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Sonoran Desert, AZ
April 2005

Sonoran Desert National Monument
    Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
    Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge
    Parker Canyon, Tonto National Forest


Monday, April 18th, 2005: Flight to Phoenix
    The thought of open desert and solitude filled my mind as I tried to concentrate on work.  This would be the first “real” vacation of the year – long over due or at least it felt that way.  
    In the afternoon, we headed down to the airport – getting there two hours early like the dutiful passenger should.  Unfortunately, the airplane wasn’t as dutiful.  A couple of half hour delays later, the announcer said our flight was canceled due to a hydraulic pump leak.  But they put all of us on another flight that took off three hours later than our original flight.  My only hope was that this flight wouldn’t be delayed any further so we could arrive in Arizona in the same day.
    We arrived just before midnight.  The positive of arriving at night is avoiding the turbulence created by thermals during the day.  It was a smooth flight and I was just happy to finally arrive in Phoenix.  After picking up our baggage, we headed to the car rental place.  We wanted a truck, but got a lot more than what we bargained for.  It was a monster of a truck – a 4x4.  It was quite an effort to even get into the cab of the truck – at least there was clearance.  We had in foresight to write there were scratches on the sides of the truck – if they weren’t there before us, they would be there after we were done with it.
    We pulled out of the parking lot – got our bearings as to where we were going and headed down to the Sonoran Desert National Monument – just southwest of Phoenix.  We first had to find a place for supplies – which might be a challenge at midnight.  We found a dreaded Walmart off the freeway and turned into it.  There were actually people still shopping in it during this time of night.  After loading up on supplies, food and water, we headed out to our destination.  We had trouble finding the dirt road that lead out into the monument, but after doubling back we located an entry way and made our way to a campground at the trailhead in the North Maricopa Mountains.  The trunk bumped a long the dirt road – a pair the Black-tailed Jackrabbits scurried out of the way and a confused kangaroo rat hopped across the road.  We found the campground empty and without much thought pulled into to a spot and set up in the back of the truck.
    It neared 3AM as we finally pulled the sleeping bag around us.  We drifted off quickly to sleep as a cool desert breeze passed over us. The moon began to tuck in behind the mountains, leaving behind a million stars twinkling above us.
Tuesday, April 19th, 2005: First full day
    I awoke shortly before 6AM to the familiar calls of the Gambel’s Quail, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Cactus Wren, Gila Woodpecker, and Mourning Dove.  Sure we only got 3 hours of sleep, but with the surrounding desert there was much to explore and see. The campground was nestled between two foothills to the east and west.  The land was dotted tall saguaros, creosote, and mesquite grew along side the washes.  I walked around the campsite – there were three camping spots and a good trailhead that lead off into the Maricopa Mountains.  We followed the trail, but strayed off into a wash where there seemed to be more bird life.  We found an enclosed game water area – water collected in cement pools.  The Mourning Doves and House Finches seemed to gather in numbers around the water.
    Walking up the wash, we also saw a small flock of Canyon Towhees that were gleaning from the under brush.  I also flushed out a family of Gambel’s Quail.  The young quail tried to keep pace with their parents as they ran before us.
Even though the day quickly heated up, the Verdin didn’t seemed fazed.  I watched Verdin parents feed young fledgling, who had bright orange bills – a feature not mentioned in Sibley or Peterson or National Geo.  A Mourning Dove sat in her nest trying to blend in as we walked by.  The lizards warmed in the sun and zipped before us as we walked.
    By midmorning, we decided to pack up and head down to our next destination at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.
On our way down we passed through Ajo, a small town with not a lot going for it now.  Like most small towns out there, it was once mining towns.  Now it’s just a town strung along the highway scattered with many run down hotels and abandoned gas stations. 
    We stopped in Why to refuel our beast of a car, which as best got 15 miles per gallon.  Already we didn’t like the truck – it was way to big for no real purpose – other than to perhaps make you feel bigger.  Then again that’s what all SUV, big trucks and Hummers are meant to do – compensate for the smallest member of the family…And the truck drove horribly over dirt roads – even if it was a “smooth” dirt road, the shocks couldn’t take it and the ride would be incredibly uncomfortably bumpy.
