Wildlife Viewing in August
Phoenix and Central Arizona
It can be hit or miss, but during the hot summer months you can often see one of Phoenix’s largest urban bat roosts in action right here in the middle of town. This is an amazing sight to see! At sunset thousands of Mexican free-tail bats emerge from the "Phoenix Bat Cave" near the Biltmore to forage on mosquitoes. There are so many bats that it is nearly a steady stream lasting for a good twenty minutes. The Phoenix Bat Cave is really a 7 mile long underground tunnel which is part of a Maricopa County Flood Control ditch. A good viewing spot is at the southwest corner of 24th Street and Biltmore Circle, just south of Lincoln. If you go, park at at the commercial building located at 2400 W. Arizona Biltmore Circle. The building is on the northeast corner of 24th Street and Arizona Biltmore Circle, just south of Lincoln Dr. The viewing area is on the southwest corner of that intersection, south of the Squaw Peak Police Precinct.
In addition to the Mexican free-tailed bats along the canal near Camelback and 40th St. easily seen in July, look for lesser nighthawks in the same area. Not hawks at all, they are still excellent predators - of insects! Look for brown, slender birds with long graceful wings sporting a white band near each wing top. These are crepuscular hunters - they are most active at dusk and dawn. Nighthawks have huge eyes and mouths that open wide like a gate. They dart about in the low sky and scoop flying insects into their open mouths. Listen for a faint and sweetly strange sound from the nighthawks when they scoop low to the ground.
August is also peak season for butterflies, with guided walks offered at Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park, Desert Botanical Garden, Gilbert Riparian Preserve, and other spots – check out the website for the Central Arizona Butterfly Association for dates and details. Adventurous (and cautious) wildlife watchers can look for black bears feasting on ripe prickly pear cactus fruit in the opuntia patches at Mt. Ord, or other mountain foothills of the Tonto National Forest.
Visit the community of Pinetop-Lakeside to seek Lewis’ woodpecker. Lakeside Campground and the orchards and oak trees around the Post Office are good places to check for these strawberry-red and iridescent-green woodpeckers (which can also be found at Woodland Lake Park). Permanent forest residents, such as acorn woodpecker, are found in family groups caching food in snags riddled with holes. Look along Walnut Creek or along the Springs Trail in Pinetop and listen for woodpecker calls. Spruce-fir and aspen forests are colder in spring and warm-up by summer, providing excellent opportunities for resident birds such as golden-crowned kinglet, red crossbill, Clark’s nutcracker, olive warbler, red-breasted nuthatch and hermit thrush. Walk the Benny Creek and Little Colorado River trails in Greer for these birds while also checking the river for American dipper or the trails around Hannagan Meadow. Look in aspen groves for blue (now known as “dusky”) grouse foraging on the ground.
Tucson and Southern Arizona
Hummingbird numbers and diversity are at their peak as early migrants and fledlgings crowd feeders in Miller and Ash Canyons, Patagonia, Portal and Madera Canyon where rarities such as white-eared, Lucifer and Berylline hummingbirds and plain-capped starthroat are possible alongside migrant rufous and calliope. Mountain canyons become quiet but still active with elegant trogons and painted redstarts and the possibility of Mexican rarities like Aztec thrush. Riparian thickets and desert scrub hold early migrants and flycatchers heading south. The Southwest Wings Birding Festival in Sierra Vista and Tucson Bird & Wildlife Festival in Tucson, make for outstanding birding and wildlife-watching. August is also peak butterfly season. You can sign up for guided walks offered by the Southeast Arizona Butterfly Association. Mt Graham (near Safford) offers a chance to escape the low desert heat and to seek one of Arizona’s rarest of all species – the endemic (and endangered) Mt. Graham red squirrel. The Swift Trail, also known as “Arizona 366,” is paved and among the most scenic drives in Graham County.