Category Archives: Birding

Southwest Wings festival-goers: make reservations early!

If you’re planning to attend the Southwest Wings Birding and Nature Festival, make sure you’re an early bird!

A major conference will be held in Sierra Vista at the same time as the festival, so rooms will be in short supply. Visit SW Wings’ lodging page for info on sponsoring hotels, bed and breakfast inns or motels.

Be sure to make any lodging reservations well in advance!

If you can’t find lodging in Sierra Vista, You might also visit lodging facilities in the neighboring communities in Cochise County. Click on each city to find lodging within these communities (numbers in parentheses indicate mileage to Sierra Vista). Benson (35), Bisbee (24), Douglas (50), Tombstone (32) and Willcox (70).

Happy bird watching!

Roadrunner near the San Pedro River ©Cochise County Tourism Council

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Wings Over Willcox 2010

Birders who attended this year’s Wings Over Willcox were treated to a record number of sandhill cranes in Willcox and Cochise County. Rich Glinski gave the keynote on Saturday evening and about 20 of the 45 workshops were sold out!

You can read Carol Broeder’s article “A walk on the wild side” in the Arizona Range News for a complete account. The article reports sightings of the Ruddy Ground-Dove of Mexico, a Hairy Woodpecker and a seldom-seen Greater Scaup.

One thing I thought was really cool was the Easy Birding Sampler tour. It gave Northern Cochise Nursing Home residents a chance to get out and share their knowledge of birds and the annual sandhill crane migration. They seemed to love the tour, and the leader was excited too. Unfortunately, nursing home residents can sometimes be a forgotten population, and I was impressed that the Wings Over Willcox organizers included a program for them!

This was the 17th year of the festival. Will you be there for the 18th? It’s always on the weekend of Martin Luther King Day. If you’ve always wanted to go, follow the festival on Facebook or simply check their website. Registration for the tours opens in fall, so be on the lookout!

Sandhill cranes usually stay in the area until about March, so there’s still plenty of great birding opportunities in Cochise County.

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Bird watchers: 17th Wings Over Willcox festival, January 2010

Wings Over Willcox will be held once again in January (it’s on Martin Luther King weekend each year). This is a great opportunity to connect with other birding fans and to see some birds you can add to your life lists.

The Sandhill Cranes have been in Cochise County for more than a month, and they are wintering there on the Willcox Playa and in various places throughout the Sulphur Springs Valley, which stretches from Willcox south to Douglas. The cranes are a spectacular site. They cover a spot of land and are very noisy birds. Then when they take off, they are so cool watch! Here’s a picture taken by Diane Drobka, who works for the Bureau of Land Management.

Photo (c) Diane Drobka

You can still register for the birding and nature tours; they have a few spots left. You’ll need to hurry, though, if you want your first pick! The overnight to Mulehsoe Ranch Cooperative, owned by the Nature Conservancy, has been sold out since the first day! This has turned out to be a very popular part of Wings Over Willcox. Other tours like the excursion to area ghost towns sold out quickly too. I’m surprised the day-long photography workshops are not full yet. The workshops are a great opportunity to hone your wildlife photography skills!

New this year are the following workshops and tours:

  • Easy Birding Sampler–a slow and comfortably paced tour designed for birders with limitations of endurance or mobility. Per Homer Hansen, chair of Wings Over Willcox, this tour will feature a lift bus with guides that are experienced in leading tours. “We’re happy to be able to provide that,” he said.
  • Naturalist’s Saunter in Fort Bowie–a tour led by Vincent Pinto as he journeys into the incomparable beauty and diversity of Fort Bowie National Historic Site.
  • Texas Canyon and the Chiricahua Mountains: a geologic comparison–where you’ll observe similarities and differences between the rocks and discuss basic geologic concepts related to their origin and decay

The entire weekend has a terrific diversity of opportunities to commune with nature and experience birding and wildlife. And, you can learn about the local history. There’s also a beginning birding class offered in Spanish!

To find out more, visit the Wings Over Willcox website (complete with a soundtrack of sandhill cranes) and register. You can stay in Willcox or at the surrounding areas.

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Cochise County birding news: first brown back solitaire documented

A birding story on NPR caught my “ear” the other day. Scott Simon talked with a camp counselor who, along with his campers, had a wonderful bird sighting. It was a brown-backed solitaire and they used an iPod to document it. Listen to the story and see what you think!

Happy weekend!

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Southwest Wings waives registration fee for select programs

This year the 18th Annual Southwest Wings Birding & Nature Festival’s free programs will be open to the public. The festival will be held in Sierra Vista Aug. 5-9.

Any resident or visitor can attend without paying the $15 festival registration fee. Among the 24 free programs are Cochise County’s National Wildlife Refuges with Bill Radke; Nectar Feeding Bats with Ronnie Sidner; Hummingbirds 101 with Tom Wood; and Nest Box Building with Mike Guest.

The free programs are held in the conference room of the Windemere Hotel. Since it has ample capacity, pre-registration is not required for the free programs. Some lectures have an associated field trip for which there is a registration fee and a charge.

The keynote address will feature Kenn Kaufman, who will talk about bird migration from the migrating bird’s point of view. Kaufman has led birding tours on seven continents and has taught birding workshops in 45 of the 50 states. Note: The keynote address is not a free program.

Check the full schedule of the Southwest Wings Birding and Nature Festival for more information and to make reservations for any of the workshops that require a fee.

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Southwest Wings waives registration fee for free programs

This year the 18th Annual Southwest Wings Birding & Nature Festival’s free programs will be open to the public. Any resident or visitor can attend without paying the $15 festival registration fee. Among the 24 free programs are Cochise County’s National Wildlife Refuges with Bill Radke; Nectar Feeding Bats with Ronnie Sidner; Hummingbird Banding with Sheri Williamson & Tom Wood; and Nest Box Building by Mike Guest. The keynote address will feature Kenn Kaufman, who will talk about bird migration from the migrating bird’s point of view.