From Why we turned down highway 85 toward the Mexican border.  We came across our first spotting of the border patrol.  They had set up a “checkpoint” running north away from the border.  I suppose they would slow people down and check for illegal immigrants. 
    Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is located on the Ajo Valley, sandwiched between two large mountain ranges.  The Ajo Mountains line the eastern part of the valley and are closer to the highway.  Only the highway runs through the monument to the border and it’s hard to enjoy the scenery that 65 mph.  But still we were impressed once we entered the valley.  Desolate creosote scrubs gave way to ocotillo, saguaro cacti, cholla, jojoba, Mexican jumping bean and organ pipe cacti.  The place looked very impressive and promising.  We stopped in the visitor center and register for the Alamo Canyon camp, a primitive campground, having only four campsites.  The campground near the visitor center had 208 site, plus RV, screaming kids, dogs, generators, etc.  After much thought, we decided to stay two nights at the monument instead of one. 
We enjoyed lunch under a ramada made of mesquite trunks and ocotillo branches.  Several cardinals came by to pick up the crumbs and even a pair of Gila Woodpeckers dropped in.  Some Cactus Wrens were right at home in the parking lot, even drinking from the water fountain.
    We drove back to the primitive campground and turned onto the dirt road that lead 3 (bumpy) miles out to the base of the Ajo Mountain range and the mouth of the Alamo Canyon. We checked out the campgrounds a bit and decided that running on three hours of sleep for the day wasn’t going to happen.  We used the shade of the monster truck (I guess it is good for something else) and took a siesta.
    I awoke an hour later to some birds that had found the birdseed we had scattered around the campsite.  It was a fledgling begging for food from a parent.  The Canyon Towhee would pick up food from the ground and shove it into the begging mouth.  It was amusing to watch from only a couple of feet away.
    As evening drew near, we packed up to take the trail into Alamo Canyon – a short one-mile walk to an old ranch and holding pen for cattle.  The walk was pleasant; it followed along the northside of the wash.  There were a lot of neat plants, including what I call the dingleberry cholla, or more correctly called the chain-fruit cholla – a cholla that produces fruit that hangs down in chains, adding new fruit as it grows.  We passed the old brick house without a roof.  Just past the house there was a Gila Monster on the trail.  It scooted up the hill as we approached.  A good find for the day.
    The trail continued on and down to the creek below.  We were pleased to find there was still good amounts of water in the creek.  The Mourning Doves and House Finches relished this as well.  The trail went up to the old corral.  A Hooded Oriole flew out and showed it’s bright orange off.  As the sun began to set the birds flew in for one last drink before nightfall.
We turned back to camp as the wind began to blow and chill the evening air. And we turned in for the night.
Wednesday, April 20, 2005: Visit the Alamo, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
    A crunching sound woke us in the early morning hours.  The moon was just touching the horizon when a kangaroo rat felt it was safe enough to venture out from under the rocks.  It happily munched on food.  We fell back asleep as our visitor continued its meal.
    A couple of hours later we awoke to the lighting of dawn.  The chorus of birds started up once again.  A couple of Curve-Billed Thrashers joined the Canyon Towhees on feasting upon the seeds we left out.
    We set out to hike to Grassland Canyon, a canyon roughly 2.5 miles north of Alamo Canyon.  Since there was no official trail, we’d have to make our way along the base of the mountains – weaving through washes, cactus, creosote, and mesquite.  Although it’s a desert, the vegetation can still be thick and making a beeline is near impossible.  We made our way to the canyon, which seems to take longer than one would imagine, but we stop to admire flowering cactus, unusual plants and insects. 
    Two military jets scream over us as we hike.  It was extremely loud and I wonder if they were just messing around.  Or perhaps they were using our truck as target practice… pretend style at least.
    A well-worn animal trail took us into the canyon for the last stretch.  We didn’t find any water, but there was still an abundant amount of bird and plant life in the wash.  Black-headed Grosbeaks chowed down on the fruiting plants; a couple of Lazuli Bunting flitted about in the trees, and Costa’s Hummingbirds seemed to endlessly chase each other.  A Greater Roadrunner called from somewhere above the canyon.
