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Arizona

Birding Bonanza

Program No. 7414RJ
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.
Length
6 days
Rating (4.96)
Activity Level
Starts at
1,749

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To make your experience as safe as possible, we require all participants to be fully vaccinated. See our Safety Roadmap

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Prefer to enroll or inquire by phone? 800-454-5768
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Prices displayed below are based on per person,doubleoccupancy.
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Jan 22 - Jan 27, 2023
Starting at
1,749
Feb 5 - Feb 10, 2023
Starting at
1,749
Feb 19 - Feb 24, 2023
Starting at
1,749
Mar 5 - Mar 10, 2023
Starting at
1,749
Mar 19 - Mar 24, 2023
Starting at
1,749
Apr 2 - Apr 7, 2023
Starting at
1,749
Apr 16 - Apr 21, 2023
Starting at
1,749
Nov 12 - Nov 17, 2023
Starting at
1,749
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Jan 22 - Jan 27, 2023
Starting at
2,019
Feb 5 - Feb 10, 2023
Starting at
2,019
Feb 19 - Feb 24, 2023
Starting at
2,019
Mar 5 - Mar 10, 2023
Starting at
2,019
Mar 19 - Mar 24, 2023
Starting at
2,019
Apr 2 - Apr 7, 2023
Starting at
2,019
Apr 16 - Apr 21, 2023
Starting at
2,019
Nov 12 - Nov 17, 2023
Starting at
2,019

At a Glance

Three of the Top 10 birding destinations in the U.S. are within a close radius of Sierra Vista. The region is a seasonal home to many migrating species, including the Green-tailed Towhee, Belted Kingfisher and Western Tanager. Visit premier viewing sites in the Huachuca Mountains, San Pedro Riparian area and other sites known throughout the world as premier viewing sites. An average of 100-125 species of birds may be spotted during this birding adventure!
Activity Level
Outdoor: No Sweat
Walking up to one mile and standing up to one hour. Elevation ranges between 3900 and 5800 feet.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 13 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • View the migration of Sandhill Cranes during an exploration of the Sulphur Springs Valley.
  • Enjoy opportunities to spot key species inside the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, encompassing 57,000 acres teeming with birds.
  • Experience premier birding amid the peaks and canyons of the Huachuca Mountains and observe the many water bird species living on and around Patagonia Lake.

General Notes

Birding programs have a maximum participant-to-instructor ratio of 14:1 in the field, according to the American Birding Association’s Code of Ethics.
Featured Expert
All Experts
Profile Image
Matt Brown
Matt Brown has been a birding enthusiast from a young age! In elementary school, Matt taught birding ID to his fellow classmates. He went on to study psychology at Syracuse University before moving to Arizona in 1998 to pursue his passion of bird watching and bird leader. Locally, Matt has worked for the Nature Conservancy, Patagonia Lake State Park, Road Scholar and local birding and butterfly festivals. Since 2002, Matt has owned the Patagonia Birding & Butterfly Company offering custom birding and butterfly programs.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of Matt Brown
Matt Brown View biography
Matt Brown has been a birding enthusiast from a young age! In elementary school, Matt taught birding ID to his fellow classmates. He went on to study psychology at Syracuse University before moving to Arizona in 1998 to pursue his passion of bird watching and bird leader. Locally, Matt has worked for the Nature Conservancy, Patagonia Lake State Park, Road Scholar and local birding and butterfly festivals. Since 2002, Matt has owned the Patagonia Birding & Butterfly Company offering custom birding and butterfly programs.
Profile Image of Sharon Goldwasser
Sharon Goldwasser View biography
Sharon Goldwasser became an avid birder and naturalist as a student at UC-Santa Cruz. She worked as a field biologist for several years, then moved to Tucson for graduate school in ecology where she studied song mimicry by Lesser Goldfinches. In 1987, she routed her career into education, bringing love of science to thousands of middle school students. Since retiring from the classroom in 2020, she has renewed her birding passion and is excited to share knowledge of birds and the ecology of southern Arizona.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Field Guide to the Birds of North America. Third Edition.
by National Geographic Society
Shrubs and Trees of the Southwest Uplands
by Elmore, Francis H.
Flowers of the Southwest Deserts
by Dodge, Natt
Birding Arizona
by McMillon, Bill
Davis and Russell's Finding Birds in Southeast Arizona
by Davis, William A. and Stephen M. Russell
Mountain Islands and Desert Seas: A Natural History of the U.S. Mexican Borderlands.
by Gehlbach, Frederick R.
Trogons of the Arizona Borderlands
by Taylor, Richard Cachor
A Birder's Guide to Southeastern Arizona
by Lane, James A.
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6 days
5 nights
15 meals
5 B 5 L 5 D
DAY
1
Registration, Welcome Dinner, Orientation, Bird Class
Sierra Vista AZ
D
Best Western Plus Sun Canyon

