Explore three of the nation’s top birding destinations to spot sandhill cranes, western tanagers and myriad other species as you learn from experts and add to your birding list.
Rating (5)
Program No. 7414RJ
6 days
Starts at
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6 days
5 nights
15 meals
5 B 5 L 5 D
Registration, Welcome Dinner, Orientation, Bird Class
Sierra Vista AZ
Sierra Suites

Activity note: Hotel check-in available by 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration 5:00 p.m. After you have your room assignment, come to the Road Scholar table in the lobby to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing your name-tag, up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes, other important information, and to confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we’ll enjoy a hearty buffet Welcome Dinner with non-alcoholic beverages included.

Evening: Orientation 7:00 p.m. at the hotel. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. Periods in the daily schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. Our Group Leader will then provide some detailed information on over 100 different species of bird that we may catch sight of throughout the program. This lecture will be a fitting introduction serving to familiarize us with some of the local wildlife in the beautiful high desert region. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

Sulphur Springs Valley, Whitewater Draw Seasonal Wetland
Sierra Vista AZ
Sierra Suites

Activity note: Walking approx. 1 mile; about 2 hours on our feet; level ground. Driving approx. 65 miles one way to Sulphur Springs Valley; over 2 hours, with stops.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we’ll have a healthy buffet breakfast with a variety of items to choose from. Juice, milk, coffee, tea, water included.

Morning: Setting out from the hotel via van, our destination for the day will be the Sulphur Springs Valley and its Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area where we will seek to view an abundance of migrating sandhill cranes and hawks, among others such as Mexican ducks that commonly nest in ponds created by farmers for the reuse of irrigation tailwater. The number of wintering sandhill cranes has increased dramatically since the 1950s, probably in response to the abundant food available in harvested grain fields, primarily corn. Similarly, numbers of mourning and white-winged doves, as well as both mule deer and collared peccary, have also increased since historic times likely as the result of agriculture. At Whitewater Draw, we will congregate at the viewing area where our Group Leader and staff instructor, both wildlife and birding experts, will offer commentary. Then we’ll walk with them on the maintained trail around the Draw. There will be birding stops and spottings along the way as we travel to the Sulphur Springs Valley.

Lunch: At a local family restaurant in the rural community of Elfrida, we’ll have a delicious plated meal with non-alcoholic beverages included; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Afterwards, we will continue our exploration of the Sulphur Springs Valley, which is teeming with many birds to see. The sheer amount of sandhill cranes in flight formation as they come in to roost can sometimes seem to darken the skies. These cranes appear sleek in flight but are very rugged when viewed on land.

Dinner: At a restaurant in Sierra Vista near the hotel, we’ll have a buffet meal with a choice of non-alcoholic beverages.

Evening: At the hotel, we’ll review our birding list with our Group Leader and recount some of the species of birds we saw today for a great start to a stellar birding week! The remainder of the evening will be at leisure.

San Pedro National Conservation Area, Mary Jo’s Feeders
Sierra Vista AZ
Sierra Suites

Activity note: Walking approx. 1.5 miles; about 3 hours; along the San Pedro River; level path. Driving approx. 30 miles; about 1 hour.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: After boarding our van, we will depart for the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, a 56,000 acre preserve managed by the Bureau of Land Management that is located along the upper San Pedro River. Home to approximately 80 species of mammals, several species of fish, and many amphibians and reptiles, the expansiveness of the ecological community can be surprising because, in this high desert, you may not expect to be looking for beaver dams! The area is also home to about 250 species of migrant and wintering birds, and many archaeological sites can be found in the area that reveal human occupation from over 10,000 years ago. While here, we’ll set out to explore some of the area and enjoy insightful commentary from our Group Leader and staff instructor along the way.

Lunch: At a local Sierra Vista restaurant, we’ll have a delicious plated meal with non-alcoholic beverages included.

Afternoon: We’ll then transfer to the Ash Canyon Bird Sanctuary located in the Huachuca Mountains to see some of the Sky Island region’s birds at close range, such as the Arizona woodpecker, bridled titmouse, and Gould’s wild turkey. There are many species of hummingbirds and a wide range of resident Arizona birds to view along with migrating birds.