    After looking around a bit and admiring a lizard with a fluorescent blue chin and side stripes, we head back to camp before the heat got to stifling.  Luckily there was a slight breeze in the wind to keep us refreshed. 
    We stop by an enormous boulder with an overhang to take a snack and enjoy the view.  There’s a craving on the stone; we make out that it was done in the 1940s – perhaps a miner?  Back at the car, we pack up and head down to the auto tour of the Ajo Mountains.  It loops up through the range to provide excellent views.  There is a small booklet that we picked up at the visitor center to guide us though – mainly it was information on plants and the formation of the environments, but still it was interesting.  We saw a Phainopepla female sitting on her nest not to far from the road.  And a Desert Cottontail posed for a few good pictures.
    We stopped off at the visitor center again to visit the man-made pond in the back to see the bird activity.  The pond was built to hold pupfish.  There was recent concern that the natural ponds down by the border that held the pupfish would be poisoned.  So they cut off access to the ponds and are trying to establish the pupfish behind the visitor center.  A few Cardinals, House Finches, and one lone male Lesser Goldfinch flew around the pond, but we didn’t stay much longer to see what else would show up.
    We headed back to camp and packed up dinner to take into the canyon and see if toads would show up.  When we arrived at the water, we flushed a flock of Mourning Doves all trying to get a last drink before the sun went down.  We sat on the rocks as a cool breeze flowed through the canyon.
    The toads slowly appeared; we heard them first.  The males called up a storm, trying to impress the waiting females.  We sat there in the fading light eating our dinner.  In the distant Common Poorwill called their name and a Western Screech Owl gave its bouncing call.  A Great Horned Owl hooted in the distance.  The call of the birds mixed with the call of the Red Spotted Toads – truly a chorus to remember in the moonlit night.  We watched the male toads struggle with each other trying to dominate the prime spot in the stream - wrestling and calling loudly.  We made our way back to the camp – listening to the toads down below in the canyon.
    At our campsite a pocket mouse was happily gorging itself on the sunflower seeds.  Stuff its cheeks full and caching its finds under rocks, not even worried about the illuminating moon above. 
Thursday, April 21st, 2005: Black Hawk Up
    We arose again at the crack of dawn.  We headed down Alamo Canyon again to enjoy what the water might attract in the morning hours.  We decided to walk up the wash instead of the trail and found more water down below where the trail drops us off.  There were several pools some with tadpoles. 
    As we sat eating our breakfast, the Costa’s Hummingbirds were busy trying to bath in the water only to be chased off by another Costa’s.  They constantly bickered and chased each other, circling each other in the air and calling loudly.  I explored the mesquite more, looking for whatever other bird might be hiding in the brush.  I found a beautiful fresh plumage MacGillivary’s Warbler, a Wilson’s Warbler, a Warbling Vireo, and a male Northern Cardinal.
    We headed back to the car and packed up to our next destination: Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. From what I read about the refuge, it seemed like an interesting place – at least a different environment from the “typical” Sonoran Desert.  It was grassland and mesquite.  Volunteers were trying to bring back the masked Northern Bobwhite – by restoring the grasslands and trying to get rid of the mesquite.  There was also Pronghorn on the refuge.
    We originally planned to stay two nights there, but found Organ Pipe too impressive to pass up the second night.  And boy, I’m glad we stayed at Organ Pipe for two nights
    On the road to Buenos Aires, we saw Greater Roadrunners dart across the road.  I was delighted.  I was sure that if I didn’t see a roadrunner on this trip I would start calling it my jinx bird.  But I was so glad to see them.  We also stopped and saw two Harris’ Hawks perched on top of a telephone pole.  One was starting to dig into a bird it must have just caught.
On our way into the refuge, we saw the border patrol doing… well… border patrol.  There were a couple of ATVs and a large bus for sending caught migrants back over the border.  This is definitely not the place to be speeding.
    The environment had dramatically changed.  The saguaros disappeared, giving way to more mesquite and grasslands.  We pulled into the visitor center driveway and saw several birds along the way.  Several Horned Larks looked right at home along the tall grass.  An Eastern Meadowlark and a Cassin’s Kingbird flitted around the small scrubby brush.
