2021 Arizona

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On April 15
th, after a year in pandemic quarantine, we took our first trip out of California to Arizona, one of my favorite birding states. Our plan was to first visit some birding hot spots in the Phoenix area, including a visit to Fred Hecht. He was, along with me and several others, a fellow in human genetics with Arno Motulsky, who had one of the only three such fellowships in the country. The fellowship was from 1964 to 1966. I had not seen Fred in over 40 years. However, shortly into the visit with him and his wife Barbara, it seemed like yesterday.

The birding hot spots
around Phoenix we chose were as follows.

Gilbert Water Ranch. This water ranch is located in the town of Gilbert, south of downtown Phoenix. Its layout is as follows.

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As can be seen it consists of 8 water ponds, a couple of which were dry when we visited. The major ducks we saw were Mallards, a trio of which were in a white plumage.

Boyd Thompson Arboretum showcases a collection of 3,200 plants from deserts around the world, including Sonoran Desert vegetation native to central Arizona. Combine this greenery with the riparian areas along Queen Creek, a small man-made lake, flowers in the Hummingbird-Butterfly Garden, and fruiting trees in the Herb Garden, and you have a wide diversity of habitats for birds. When I first walked in there was a Northern Cardinal sitting on a bench. I got a photo just as he began to fly away.
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Boyce Thompson Arboretum

Desert Botanical Garden is a 140-acre (57 ha) botanical garden located in Papago Park, at 1201 N. Galvin Parkway in Phoenix, central Arizona. Founded by the Arizona Cactus and Native Flora Society in 1937[1] and established at this site in 1939, the garden now has more than 50,000 plants, in more than 4,000 taxa, one-third of which are native to the area, including 379 species, which are rare, threatened or endangered. Of special note are the rich collections of agave (4,026 plants in 248 taxa) and cacti (13,973 plants in 1,320 taxa. It focuses on plants adapted to desert conditions, including an Australian collection, a Baja California collection and a South American collection. Several ecosystems are represented: a mesquite bosque, semidesert grassland, and upland chaparral.

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There are a number of different trails. A nice feature is the availability of electric carts to ease the walking.

Other Sites in Phoenix Area
Thrasher Site.
This was a parking place next to some open fields. We did not see any thrashers when we were there.
Glendale Recharge Ponds. “The Glendale Recharge Ponds are one of the best birding locations in Maricopa County.” Six very large basins are very dull looking at a glance, but the birds that show up here make this place one of the most exciting hotspots in the county.
Overall Birding Rating: 4 (Top 10 Maricopa County Hotspot) *sometimes the basins may be completely empty.” When we were there the latter was the case.
Tres Rios Wetlands. We were told the wetlands were dry and took a pass.
Phoenix Zoo There was not a single parking site in the huge parking lot. Because of that, and the $50 entry price for both of us, led us to take a pass on this site as well.

For the birding hot spots
around and south of Tucson, we chose were as follows.

Sweetwater Preserve is an 880+ acre preserve located in the eastern foothills of the Tucson Mountains northwest of Tucson. The trail map is as follows.

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Trails start at the left lower corner. Many are concrete trails ideal for wheelchairs. It is a beautiful site with numerous restroom facilities and several water overlooks. At time we were there we only saw a few Coots.

Saguaro National Park The park is located in southern Arizona near Tucson. This park protects the Saguaro cactus on a tract of land through the Sonoran Desert. There are two separate sections to the park.

The eastern section, also called the
Rincon Mountain District, has a lower concentration of cacti. It offers miles of backcountry trails, perfect for those who want to leave the crowds behind.
The western section, also called the
Tucson Mountain District, has a denser population of cacti. This is the more popular section of the park with hummingbird aviary, other aviary, and raptor show. Since we had been there twice before (see other Arizona years) we skipped it this time.

Madera Canyon – Santa Rita Lodge and Gift Shop.
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I consider this one of the best birding sites in the country, not just Arizona. It has more feeders than any other site I know of and plenty of chairs to sit on. It is very popular place, but all are very friendly and helpful. If you don’t know the species you are looking at, someone near you will. You can see a wide variety of birds of all sizes from wild turkeys to titmice.

The Patton Center for Hummingbirds is a very close second to Madera Canyon. It is dedicated to the celebration and conservation of hummingbirds, but 213 different bird species have been reported for this cozy home lot on the outskirts of Patagonia, including Violet-crowned Hummingbirds, Gray Hawks, Varied Buntings, Thick-billed Kingbirds, and many more local specialties. It has many hummingbird and suet feeders.
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I always enjoy going there and see something different every time.

Pena Blanca Lake This is a new site I had not been to before. My son-in law, Frank Sheets introduced me to it. He and my daughter, Laurie, live in Tubac in the winter.
It is a very peaceful small lake just northwest of Nogales on the Mexican border. There were hundreds of Purple-Violet Swallows. Since they were all in rapid flight it was a fun challenge to photograph them.

I thank Wikipedia for the bird information