Dinner: At a Sierra Vista restaurant, we’ll enjoy a plated meal of local cuisine and have a choice of non-alcoholic beverages; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: We’ll then return to the hotel where we will go over the birding list together. The remainder of the evening will be at leisure.

Patagonia Lake State Park, Paton’s Center for Hummingbirds
Sierra Vista AZ
Sierra Suites

Activity note: Walking approx. 1.5 miles; about 3 hours; level trails. Driving approx. 160 miles roundtrip west to the Patagonia area; about 3 hours.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Today's birding destination will be Patagonia Lake State Park, a 265 surface acre lake established in 1975. The canyon towhee, Inca doves, vermilion flycatcher, black vulture and several species of hummingbirds may be spotted in the State Park. Be on the lookout for the great blue heron walking along the shore line and white tail deer roaming the area. While here, we’ll stroll along the beautiful creek trail and keep our eyes out for a variety of birds and wildlife.

Lunch: At a local restaurant in Patagonia, we’ll have a plated meal with a choice of non-alcohol beverages.

Afternoon: Our field trip will then continue to Paton’s Center for Hummingbirds. Located just outside the town of Patagonia, Paton’s Center for Hummingbirds has a lovely garden providing a native habitat for lots of insects and wildlife who share this garden with many bird species.

Dinner: At a local Sierra Vista restaurant, we’ll enjoy a delicious and nutritious plated meal, with a choice of non-alcohol beverages.

Evening: Back at the hotel, the group will go over the birding list together and the remainder of the evening will be at leisure.

Birding in Huachuca Mountains & Canyons
Sierra Vista AZ
Sierra Suites

Activity note: Walking approx. 1.5 miles; about 3 hours; uneven trails. Driving approx. 25 miles; about 1 hour. All visitors to Fort Huachuca must have a current, valid passport. Foreign nationals must be accompanied by a specially trained military escort.

Breakfast: Early hotel buffet meal.

Morning: Our next premier birding adventure will take place in the Huachuca Mountains in Garden Canyon, accessed from Fort Huachuca. Established in 1877, Fort Huachuca today is an important military intelligence and communications center, and one of Arizona’s largest military installations that also helps to manage and maintain the area’s biodiversity. Garden Canyon is often referred to as the most beautiful canyon of the Huachuca Mountains, due in part to the large variety of plants and animals that can be found in the Canyon along with many different bird species. While here, we’ll take a walk with our Group Leader and keep an eye out for some of the local creatures that call this haven home.

Lunch: At a restaurant on Fort Huachuca military base, we’ll have a buffet with a choice of non-alcohol drinks.

Afternoon: We’ll then continue birding in the Huachuca Mountains and canyons on a hike to a rock art site believed by historians to have been a site of religious significance for the Apache Native Americans.

Dinner: At a long-established Sierra Vista favorite restaurant with festive décor, we’ll enjoy authentic Mexican cuisine for our special plated farewell dinner, with non-alcoholic beverages; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Upon our return to the hotel, we’ll go over the birding list and enjoy the remainder of the evening at leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and departures after lunch tomorrow.

Ramsey Canyon Nature Conservancy, Program Concludes
Sierra Vista AZ

Activity note: Walking approx. 1/2 mile; about 1.5 hours; well-maintained trails. Driving approx. 15 miles roundtrip; less than 1 hour, with many stops for wildlife viewing.

Breakfast: Early hotel buffet.

Morning: Boarding our vans, we’ll then head to Ramsey Canyon Nature Conservancy, a very popular nature-viewing area. Home to more than 20 species of rare and endangered plants and animals, this conservation area hosts plenty of birds and wildlife as well as a rich history. Lush by comparison to much of the surrounding area, you may even forget we are in the desert when walking the trails in the conservancy, making stops on the way up the canyon to get a look at any wildlife and birds that are spotted.

Lunch: At a local restaurant in Sierra Vista, we’ll have a plated meal with a choice of non-alcoholic beverage. Share some of your favorite experiences from the program with new Road Scholar friends. This concludes our program.

Afternoon: If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!

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