    At the small visitor center, we looked around and had lunch.  Behind the visitor center, towhees, sparrows, quails, orioles, tanagers and warblers gathered among the “orchard” of mesquite.  I found a hummingbird nest (with mom) in a tree not far above the picnic tables.
    We began to talk about where to stay in the refuge for the night.  Apparently the refuge has an enormous problem with migrants crossing and people in the US picking them up.  That explain the greater number of border patrol in the refuge compared to Organ Pipe.  There was a murder down by the border and it’s not uncommon for high-speed chase to take place on the many back roads of the refuge.  The refuge people thought pretty much anyone who stayed for camping was crazy… I guess we’re pretty crazy and/or stupid.
    We packed up and decided to go on the Pronghorn auto loop drive.  We didn’t see any pronghorn, but we did see another Roadrunner and many Kestrels.  We also found out that we were probably driving the car in low 4-wheel drive the entire time we had it… really not good for the car.  But it’s a rental!  And it’s a crappy car.  A “service 4WD” sign appeared on the dashboard and we had to figure out how to get it into 2WD at least for the remainder of the trip.  Once we got it into the right gear, we were hoping the ride would be at least a little better, but there wasn’t much of any improvement.  It was still a crappy car – bad shocks and all.  So we drove through the grassland area – it was baking and hot and open, but scenic.
    We returned to the visitor center to pick up a map since the maps we had didn’t exactly give us the details we needed nor point out where the designated camping spots were.  After we picked up the map we decided to check out Grebe Lake, not far from the visitor center.  There was no water, but it looked fairly green from the wet winter they received.  We drove on through the refuge to try to get a campsite away from migrant pickups and high-speed chases.  As we drove, the scenery reminded me of the Serengeti.  I sort of expected a giraffe to pop out behind the trees at any moment.  Among the things we saw were a Red-tailed Hawk on a nest, Hooded Oriole, a single Vesper Sparrow, a jackrabbit, and 5 black-tailed deer.
We crossed the main road that went to Arivaca and continued northward on to another dirt road to our campsite.  It was sort of a bad sign that the gate on the road in had been knocked over and could no longer close
    Near the entrance, we saw a Collared Lizard basking in the setting sun on a yucca flower shoot. The dirt road in was pretty well worn and smooth (though didn’t feel that way with the truck).  We turned off the road onto a rockier road that dead-ended at two holding ponds.  We bounced along and it looked okay – no high-speed chase potential at least.  The road led us up along the ridge of a hill, we continued along though Ocotillo, beaver tail cactus, cholla and creosote.  The ocotillo here looked like it got a lot more water –their bright red flowers burst forth and small green leaves covering the stocks.  We arrived to our chosen campsite #44.  It had a nice view over the valley below - mountains backdropped in the distant west and hills lay to the east.
    We hoped for the best here and parked the car in the campsite.  We took a short hike down the road that ended at the ponds, which were surrounded by thickets of mesquite.  We hiked up the hillside, trying to get a better look at the ponds.  Instead, we found javelins tracks and poop.  Looked like a well-worn trail created by the pig relatives and perhaps migrants contributed to it.  We noticed a couple of migrant dens created under mesquite bushes – good for a resting point.  One was even lined with grass pulled out from a distance away.  At this point a rationale person probably would have left, but us?
We also saw a flock of Pyrrhuloxia.  They flew about the ocotillo, calling and foraging.
    When we didn't find water in the ponds, we returned to the road and headed back to camp. We tucked in for the night and hoped for the best.  In the distance, Common Poorwill called again and a trilling roll came from a Lesser Nighthawk.
At midnight, I was suddenly awoken by a loud noise passing directly over the truck.  Thinking another military jet was flying overhead, I pulled the sleeping bag over my head.  When my brain begans to registar the noise better, I realized the noise circle back and hover directly over us. I looked up and saw a black helicopter not more than a couple hundred feet hovering over the truck.  We quickly waved at it – hoping they would understand we’re not illegal immigrants nor picking up immigrants.  With the wave, it sped off into the distance, leaving us in silence.  I was a little shaken by it; we were somewhat worried they would have sent some border patrol out to check on us.  But that never happened.  It was definitely something I’ll remember.  But we’ll never camp in the refuge again.  Now we can reflect upon it and laugh.  It’s not every camping trip that you get woken by a government helicopter hovering over you.