Activity note: Hotel check-in available from 3:00 p.m. Remember to bring your nametag (sent previously).

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.

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. We will review COVID-19 protocols and will adhere to local COVID-19 guidelines and requirements throughout the program. 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.

DAY
2
Sulphur Springs Valley, Whitewater Draw Seasonal Wetland
Sierra Vista AZ
B,L,D
Best Western Plus Sun Canyon

Activity note: Getting in/out of vans; driving about 65 miles one-way to Sulphur Springs Valley, over 2 hours riding time with stops. Walking about 1 mile, approximately 2 hours on level ground.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

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.

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.

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.

DAY
3
San Pedro National Conservation Area, Mary Jo’s Feeders
Sierra Vista AZ
B,L,D
Best Western Plus Sun Canyon

Activity note: Getting in/out of vans; driving about 30 miles, approximately 1 hour riding time. Walking about 1.5 miles, approximately 3 hours along the San Pedro River; level path.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

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. 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 restaurant in Sierra Vista.

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 restaurant in Sierra Vista.

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.

DAY
4
Patagonia Lake State Park, Paton’s Center for Hummingbirds
Sierra Vista AZ
B,L,D
Best Western Plus Sun Canyon

Activity note: Getting in/out of vans; driving about 160 miles roundtrip west to the Patagonia area, approximately 3 hours riding time. Walking about 1.5 miles, approximately 3 hours on level trails.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

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 restaurant in Patagonia.

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 restaurant in Sierra Vista.

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

DAY
5
Birding in Huachuca Mountains & Canyons
Sierra Vista AZ
B,L,D
Best Western Plus Sun Canyon

Activity note: Getting in/out of vans; driving about 25 miles, approximately 1 hour riding time. Walking about 1.5 miles, approximately 3 hours on uneven trails. To visit Fort Huachuca Military Base, visitors must bring a valid driver's license or government-issued photo identification. All 50 states now offer Driver's License compliant with the Real ID Act identification. You must be a US citizen to visit the Military Base.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

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.

Afternoon: We’ll 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 restaurant in Sierra Vista. Share favorite experiences and enjoy camaraderie with new Road Scholar friends during our farewell dinner.

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 departure after lunch tomorrow.

DAY
6
Ramsey Canyon Nature Conservancy, Program Concludes
Sierra Vista AZ
B,L

Activity note: Getting in/out of vans; driving about 15 miles roundtrip, less than 1 hour riding time with many stops for wildlife viewing. Walking about 1/2 mile, approximately 1.5 hours on well-maintained trails. Hotel check-out by 11:00 a.m.; the hotel will store luggage before the morning field trip.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: After checking out of the hotel and boarding our vans, we’ll 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 in 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 can be spotted.

Lunch: At a restaurant in Sierra Vista. This concludes our program.

Afternoon: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. 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!






Important registration tip:
If you want to attend the live lecture, please do not wait until the last minute to enroll.
If you enroll after a lecture is complete, we’ll send you a recording of the event.