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Southwest Wings Birding and Nature Festival

Wednesday, Jul 31, 2019 at 6:00am

Cochise College Sierra Vista Campus
901 N. Colombo Ave.
Sierra Vista, AZ 85635

The Summer festival held in August is our big event with free programs, wildlife exhibits, vendors, guided trips and a keynote buffet. Southwest Wings is an educational celebration of the diversity of birds, mammals, reptiles, and insects, in their environment; the sky islands in southern Arizona.

Schedule of Events:

6:00 AM  -  3:00 PM: WA1 Carr Canyon

Join professional guide, Laurens Halsey, on this tour of Carr Canyon, beginning in the lower canyon, where we will look for Gambel's Quail, Rufous-crowned, Chipping and Botteri's Sparrows, Blue and Black-headed Grosbeaks, and other canyon outlet species. We may stop at the Carr House Nature Center to check the hummingbird feeders. Venturing to the top of Carr Canyon, we may see up to six species of hummingbirds, as well as Arizona, Gila and Acorn Woodpeckers, Grace's and Olive Warblers, Painted Redstart, Yellow-eyed Junco, Hepatic Tanager, Scott's Oriole and other mountain and canyon specialties. We will also be on the lookout for some of the characteristic plants, mammals, and reptiles of the Huachuca Mountains. Be prepared for a slow walk covering a mile or two with a 200ft elevation gain and uneven terrain. Bring hat, water, sun protection, and wear trail shoes. Lunch is provided. Hiking Difficulty: 3 moderate. Guide Laurens Halsey.

6:00 AM  -  4:00 PM: WA3 Sonoran Desert Sampler

Join professional bird guide and environmental educator, Jeff Babson, on a trip to explore the saguaro forest and other habitats of the Arizona Upland subdivision of the Sonoran Desert. We will visit locations that are stunningly beautiful and rich in biological diversity. We will be seeking species such as Gilded Flicker, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Purple Martin, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Lucy's Warbler, Black-throated and Rufous-winged Sparrows, and more. It will be hot, so bring plenty of water, sunscreen, hat, and lip balm. Lunch provided. Difficulty: 2 easy. Guide Jeff Babson

6:00 AM  -  3:00 PM: WA4 Escapule Wash and San Pedro River

​Flowing north from Mexico through the Sky Island region of SE Arizona the San Pedro is the last major undammed river remaining in the state. The San Pedro is a vibrant green ribbon of life, an avian super highway through the desert for millions of migrants. In 1995 the American Bird Conservancy named the San Pedro the first Globally Important Bird Area in the US. The dense cottonwood/willow forest supports a wide range of breeding species. This beginning birder friendly trip will also visit Escapule Wash. Driving times will be short and the walking flat. Intermediate and advanced birders will be happy with the array of species as we search for Gray Hawk, low elevation warblers, Abert’s Towhee, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Zone-tailed Hawk and many more. Lunch is Provided. Difficulty: 2 easy. Guide Richard Bansberg.

6:00 AM  -  4:00 PM: WA5 Madera Canyon

​Join professional guide Matt Brown on a trip which will take you to Madera Canyon via Box Canyon and the Santa Rita grasslands and explore this famous birding site. For the last couple of years Box Canyon has hosted breeding Five-striped Sparrow and we will stop to look for this rare species, also hoping to see Varied Bunting and Scott's Oriole. Moving on to Madera Canyon we will bird the many habitats it has to offer - grassland, riparian, and woodland. We will also enjoy a picnic lunch and watch feeding stations. Target species would include Rivoli's Hummingbird, Elegant Trogon, Painted Redstart, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Hepatic Tanager, Botteri’s Sparrow, Yellow-eyed Junco and Scott’s Oriole. Lunch is provided. Hiking Difficulty: 3 moderate. Guide Matt Brown.