Friday, April 22, 2005: Parker Canyon revisited
    The next morning we woke up thankful the border patrol has been dispatched to our site.  We pack up and head to the Arivaca Creek trail, which has tall mesquite and cottonwoods.  As we pull in we are not disappointed.  A Gray Fox runs across the entryway as we are still in the car.  It stops to look before running into the mesquite to take cover.  Along the dried up creek, there are many Vermillion Flycatcher bright red and not afraid to flash those colors.  Lucy’s Warblers are also numerous.  Two adult Gray Hawks perch atop a snag; we are lucky enough to witness them copulating.  The female calls (and perhaps whines) afterward.  Northern Cardinals sing loudly in the canopy and Gila Woodpeckers chase each other about.  The Mourning and White-winged Doves coo loudly in the tree tops and a couple of Bewick’s Wren chatters about the tree trunks.  Beyond the grove of mesquite, the ruins of a ranch home stood in a clearing.  It smelled strongly of skunk, so I didn’t really feel like poking around too much.  A male Hepatic Tanager flew into the trees and I could see its dazzling red color and gray bill and gray washed back.
    We head back to the car, a little uncertain of where we’ll end up tonight.  I’m more worried about the border patrol stopping us.  As we leave the refuge, we spot two Antelope Jackrabbits apparently confused as to which way to run.  A Swainson’s Hawk perches in a low bush and a small flock of Chihuahuan Ravens fly over the open scrub.  A Crested Caracara joins the Turkey Vultures in dining on the latest road kill. 
    The border patrol has stopped a truck as the big bus comes pulling in… I slow down enough, but don’t stare.  There’s no border patrol stop as we head further north.
    We stop at the Saguaro National Park, just west of Tuscon.  It looked like a beautiful park, probably well funded and well used by Arizonians and tourists alike.  But there’s not much for camping and the people population is too much.  We head on to the Tonto National Forest – back to Parker Canyon – the one we discovered the first Arizona trip. 
    After getting our bearings as to where the canyon is located (and getting a little stuck on a bad washy road – 4WD yeah right), we pull in to the camping spot.  Just as I remembered it, except I can hear rushing water.  I strain my bino on the canyon down below and find the stream rushing with water.  They got a lot more water than 2 years ago.  The plants were a telltale sign as well.  The flowers are still blooming.  Down by the border, it looked like the wildflowers had just finished and the saguaro were just starting, but up here the wildflowers were still in full force and the ocotillo was just starting.
    We pack up lunch and hike down to the canyon.  We know there’s no use in trying to keep our feet try, so we zip off our pants leggings and start sloshing up the canyon.  The water is a lot higher; the fish seem to have gotten washed down the stream.
    We clamber of rocks and through small rushing waterfalls.  And we finally get to where we ended the first time.  The bird that nested there two years ago is still nesting on the same rock in almost the same spot.  There are four whitish eggs in the cup mud nest.
    Along the sand banks we see mountain lion tracks headed out of the canyon and later on bobcat prints also headed out.  Along the canyon walls there are small caves and crevices.  I spot a couple large openings with honeycombs hanging down.  Bees fly around the hive – a great inaccessible spot.  When climbing along a rock wall, a frog hops and gives away its presence.  The frog is well camouflaged against the rock wall.  It is a Canyon Tree Frog – the frog that was calling the last time we came to the canyon, but then we didn’t know what was making the noise.
    A pair of Canyon Wrens calls along the canyon walls.  The echo off the wall enhances their calls - truly the habitat in which their calls were meant to be heard. We continue up the canyon more; the gray overcast sky illuminates the canyon well.
The cool water gets deeper is some places, almost up to my hips.  A little hard to get used to, but with the warm air and interesting environment made it easy to quickly forget. Small seeps feed into the stream, dripping down the moss covered walls.  The walls of the canyons become narrower at one point and it almost looks like stalactites high up on the walls – cave-like structures.
    At a bend in the canyon – a truly beautiful sight, a large seep pouring down a mossy rock, which hangs under the over hanging canyon wall.  The water drips down the rock directly into the stream.  A large trunk is wedged into the canyon’s bend and maiden ferns grow from the seeping rocks. 
