Observing the Fall Bird Migration

Curved Bill Thrasher
The curved bill thrasher nestles where no man dares to go. (Refuge Reporter)

Coronado National Forest

The Huachuca and Chiricahua Mountains, largely contained in Coronado National Forest, are justly legendary among birders. Set in the heart of the Chiricahua Mountains, Cave Creek Canyon has been called the loveliest area in southeastern Arizona and the single best birding spot in the Southwest, perhaps the whole country. The area takes in a dynamic blend of habitats: desert grasslands, saguaro cactus forests, tropical-like highlands, pine-oak woodlands, and high forests of fir and spruce. If you want a little more solitude, head for Guadalupe Canyon. Highlights here include hummingbirds and the elusive elegant trogon.

About half the known breeding species in the continental United States have been spotted at San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, which runs just east of Coronado National Forest. San Pedro area is a composite of several vegetation communities: cottonwoods and willows along the river, Chihuahuan desert-scrub in the uplands, and mesquite grasslands in the bottomlands. In fall the winter finches and sparrows arrive from the north, along with many raptors. The abundance of archaeological findings here are testament to the richness of the ecosystem: Humans, like any other species, tend to congregate where we can find a regular meal.

Bosque del Apache NWR

Here's the spot to see sandhill cranes. In 1941, fewer than 20 cranes used the refuge. Sandhills now number as high as 19,000 on the refuge. During the fall, visitors can see migrant warblers, flycatchers, and shorebirds. You'll also find song birds, bald eagles, wintering flocks of snow geese, and even whooping cranes. Sizeable Bosque del Apache takes in close to 60,000 acres of upland desert and floodplain. The Rio Grande flows through the center of this floodplain which consists mainly of cottonwood and willow bosques, man-made marshes, riparian areas, and farm fields.

Salton Sea NWR

The Salton Sea is on the top of many lists, and is perhaps the best bird watching spot in southern California. The "sea" was named in 1905, but formed over millennia as the Colorado burst its channel (go wild river, go!), spilling into the Salton Basin on numerous occasions. Smack dab in the middle of the desert and way below sea level, the Salton Sea is way too hot for most people's taste in the summer. Come fall, the temperature cools down to more tolerable levels, and snow geese arrive from the north along with Canada geese and several species of ducks. You can also count on lots of shorebirds and many, many songbirds.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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