6:00 AM  -  3:00 PM: WA6 Ash and Miller Canyons

​Join professional guide Jennie MacFarland on this trip to explore Miller Canyon. On this Canyon tour, we will begin in the grasslands below the canyons, where we will look for Rufous-crowned and Botteri’s Sparrows, Blue Grosbeak, and other lowland species. Upper Miller Canyon is known to local birders as a reliable place to find nesting pairs of Red-faced Warblers and there may be a chance of a Mexican Spotted Owl. Other SE Arizona specialties including Arizona Woodpecker, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Painted Redstart, Grace’s Warbler, Hepatic Tanager and Scott's Oriole are all found here. This trip includes a stop at Ash Canyon B&B for up to 10 species of hummingbirds, including a chance of seeing the rare Lucifer Hummingbird, and other foothills birds. Be prepared for a two-mile slow walk with a 300-foot elevation gain and uneven terrain. Hiking Difficulty: 4 difficult. Lunch provided. Guide Jennie MacFarland.

​6:00 AM  -  4:00 PM: WA7 Las Cienegas and Box Canyon

A visit to what was formerly one of the Southwest’s largest cattle ranches. This expansive BLM National Conservation Area is home to Pronghorn Antelope, Prairie Dogs and a wide variety of birds. We will visit rolling grasslands, mesquite thickets and cottonwood-lined Cienega Creek, one of the area’s only sources of permanent water, looking for Zone-tailed and Gray Hawks, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Bell’s Vireo, Lucy’s Warbler, Summer Tanager, Blue Grosbeak, Abert’s Towhee, and Cassin’s, Botteri’s, Song, Lark, and Grasshopper Sparrows. We will enjoy a picnic lunch, then head through the oaky foothills of the Santa Rita Mountains to Box Canyon. In this lush succulent-thornscrub habitat, we hope to find Five-striped Sparrow, Varied Bunting, Costa’s Hummingbird, Scott’s and Hooded Oriole, and more. Lunch is provided. Hiking Difficulty: 1-2 easy. Guide Ken Blankenship.

​6:00 AM  -  4:00 PM: WA8 River to Mountains

​This field trip will cover all of the habitats in the San Pedro River Valley and the Huachuca Mountains. Beginning at Escapule Wash we will search for Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, Bell's Vireo, several different orioles, tanagers, thrashers, warblers and other riparian specialties. The cottonwood forest along the river is particularly lush and may yield Gray Hawk, Vermilion Flycatcher, Abert's Towhee, Black-headed Grosbeak and several species of Empidonax flycatchers. We will finish our river avian smorgasbord with hummingbirds, kingbirds and perhaps even a Green Kingfisher at San Pedro House. Generally flat terrain but there may be some ankle deep water.

Moving on we will head up to the Huachuca Mountains to explore a variety of habitats, including foothill grasslands, sycamore lined canyon riparian woodland and pine forest searching for regional and mountain specialties such as Elegant Trogon, Buff-breasted Flycatcher, Painted Redstart, Grace's and Olive Warblers, Hepatic Tanager, Cassin’s Sparrow, and hummingbirds. Lunch is provided. Hiking Difficulty: 3-4 moderate to difficult. Guide Vincent Pinto.
6:30 AM  -  4:00 PM: WT1 Overnight California Gulch

The rugged canyons of the Pajarito Mountains are some of the most celebrated birding spots on the Arizona Sonora border. This overnight tour will focus on the search for the area’s most famous specialty birds, among them Montezuma Quail, Buff-collared Nightjar, Varied Bunting, and Five-striped Sparrow. This tour also provides excellent opportunities for seeing a good cross-section of southeast Arizona’s many specialties, including Gray Hawk, Elegant Trogon, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Tropical Kingbird, Mexican Jay, Painted Redstart, Cassin’s, Botteri’s and Rufous-crowned Sparrows, and Scott’s Oriole. We begin by heading to Patagonia and Rio Rico, where we will hit prime locations for Violet-crowned Hummingbird, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, and other exciting possibilities. After a nice lunch our route takes us directly to California Gulch, where at the confluence of California Gulch and Warsaw Canyon we will look for the rare Five-striped Sparrow and other species. This visit will be timed so that we remain in the area until the end of the day to look for the Buff-collared Nightjar, which breeds there, as well as the chance of other night birds. We will have a 'picnic' dinner and be late back to our accommodation at Rancho Santa Cruz. The next morning, after a home-cooked breakfast, we will explore the “birdy” Santa Cruz Valley, where we hope to spot Rose-throated Becard, Thick-billed Kingbird and other delights. Most of our birding will be from the vehicle or on level, sometimes rocky paths. This trip includes all meals and lodging at the Rancho Santa Cruz B&B. Hiking Difficulty: 3 moderate. This trip is best suited for intermediate birding skills. Bring your binoculars and do not forget your camera and insect repellent! Guide Richard Fray.