    We pass through the deep water and under the seep, wondering what awaits us around the next corner.  Once we get through, there’s a narrower canyon wall and a waterfall cascading down.  We’d have to wade in deeper water and climb up the side of the rock wall in order to pass… but we had to leave more for next time.  It was getting late and we didn’t want to get caught when night fell.
    We headed back out the canyon.  As we leave the mouth of the canyon, the tree frogs began to give their reverberating call. As we got to the truck another call sounded, probably a bullfrog.  They serenaded us as we watched the sunset, and the clouds turn a brilliant pink before they faded in the darkness.
    As we were preparing dinner, we hear human voices.  They turned out to be a group of lost spelunkers who had perhaps gone to far down the canyon and couldn’t figure out where they were in order to get back.  We tried to help them on their way.  In the process, we learned there was a spring that fed into the canyon and caves as well (obviously). We turned in for the night as more poorwills called in the distance.  Another full day in Arizona.

Saturday, April 23rd, 2005: Out of the Ashes
    Before we packed up and headed back to Phoenix, we took one more look around.  I spotted what I thought was a Turkey Vulture and thought it was a little early for it to be up tittering in the air, but didn’t give it a second though.
Later while we were enjoying out breakfast overlooking the canyon below, a hawk flew into a low bush across the canyon.  As it perched there, I was trying to determine if it was a Black Hawk or a Zone-tailed Hawk.  Eventually it flew to another bush picked off a branch and flew to its nest in a tall cottonwood growing the in canyon.  It turned out to be a Zone-tailed Hawk – it was probably the one I saw flying like a vulture earlier.  It called softly as the hawk positioned its twig on the nest and flew back to the other side of the canyon.  Quite a good last minute sighting before leaving.
    We walked back down the road to look at the blooming larkspur, poppies, lupin and scrubs.  I stopped by a low scrub along the road and was startled with a bird flew suddenly.  There was a nest with tiny babies in the middle of the bush.  I think they were Black-throated Sparrows.  Another wonderful last minute find as well.
    We packed up the car and said our goodbyes to the Sonoran Desert.  We took a different way home - through a curvy dirt road over canyon and along a river.  Though the road was shorter, the going was a little slow and a bit scary at points.  There were a lot of blind corners and one lane bridges; mix in bumpy dirt road, narrow lanes, and big monster truck well it’s not exactly a walk in the park.  But we made it through.  It was scenic, at least, I think so from the few glances I got when not concentrating on the road.
    When we got closer to Phoenix, there were a lot more cars going up the small whindy road – even Hummers.  Amazing.  That must really be uncomfortable and an overkill.  After hunting down a gas station in Phoenix, we returned the car – thankful to get rid of it.  Not so thankful when the attendant locked the door with the keys and our stuff inside it.  He returned with a spare key and we checked out finally rid of the car.  I notice the attendant wrote “Sale” on the window of the truck.  I sure wouldn’t want to buy this truck… let alone drive one again.
    We arrived at the airport on time and of course the plane didn’t.  I’m detecting a pattern in the airport business.
But we were only 30 minutes late this time.  The flight in the beginning was rough.  Turbulence is one thing, but dropping a 10-20 feet in air in a huge piece of metal is another.  Once we got above the clouds it was a lot better.
    We got back to rainy Seattle in the evening.  It was a great trip to Arizona.  I think I enjoyed this trip better than the first trip.  The places we picked were better – even with the black helicopter.  And I felt we were able to explore and look more closely at things.  I also felt like I know more about the Sonoran Desert - its compositions and environments.  I also saw a great number of birds, including the Roadrunner.  Next on my list is the Elf Owl.



