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Winter Raptor Escape to Southeast Arizona

Undoubtedly, you’ve heard of the amazing birding to be experienced throughout the ‘Sky Islands’ region of southeastern Arizona. Garnering most of the attention are Mexican species that occur nowhere else in the continental US, notably hummingbirds, trogons and flycatchers. Most birders venture to this striking landscape during the spring and late summer, when monsoon rains usher in a ‘second spring’ that supports an incredible avian diversity. Often overlooked – but just as spectacular – is the winter season, when large numbers of raptors inhabit the sea of open country surrounding the Sky Island mountain ranges.

On this new HMANA trip, our search for winter raptors will take us to the Santa Cruz Flats, Las Cienegas NCA, San Rafael Valley, San Pedro River RNCA and Sulphur Springs Valley. Species we hope to encounter include Ferruginous Hawk, Harris’s Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk (many morphs and subspecies), White-tailed Kite, Prairie and Peregrine Falcon, Burrowing Owl, Short-eared Owl, Golden and Bald Eagle and Merlin (all three subspecies are possible). We will keep a watch out for uncommon species including Zone-tailed Hawk, Gray Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Short-tailed Hawk and Western and Whiskered-Screech Owl as we pursue and photograph target species. In addition, the general birding is exceptional – Sandhill Cranes by the thousands, Mountain Plover, Scaled Quail, Vermillion Flycatcher, Loggerhead Shrike, Chihuahuan Raven and many more possibilities, including a good chance for ABA area rarities.

The tour starts and ends in Tucson, AZ. Tour cost includes guide, ground transportation,  park fees, lodging, and most meals. Airfare to/from Tuscon is not included.

Cost:

Members: $2.095
Non-Members: $2,145
Single Supplement: $395

Deposit, $500

We hope you will join us for this spectacular Winter Raptor Escape! Please contact Julie Brown at brown@hmana.org for more information or to save your spot today.

Zach Smith, a past HMANA board member, is a passionate raptor biologist and tour guide and has led field trips around the world. Zach grew up in San Diego playing a lot of soccer. A move to Davis, California for college eventually introduced him to the world of birds, particularly raptors. After graduation, he embarked on a life of vagrancy as a field biologist that led to studying birds in many wild parts of California, the Gulf coast of Texas, the southern New Jersey shore, the Delmarva peninsula, Chile’s Atacama Desert, the humid lowlands of Veracruz and the Canary Islands. Zach loves being in the field looking at raptors and enjoys sharing what he has learned over the years. He has led field trips in northern California, Arizona for local bird groups and birding festivals and has led multi-day tours in Mexico for Raptours. He lives in the Shawangunk Mountains with his wife Elizabeth amidst fishers, Cerulean Warblers, Barred Owls and many other brilliant, crazy neighbors.
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Hourly Schedule

Day 1 - Jan. 16

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Arrive in Tucson
Arrive Tucson afternoon-evening. Participants will be shuttled to Hotel McCoy for check-in, unpacking, relaxing, etc. We will head to a nearby restaurant for dinner, introductions, and a brief tour overview. Note: We will stick largely to this itinerary but will be checking eBird regularly for birds in the area that warrant slight alterations. Overnight in Tucson at Hotel McCoy.
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Check-In
Hotel McCoy

Day 2 - Jan. 17

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Morning Trip
For our first morning we will search for raptors in and around the Tucson city limits. The unusual Harris’s Hawk, a year-round resident of the southwest, can be readily seen throughout the city. Our main destination is the Tanque Verde Wash in eastern Tucson, where several species of diurnal raptors can be observed and there is potential here for owls, such as Long-eared Owl and Western Screech-Owl.
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Afternoon Trip
After lunch we will head northwest to the Santa Cruz Flats, an agricultural area NW of Tucson where wintering raptor diversity is high. We will see numerous Ferruginous and Red-tailed Hawks (all morphs, including likely Harlan’s) as well as Northern Harrier, American Kestrel, Prairie Falcon, Merlin (all three subspecies are possible), Crested Caracara and Burrowing Owl. Less common species here include Golden and Bald Eagles, Rough-legged Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, White-tailed Kite and possibly Zone-tailed Hawk.

Day 3 - Jan. 18

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All Day
We will spend all day at the Santa Cruz Flats, looking for species missed yesterday and taking ample time to simply be with the birds in this raptor-rich area. Locales like this where raptor density is quite high can provide excellent opportunities for observing hunting behavior as well as interesting species interactions. We will either pack a lunch from the hotel or grab a bite on the road.