6:30 AM  -  4:30 PM: WT2 Overnight Chiricahua Mountains/Cave Creek

The Chiricahua Mountains are the largest and the highest of the border ranges that rise like islands out of the desert grasslands of SE Arizona. Predictably, they also host the most diversified community of birds. Exploring this ecological layer cake we will start with Cassin's and Botteri's Sparrows in the prairies at the base, climb into the Sierra Madrean pine-oak woodlands and search for Arizona Woodpecker, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, and Bridled Titmouse, and as we enter the coniferous forest in the highlands we'll flirt with the so-called "women warblers": Virginia's, Grace's, and Olive. Here, too, are Greater Pewees and cherry-headed Red-faced Warblers from the Sierra Madres living in conjunction with Rocky Mountain species like Pygmy Nuthatch and Steller's Jay. A Chiricahua specialty is the Mexican Chickadee, on public lands not found anywhere else within the entire United States. Situated at the mouth of majestic Cave Creek Canyon, 3,000 feet below tiers of immense red cliffs, we have two nights in the village of Portal. There will be enough time to meander into sycamore-laced South Fork for Elegant Trogon, as well as for encounters with Zone-tailed Hawk, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Painted Redstart, and Hepatic Tanager. Habitués of the breezeway feeders at Portal Peak Lodge, Rivoli's, Blue-throated, Broad-billed, Broad-tailed, and migrating male Rufous Hummingbirds are all expected, mixed with possible Calliope, Violet-crowned, and Lucifer Hummingbirds. On a pre-breakfast excursion into the desert below Portal we'll try for Scaled Quail and Bendire's and Crissal Thrashers while the air is still cool. Adjacent foothills harbor Juniper Titmouse and Black-chinned Sparrow, Great Basin birds at their southern limits in the Chiricahuas. A night run up Cave Creek may net us Whiskered Screech-Owl and Elf Owl, the world's smallest member of the owl tribe, along with an advertising Mexican Whip-poor-will. This trip includes all meals and two nights accommodation at the Portal Peak Lodge. Single participants will be paired in double occupancy. This trip is best suited for intermediate birding skills. Bring your binoculars, camera, pocket flashlight, wear sturdy hiking boots, and do not forget your hat and sunscreen. With birding stops en route, this trip may get back after 4 pm. Hiking Difficulty: 3 moderate. Guide: Rick Taylor

7:00 PM 9: 30 PM: WP1 Night Sky

Join naturalist, wildlife biologist and amateur astronomer Vincent Pinto for an evening of exploration and intrigue in nature. Venturing to the lower Huachuca Canyons, Vincent will take you on a tour of the constellations and visible planets as you meander through the grasslands and woodlands of the Huachuca foothills.
Simultaneously, Vincent will attempt to find various species of owls, and listen for nightjars as well as seek signs of area carnivores. You will also seek some of the myriad of invertebrates active during monsoon season. Further, you'll investigate various night-blooming plants.

Don't miss this night-time naturalist extravaganza! Please do not wear white or very light colored clothing or hats – khaki is okay. Bring a flashlight or headlamp and field guide. Cameras are okay. Best suited for intermediate to advanced birders and people interested in the natural history of the area. Hiking Difficulty: 3 moderate. Guide Vincent Pinto

All Field Trips begin and end at the Cochise College Library.

Field Trip prices per person are:
Full Day $90
Half Day $45
Night $45
Overnight $250
Trips include all transportation and meals.

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