Sonoran Desert National Monument
Sonoran Desert National Monument
Sauguro blooms,
Sonoran Desert NM
Sonoran Desert NM
Northern Cardinal,
Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Ramada made of ocotillo,
Organ Pipe Cactus NM visitor center
Gila Woodpecker,
Organ Pipe Cactus, NM
Cholla flowers,
Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Cactus Wren,
Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Ajo Mountain,
Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Canyon Towhees, fledgling on left,
Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Ajo Mountains and Alamo Canyon Campground
Organ Pipe Cactus
Alamo Canyon,
Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Gila Monster,
Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Organ Pipe Cactus,
Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Old Alamo Ranch Corral,
Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Merrium's Kangaroo Rat,
Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Ocotillo blooms,
Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Chain-fruit Cholla,
Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Millitary Jet over Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Grassland Canyon,
Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Organ Pipe Cactus bloom,
Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Natural Arch,
Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Desert Cottontail
Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Teddy Bear Chollas,
Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Red Spotted Toad,
Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Red Spotted Toad,
Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Alamo Creek,
Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Zebratail Lizard,
Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Antelope Squirrel (boy),
Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Border Patrol,
Buenos Aires NWR
Buenos Aires NWR
Greater Roadrunner,
Buenos Aires NWR
Buenos Aires NWR
Barrel Cactus fruit,
Buenos Aires NWR
Buenos Aires NWR
Immigrant bed,
Buenos Aires NWR
Arivaca Creek,
Buenos Aires NWR
Old ranch,
Buenos Aires NWR
Border patrol tower,
Parker Canyon,
Tonto NF
Parker Canyon,
Tonto NF
Mountain Lion track,
Parker Canyon
Parker Canyon
Parker Canyon
Parker Canyon
Parker Canyon
Canyon Tree Frog,
Parker Canyon
Canyon Tree Frog,
Parker Canyon
Saurugo skeleton,
Parker Canyon
Parker Canyon
Parker Canyon
Tonto NF
Zone-tailed Hawk building nest,
Parker Canyon

Bird List

Common Name Latin Name Where Seen Notes
Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura all places
Common Black-Hawk Buteogallus anthracinus road side
Harris' Hawk  Parabuteo unicinctus road side near Buenos Aires 2 perched on pole, one eating bird
Gray Hawk Buteo nitidus Buenos Aires (Arivaca Creek) seen copulating
Swainson's Hawk Buteo swainsoni Buenos Aires NWR
Zone-tailed Hawk Buteo albonotatus Parker Canyon, Tonto NF 1 building nest in cottonwood
Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis Buenos Aires, Organ Pipe
Crested Caracara Polyborus plancus Buenos Aires NWR eating with TVs
American Kestrel Falco sparverius Sonoran Desert NM, Organ Pipe, Buenos Aires
Gambel's Quail Callipepla gambelii all places seen with small babies
Rock Dove Columba livia towns
White-winged Dove Zenaida asiatica Buenos Aires, Organ Pipe
Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura all places 1 seen sitting on nest
Greater Roadrunner Geococcyx californianus near Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires
Western Screech-Owl Otus kennicottii Organ Pipe Cactus (Alamo Canyon)
Great Horned Owl Bubo virginianus Organ Pipe Cactus (Alamo Canyon)
Lesser Nighthawk Chordeiles acutipennis Buenos Aires NWR
Common Poorwill Phalaenoptilus nuttallii Organ Pipe, Buenos Aires, Parker Canyon
White-throated Swift Aeronautes saxatalis Organ Pipe Cactus (Grassland Canyon)
Anna's Hummingbird Calypte anna Organ Pipe, Buenos Aires
Costa's Hummingbird Calypte costae all places chasing each other at creek
Broad-tailed Hummingbird Selasphorus platycercus Parker Canyon, Tonto NF
