Wildlife Viewing in January
Phoenix and Central Arizona
Amazingly, metropolitan Phoenix has great winter birding and wildlife watching. Some argue that Arizona has the nation’s best array of thrashers, and the Baseline road “thrasher site” is the place to see all five: Le Conte's, crissal, sage, curve-billed and Bendire’s.
Santa Cruz Flats
Head over to the Santa Cruz flats near Arizona City in southwestern Pinal County to seek the elusive mountain plover. Horned larks are common here, and additional “life-list” possibilities include crested caracara, ferruginous hawk and merlin. Rufous hummingbirds begin passing through on their amazing northward migration, which is timed in the Sonoran Desert to coincide with the blooming of chuparosa shrubs. Expect ravenous rufous hummers to bully and chase off your backyard nectar feeding regulars for a few peak weeks during migration.
Hassayampa River Preserve
At the Nature Conservancy’s Hassayampa River Preserve northwest of Phoenix, search out winter resident birds such as red-shafted and gilded flickers, cedar waxwings, white-crowned sparrows, yellow-rumped warblers and ruby-crowned kinglets. The Hassayampa River flows underground beneath nearly 100 miles of Sonoran Desert, but emerges here to feed a lush riparian community supporting 280 species of birds. Palm Lake at the Preserve offers four-acres of open water and marsh. Watch for herons, white-faced ibis, and pied-billed grebe. Look down on occasion, too, for the tracks of deer, javelina, raccoon, bobcat and ringtails--you might even see the creatures that leave them.
Snowshoes allow a silent walk through the woods and the chance to listen for dark-eyed juncos, downy and hairy woodpeckers, and Stellar’s jays around Flagstaff and Coconino County. If you see small pine boughs littered along the snowy base of a group of pines, stop and listen for Abert’s squirrels moving through the canopy foraging on the cambium in pine branches.
Tucson and Southern Arizona
The best season for thrashers birdwatchers! Skulking crissal, Bendire's and LeConte's burst into full song from exposed perches, courting in the low desert of Avra Valley where Costa's and Anna's hummingbirds perform spectacular aerial displays. The Santa Cruz Flats host ruddy ground doves and wintering mountain plovers. Waterfowl are numerous at Willcox, Patagonia and Parker Canyon Lakes and urban ponds. Wintering raptors and sparrows abound in many habitats alongside desert residents. The Wings Over Willcox birding festival celebrates over 20,000 Sandhill cranes and 14 species of raptors wintering in the Sulphur Springs Valley; which is also a great place to find end-of-the-rut Coues whitetail deer. Photograph antlered bucks in the grassy foothills below Cochise Stronghold.
Wings Over Willcox Festival
The mission of the Wings Over Willcox festival is to foster awareness of birds, wildlife and their habitats; to promote conservation and habitat development of the birds and wildlife of Southeastern Arizona; and to develop viable, nature-based tourism in Willcox and the surrounding areas.