Day 4 - Jan. 19

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Checkout
Hotel McCoy>/h6>
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Morning Trip
Travel to Sierra Vista Our route for the morning/early afternoon will follow the Santa Cruz River south from Tucson towards Nogales and then northeast along Sonoita Creek through Patagonia and Sonoita. We will bird opportunistically as we pass through desert scrub, riparian, agriculture and grassland habitats. Raptors we will likely encounter include Black and Turkey Vultures, White-tailed Kite, Northern Harrier, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk (including fuertesi), Ferruginous Hawk, American Kestrel, Merlin and Crested Caracara.
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Check-In
Casa de San Pedro Bed & Breakfast, which is situated southeast of Sierra Vista along the scenic San Pedro River, an important wildlife corridor.
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Afternoon
We will relax and bird in the vicinity of the B&B in the afternoon.

Day 5 - Jan. 20

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Morning Trip
We will head to the Las Cienegas NCA, where range and grassland habitats attract many raptors. Species we should see include White-tailed Kite, Prairie Falcon, Merlin, American Kestrel, Northern Harrier, the honorary raptor Loggerhead Shrike along with wintering sparrows, longspurs and pipits. Much of this area is accessed by remote dirt roads, so we will likely be stopping frequently, scanning and walking short distances looking for birds.
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Mid-Day
For lunch we will head a short ways south to Patagonia. This is where one of the most recent winter sightings of Gray Hawk occurred (2017) so perhaps we can discover one of these handsome birds during our lunch break.
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Afternoon
For the afternoon, we will head to another grassland area, San Rafael Grasslands. Here, many of the same species we will have likely encountered are commonly seen, but this is one of the most reliable spots for Short-eared Owl. Again, this is roadside birding on little-traveled roads, so frequent stops, scans and short walks will be the plan.

Day 6 - Jan. 21

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Morning Trip
Our first destination is the San Pedro River Riparian NCA northeast of Sierra Vista. As is the case during other times of year, this riparian corridor snaking through the desert provides habitat for wintering birds. We will look for raptors such as Gray Hawk, Zone-tailed Hawk, Merlin, and Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks as well as roosting Western Screech, Barn and possibly Long-eared Owl. Additionally, many migrant songbirds that are normally far south of Arizona at this time of year find a suitable winter home along this river corridor. The area is accessed by flat, easy walking trails.
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Afternoon Trip
For the afternoon we will head a short ways south along the San Pedro to Hereford, where more open rangeland attracts wintering raptors and grassland sparrows.
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Evening Trip
After dinner in Sierra Vista, we may decide to venture out again to nearby Ramsey Canyon along the eastern edge of the Huachuca Mountains and listen for Whiskered Screech Owl.

Day 7 - Jan. 22

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Morning Trip
We will try to get an early start and head to Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area in the Sulphur Springs Valley. This is a managed wetland where a great diversity of wintering birds can be found. One of the big ‘draws’ here are the thousands of Sandhill Cranes resting and feeding. Nearly all of the diurnal raptors, and some owls, that are expected on the tour are possible here, thanks to plentiful hunting opportunities provided by a water source in the desert. We will spend ample time enjoying the avian diversity and will hopefully be treated to some hunting behavior.
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Afternoon Trip
Later, we will head into the agricultural landscape of the Sulphur Springs Valley, where Ferruginous Hawks should be plentiful, as well as Golden eagles, Prairie Falcons and other birds attracted to wide-open farm fields.

Day 8 - Jan. 23

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Morning
Early checkout of the Casa de San Pedro. Drive 1.5 hours to Tucson to catch late morning and afternoon flights home.

Book Event

Winter Raptor Escape Tour Registration (Member) - $2095 USD

Use for regular registration (does not include single supplement)

Available Tickets: Unlimited
The Winter Raptor Escape Tour Registration (Member) - $2095 ticket is sold out. You can try another ticket or another date.
Winter Raptor Escape Tour Registration w/ Single Supplement (Member) - $2490 USD

Registration for Single Room on Tour

Available Tickets: Unlimited
The Winter Raptor Escape Tour Registration w/ Single Supplement (Member) - $2490 ticket is sold out. You can try another ticket or another date.
Winter Raptor Escape Tour Registration (Non-Member) - $2145 USD

Use for regular registration (does not include single supplement)

Available Tickets: Unlimited
The Winter Raptor Escape Tour Registration (Non-Member) - $2145 ticket is sold out. You can try another ticket or another date.
Winter Raptor Escape Tour Registration w/ Single Supplement (Non-Member) - $2540 USD

Registration for Single Room on Tour

Available Tickets: Unlimited
The Winter Raptor Escape Tour Registration w/ Single Supplement (Non-Member) - $2540 ticket is sold out. You can try another ticket or another date.
Winter Raptor Escape Tour Deposit - $500 USD

Must pay balance prior to tour.

Available Tickets: Unlimited
The Winter Raptor Escape Tour Deposit - $500 ticket is sold out. You can try another ticket or another date.

Date

Jan 16 2020 - Jan 23 2020

Local Time

  • Timezone: America/New_York
  • Date: Jan 16 2020 - Jan 23 2020

Cost

From 2095

More Info

Pay Tour Balance

Location

Tucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Event Type
Zach Smith

Organizer

Zach Smith
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