The Sky Islands of the Southwest
Price: TBD | Pre-register today!
Magical, high-elevation "Sky Island" mountain ranges rise thousands of feet above the desert floor of Southeastern Arizona. Here, Roadrunners and Vermillion Flycatchers dart among saguaro cacti and mesquite thickets in the low foothills, while Elegant Trogans and brilliant hummingbirds adorn the branches of a subtropical montane forests above.
This trip loops through Portal, Arizona, the gateway to the famed Chiricahua Mountains, then continues through the Huachuca Mountains and Madera Canyon. Along the way, we'll experience diverse ecosystems from the Sonoran Desert to the sycamore-lined creeks of Ramsey Canyon.
Elegant Trogon, Red-faced Warbler, Painted Redstart and a host of hummingbirds (Blue-throated Mountain-gem, Lucifer, Violet-crowned and more) enliven the beautiful landscape of the sky islands. Spring migrants will also be passing through the region, adding birds like Hermit Warbler and Lazuli Bunting to the mix. And you never know what will show up in Southeast Arizona: Ruddy Ground-Dove, Rufous-backed Robin, Golden-crowned Warbler have all been seen this year, but there are sure to be surprises in store as well!
This flexible itinerary will include renowned lodges and classic birding destinations such as Cave Creek Ranch, Ash Canyon Bird Sanctuary, Ramsey Canyon, Madera Canyon, San Pedro River, Rustler Park, Saguaro National Park, and more.
Detailed Itinerary Coming Soon
Flow of the Day: The itinerary is designed to maximize our experience with the region's great diversity of birdlife and ecosystems. We won’t, however, be rushing from place to place to chase the largest species list possible. Our goal is to spend time appreciating the species we encounter at an enjoyable pace. Birding walks begin in the early morning, and we travel slowly to allow for the best bird and wildlife encounters and observation.
Afternoon plans typically allow for some afternoon rest time at the lodges, though this is not always feasible when we are transferring between lodges and landscapes.
Clothing: Pack light field clothing of neutral colors. Bring several pairs of long pants and comfortable, light, airy shirts. Long-sleeved (relaxed fit) shirts are useful for protection from the sun, as is a light hat or cap. Be sure to have a pair of comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots, plus a second pair of tennis shoes or sandals. A sweater or fleece is important for our higher elevation areas. You may want more casual clothing for traveling or dinners.
Equipment: Bring a pair of binoculars, a field guide and a camera with extra batteries. The guides will carry spotting scopes. Pack sunglasses and sunscreen, a small flashlight or headlamp, a small alarm clock (a smartphone will work), insect repellent, a small daypack, and a small folding stool if you get tired standing for long periods waiting for birds.
Physical Expectations: Much of the birding on this trip will be along roadsides or easily walked trails, but do expect some hilly and uneven conditions There is some birding at higher altitudes, and the tour does spend some time at mid-elevations, which might require some folks to walk more slowly on hillier slopes.
Participants should be able to hike on moderate terrain up to 2 miles per day, and be ready to expect conditions that may be hot, cold, dry, wet, or anything in-between.
Transportation: We will be travelling in Arizona in a 15-passenger van. Trip capacity is limited for traveling comfortably in our vehicle.
Accommodations: All of the lodges where we’ll be staying are situated in or near ecological reserves. They are chosen for strategic access to great birding, rather than for the bells and whistles that come with more luxury resorts. That said, all lodges are clean and comfortable, and often allow for excellent birding right at the hotel property.
Chip Darmstadt is the executive director of the North Branch Nature Center and an avid neotropical birder and naturalist. His first experience in the tropics was working as a field assistant studying birds in Venezuela and Costa Rica. After catching the tropical birding bug, he has returned to the tropics many times to marvel at the incredible diversity of Central and South America. Chip has guided birding trips around the world, and around the United States, for nearly 25 years.
- All lodging and meals.
- An expert naturalist guide.
- Any entrance fees and park admissions.
- Transportation, including transfer to and from the airport.
- Pre-departure orientation session at North Branch Nature Center before the trip.
What is not included: Airfare, gratuities, pre-trip expenses, and incidentals.
Ready to go to Arizona?
Email [email protected] to get signed up.
Please contact us for an example bird list.