
Patagonia Lake State Park (520) 287-6965
Patagonia, AZ (northeast of Nogales)
Patagonia Lake State Park offers many aquatic recreational opportunities in addition to being a good place to find water birds. The 265-acre man-made lake attracts canyon towhee, Inca dove, vermilion flycatcher, black vulture, great blue heron, and various hummingbirds. White tail deer are often seen in the hills. The park is crowded in the summer but very appealing in the cooler months. Camping spaces are available right beside the lake to get a good view of the water birds as soon as you wake up. There is a $7 fee for day use (vehicle +1-4 adults) and a fee for camping which depends on the amenities you choose--in the $12-$25 range. Fees may be slightly higher between Memorial Day to Labor Day on weekends and holidays. Day use hours are 8 am to 10 pm; access to the park is closed from 10 pm to 4 am. During peak visitor months (summer) park closures may occur. To get there: take Highway 82 from Mustang Corners (junction of Hwy 90 and Hwy 82) through Sonoita and Patagonia. About 7 miles past Patagonia you'll see the road to the lake.
Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve (520) 394-2400
Owned and operated by The Nature Conservancy
Sonoita Creek flows through the valley between the Patagonia and Santa Rita mountains south of the towns of Sonoita and Patagonia. There are several cleared hiking trails. Some are relatively short loops near the visitor center and the longer Platts Upland trail is 3.2 miles. The preserve is open Wednesday through Sunday and closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Hours are: April-September 6:30 am-4 pm; October-March 7:30 am-4 pm. Charge is $5 per person and no pets are allowed beyond the parking lot.
If you are familiar with the Ramsey Creek Preserve, you may find PSCP somewhat disappointing for the $5 price tag. The visitor center is just a bathroom and an office, and the trails are very similar to what you can see for free at the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. But if you're camping at Patagonia Lake this would make a handy little side trip.
Bog Hole Wildlife Area
Bog Hole Wildlife Area lies near the headwaters of the Santa Cruz River in the Meadow Valley Flat portion of the San Rafael Valley. At an elevation of about 5,000 feet, the area receives an average of 17.3 inches of rainfall annually, mostly from monsoon rains falling July through September. The Wildlife Area is located eight miles southeast of Patagonia in Santa Cruz County and is in the Sierra Vista Ranger District of the Coronado National Forest.
The wetland and riparian habitat developed and protected in Big Hole Wildlife Area provides habitat for a variety of species. The primary management emphasis for the area is to provide nesting and resting habitat for waterfowl. In addition, the pond serves as a habitat for native fish and amphibian species.
The area provides excellent habitat for a variety of birds. Waterfowl such as canvasback and mallard visit the area. Nongame birds such as the Western screech-owl, red-tailed hawk, great blue heron, and magnificent hummingbird can also be found here. Special status species that may be seen here include Baird's sparrow, Mexican spotted owl, and Sprague's pipit.
Resident mammals include black-tailed jack rabbit, bobcat, white-nosed coati, and white-tailed deer.
Endangered native fish occurring in the area are the Gila topminnow and longfin dace. Amphibians and reptiles that may be seen are Chiricahua leopard frog, lowland leopard frog, Sonoran tiger salamander, and Northern Mexican gartersnake.
From Patagonia, head east on Forest Road 58. When you get to the junction with Forest Road 765, turn left. When the road forks, veer right (as if going to the Cott Tank drainage). Turn right on the two-track road that parallels the exclosure fence. Park at the wooden ladder marked with Bog Hole Wildlife Area signs.