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Mother’s Day with your unique Mom

What kind of mom do you have? If she’s not traditional (or even if she is), consider a trip to Cochise County. There are three events that will help you celebrate your unique Mom during Mother’s Day weekend, May 8-10.

Motorcycle Mama

Photo by Rainer Ebert

Photo by Rainer Ebert

If she’s a biker babe, you and she can motor down to the Border to Border Cinco de Mayo Run, May 8 & 9 in Douglas. A lot of activities are in store.

A bike and car show, raffles and drawings, plus a poker crawl will make this a rousing weekend. Street dancing on Friday evening will feature Déjà vu, and Elvis will appear on Saturday.

Details: Border to Border run: 9 a.m.; Street Dancing: Friday, 8-Midnight. Activities start at the Gadsden Hotel in Douglas.

Admission is free, and there is a small fee for specific events. For more info, call 520-364-4481 or 520-234-3901.

Mother Nature

Does Mom yearn for the outdoors? Is she an early riser who loves nature and wildlife? Consider taking part in the International Migratory Bird Day Spring Festival on May 9.

With talks, walks, exhibitions and children’s events, you and Mom can learn about birds, beavers, wildlife and native plantings. The Gray Hawk Nature Center will showcase a variety of snakes and lizards. This event is co-sponsored by the Friends of the San Pedro River, the Sonoran Joint Venture, Coronado National Forest, Cochise County Master Gardeners and the Bureau of Land Management.

Details: 8 a.m. – 6 p.m., May 9 at the San Pedro House, 9800 Hwy 90 (at the San Pedro River). Admission is free. For more info, call 520-459-2555.

Arts & Crafts Mom

Does Mom appreciate the finer things in life? If she loves arts and crafts (she knitted sweaters for you, made quilts or simply loves artistic creations), you might want to swing down to the Holy Trinity Monastery’s Fiesta de la Primavera in St. David, just south of Benson.

Details: Sat., May 9: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sun., May 10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Holy Trinity Monastery, St. David. Admission is free. For more info, call 520 720-4642 ext 22 or visit their website.

If you’d like to visit any of these events, call the visitors centers in each city. The staff can help you decide where to stay and give you tips on where to eat.

Benson Visitor Center: 520-586-4293

Douglas Visitor Center: 520-417-7344

Sierra Vista Visitor Center: 1-800-288-3861

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Recurring events in Cochise County

Want the chance to learn about Arizona’s history or experience some of southern Arizona’s greatest outdoor activities? You can with some of the events in Cochise County that happen on a regular basis.

Tours of Historic Faraway Ranch, Chiricahua National Monument

The Faraway Ranch was one of the earliest cattle and guest ranches in southeast Arizona. You’ll get to step back in time and see how life was lived in the early days of the West.

Details: 2 p.m. & 3 p.m. Fridays-Sundays at Chiricahua National Monument, 12856 E. Rhyolite Creek Road. Admission is free with park admission of $5 a person. Info at 520-824-3560, ext. 303 or

Arizona Folklore Preserve, Sierra Vista

Arizona’s Official State Balladeer Dolan Ellis and musical guests perform Saturday and Sunday afternoons in the Arizona Folklore Preserve’s intimate setting in forested Ramsey Canyon. Many of the songs are inspired by aspects of Arizona life and culture. Reservations are required. Go to the Arizona Folklore Preserve’s website to see a list of upcoming shows.

Details: 2 p.m., Saturdays & Sundays at the Arizona Folklore Preserve, 44 E. Ramsey Canyon Road, Hereford. Admission is $15 for adults and $6 for students 17 and under. Info at 520-378-6165 or on the Arizona Folklore Preserve’s website.

Guided Walks, Ramsey Canyon Preserve, Sierra Vista

On these walks, you have a chance to see 170 species of birds found in the preserve and the surrounding national forest. Southwestern specialties such as painted redstarts and magnificent hummingbirds are here, as are other animals, including mountain lions, canyon treefrogs, rattlesnakes and dozens butterfly species. Guided nature walks are conducted March through October. Admission to the Preserve is $5; $3 for Cochise County residents. 27 E. Ramsey Canyon Road, Hereford.

Details:  9 a.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at Ramsey Canyon Preserve. Admission is $5 for non-residents and $3 for Cochise County residents and Nature Conservancy members. Children under 16 are free. Call 520-378-2785 for more info.

Hummingbird Banding

Up to 10 species of hummingbirds use the San Pedro River corridor and surrounding areas as a migratory path. The public is invited to get an up-close look as scientists catch, band, weigh, measure and then release the birds.

Details: Check the Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory’s calendar of events or the Hummingbird Monitoring  Network’s calendar page to find out when banding sessions are held. Viewing the banding is free San Pedro House, 9800 Highway 90.  4-6 p.m. Donations are gratefully accepted. For more information call the Southeastern Arizona Bird at 520-432-1388.

Farmer’s Markets

Local farmers and growers offer fresh produce and products. You’ll find a luscious assortment of garden fresh fruits and vegetables for sale, plus many other unique items.

Sierra Vista Farmers Market: noon to 4 p.m., Thursdays on the northwest corner of Willcox Drive & Carmichael Ave. in Sierra Vista. Info:  520-378-2973

Bisbee Farmers Market: 8 a.m. – noon, Saturdays, May through October in Vista Park, Bisbee. Info: 520-432-5421 or 1-866-2BISBEE

Events like the hummingbird banding are seasonal, as the birds migrate from about March to October, so call ahead for more details.

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