Gila Woodpecker Melanerpes uropygialis all places seen going in saguaros
Ladder-backed Woodpecker Picoides scalaris all places
Gilded Flicker Colaptes chrysoides all places
- Pacific-Slope Flycatcher Empidonax difficilis Organ Pipe Cactus
Black Phoebe Sayornis nigricans Parker Canyon, Tonto NF
Say's Phoebe Sayornis saya Buenos Aires NWR (visitor center)
Ash-throated Flycatcher Myiarchus cinerascens all places
Cassin's Kingbird Tyrannus vociferans Buenos Aires NWR
Western Kingbird Tyrannus verticalis all places
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica Buenos Aires NWR (visitor center)
Chihuahuan Raven Corvus cryptoleucus Bueons Aires NWR seen in small flocks
Common Raven Corvus corax all places
Verdin Auriparus flaviceps all places fledgling has orange bill
Cactus Wren Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus Sonoran Desert NM, Organ Pipe, Buenos Aires seen building nest in cholla
Rock Wren Salpinctes obsoletus Parker Canyon, Tonto NF
Canyon Wren Catherpes mexicanus Organ Pipe, Tonto NF
Bewick's Wren Thryomanes bewickii Buenos Aires (Arivaca Creek)
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher Polioptila melanura all places
Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos  all places
Curve-billed Thrasher Toxostoma curvirostre Organ Pipe
Phainopepla Phainopepla nitens all places
Loggerhead Shrike Lanius ludovicianus Sonoran Desert NM
European Starling Sturnus vulgaris Sonoran Desert NM
Gray Vireo Vireo vicinior Buenos Aires (Arivaca Creek)
Warbling Vireo Vireo gilvus Organ Pipe (Alamo Canyon)
Yellow Warbler Dendroica petechia Parker Canyon, Tonto NF
Townsend's Warbler Dendroica townsendi Organ Pipe Cactus, Buenos Aires (visitor center)
MacGillivray's Warbler Oporornis tolmiei Organ Pipe (Alamo Canyon), Buenos Aires (visitor center)
Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas Buenos Aires (visitor center)
Wilson's Warbler Wilsonia pusilla Sonoran Desert NM, Organ Pipe, Buenos Aires
Hepatic Tanager Piranga flava Buenos Aires (Arivaca Creek) 1 male
Western Tanager Piranga ludoviciana Organ Pipe (Alamo Canyon)
Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis Organ Pipe (visitor center & Alamo Canyon)
Pyrrhuloxia Cardinalis sinuatus Buenos Aires NWR
Lazuli Bunting Passerina amoena Organ Pipe (Grassland Canyon), Buenos Aires NWR
Green-tailed Towhee Pipilo chlorurus Organ Pipe, Buenos Aires
Canyon (Brown) Towhee Pipilo fuscus Sonoran Desert NM, Organ Pipe, Buenos Aires feeding fledgling
Chipping Sparrow Spizella passerina Organ Pipe (Alamo Canyon)
Vesper Sparrow Pooecetes gramineus Bueons Aires NWR
Lark Sparrow Chondestes grammacus Sonoran Desert NM, Organ Pipe, Buenos Aires
Black-throated Sparrow Amphispiza bilineata Organ Pipe, Buenos Aires, Parker Canyon
Eastern Meadowlark Sturnella magna Buenos Aires NWR
Hooded Oriole  Icterus cucullatus Organ Pipe, Buenos Aires NWR
Scott's Oriole Icterus parisorum Organ Pipe
House Finch Carpodacus mexicanus Sonoran Desert NM, Organ Pipe, Buenos Aires
Lesser Goldfinch Carduelis psaltria Organ Pipe, Buenos Aires
House Sparrow Passer domesticus Buenos Aires (visitor center)

Other Critter List

Black-tailed Jackrabbit Sonoran Desert NM, Organ Pipe
Desert Cottontail Organ Pipe, Tonto NF (Parker Canyon)
Yuma Antelope Squirrel Organ Pipe, Tonto NF (Parker Canyon)
Rock Squirrel Organ Pipe, Tonto NF (Parker Canyon)
Merriam's Kangaroo Rat Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Desert/Rock Pocket Mouse Organ Pipe Cactus NM
bat sp Organ Pipe, Buenos Aires NWR
Gray Fox Buenos Aires (Arivaca Creek)
Coyote Road side
Black-tailed Deer Buenos Aires
Javelina tracks & scat Buenos Aires
Mountain Lion Tracks Parker Canyon, Tonto NF
Bobcat Tracks Parker Canyon, Tonto NF
Gila Monster Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Red-spotted Toad Organ Pipe Cactus (Alamo Canyon)
Zebratail Lizard Organ Pipe Cacuts NM
Collared Lizard Buenos Aires NWR
Canyon Tree Frog Parker Canyon, Tonto NF
Bullfrog sp. Parker Canyon, Tonto NF



Sonoran Desert National Monument
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge

Tonto National Forest 


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page updated: 3/18/08