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Sonoran Desert, AZ - part II
April 2010

Sonoran Desert National Monument
    Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
    Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge
    Tinajas Altas Mountains


Monday, April 19th: crossing the border... guards

At 5AM, I woke up to the occasional pit-pat of raindrops on the sleeping bags. Heavy clouds had moved in overnight. As the frequency increased, we quickly migrated into the tent, which we had set up to store our sleeping bags during the day when we drove the truck. I fell back asleep to the sound of raindrops hitting our tent.

I awoke an hour later and the rain was still drizzle down. The smell of the wet Sonoran desert was unlike anything I’ve smelled before. Tor described it as dusty beans. I thought maybe a wet, earthy, fresh mildew. But that still didn’t seem right. It is, however, uniquely different from the summer rain on warm pavement in Washington.

Upholding the tradition, two jets flew low over the campground, with one flying directly above the truck. I guess if you’re a pilot training for a war, you might as well have a little fun scaring the civilians a little.

As a light rain fell, we hiked back into Alamo Canyon. At the creek, we notice the water level rose slightly (just a centimeter or two), which was impressive considering how little rain had fallen. As we had breakfast at the creek, I noticed the absent of the Lesser Goldfinch’s chatter that had filled the previous day. In fact, the creek was very quiet. Perhaps the birds had dispersed not having to indulge in a bath; instead they opted for a morning shower.

The rain didn’t last long and the clouds were starting to lift by the time we returned to camp. We packed up our gear and stopped at the visitor center to refill on water. By mid-morning, we left Organ Pipe Cactus and were headed to the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlfe Refuge office in Ajo.

I had read about the refuge when researching the Arizona trip 5 years ago. Back then I hesitated, because one needs a special permit in order to access the refuge. I was under the impression that this was due to military activities from the adjacent Barry M. Goldwater range. We didn’t go to the refuge back then mainly due to time constraints. But the area interested me, and on this trip we had plenty of time to explore the area.

At the office, we quickly learned that the eastern half of the refuge was closed until mid-July due to the Sonoran pronghorn fawning season. The eastern portion was the area I hoping to explore, and it is easily accessible from Ajo. The western half of the refuge, however, was still accessible, but required a 3-hour drive from Ajo through Wellton. We decided to just go for it.

To get the permits, we had sign a waver basically stating that if we were to die in the refuge, we couldn’t sue the government. The dangers of the refuge included unexploded ordinances, being stranded/stuck, and illegal border activity. We also had to watch a video about the natural and cultural history of the refuge. It was informative, but I found the guide in the video a little obnoxious. Most interesting about the refuge was “la Camino del Diablo.” Translated means “the road of hell.” During the gold rush, miners used the road (that goes through the current refuge) to travel from Mexico to California. The road was long, and the lack of water killed a lot of people along their travel.

The helpful ranger at the office issued us permits and provided us with maps to get there. She pointed out good camping at Tule Well and the Tinajas Altas just outside of the refuge. The Tinajas Altas Mountains held the reliable high tank that the miners stopped at when heading toward the California gold.

After a two-hour drive from Ajo, we exited the highway and passed through Wellton. We turned onto a gravel road and passed a water collecting station for military operations. Soon we were entering the Barry M. Goldwater range. We could see the soldier training camps, fake military targets, and miscellaneous buildings we didn’t know the function of. The road traversed low desert – mostly creosote, ocotillo, and a few saguaros. The road itself, although flat, was deep in gravel in many places. It was definitely a road to have 4-wheel drive on or one that you wouldn’t want to stop on or else risk getting stuck in the loose gravel.

We were soon on el Camino del Diablo, as marked by a giant (shot up) sign on the side of the road. We made our way past the Tinajas Altas sign before our first encounter with the border patrol. The border patrol truck was coming in the opposite direction. We rolled up and the questions began. Actually of all the border guards we met, the first one was one of the nicer ones. Yes, as the days in the areas progressed, we quickly learned there’s a spectrum of border guard personalities (more on that later). But the interactions involved the same questions – where are you going/coming from? And how long are you staying? Never did they ask for identification or for the permits. At first we flashed the permits, but then got the impression that the guards either didn’t care about the permits or didn’t know about the permits. Their only goal was to find out if we were a threat – in the sense of picking up or meeting smugglers. I’m still not sure if they were more annoyed by our presence or thought we were stupid/crazy/naive to be camping and hiking in what was essentially a war zone.

The first border guard was pleasant and even recommended the Tinajas Altas as good camping location. He told us that he’d let everyone know we were going to be camping at the Tule Well. So I half expected that other guards would be aware of our presence.

After we past the Tinajas Altas turnoffs, we entered the refuge. In the distance, we could see mountains of white granite. In stark contrast, dark old volcanoes stood next the granite counterparts. Some of the granite mountains were engulfed by volcano flow and frozen there for centuries to come. Cabeza Prieta Mountain is such a phenomenon – a tall large dark head of lava entombing the granite mountains surrounding it.

The dirt road skirted close to the granite mountains. Cotton-top cacti and devil’s cholla grew near the sides of the road. Soon distant granite and lava mountains surrounded us on all side. We bumped along the dirt, but firm road. Masses of large colorful caterpillars crawled over the road. Their size and number gave me the hebegebes. I didn’t know it at the time, but they were white-lined sphinx moth caterpillars. They still would have given me the hebegebes even if I knew.

A pair of copulating desert iguanas basked in the middle of the road. The female was wary of us, but the male didn’t see too concerned about anything. I think all his energy was focused elsewhere.

Ahead we saw more border patrol. This time there were two trucks and two pompous dicks. A sharp contrast to the previous guard, these guys seemed itching for action. They sort of reminded me of South Park’s Cartman, when he pretended to be a cop – going around on his big wheels and saying, “respect my author-a-ty!” Except, of course, these guys had loaded guns and could throw you in the back of the pickup truck holding cell. After the second interrogation, I knew we’d go through the same routine with every guard we’d encounter even if they supposedly let the others know we were out there.

We arrived at Tule Well without further incident. The road forked at the campground. El Camino del Diablo continued south toward Mexico. The other fork was Christmas Pass Road, which lead northeasterly. Both roads were closed off 5 miles ahead to protect the pronghorn. The campground was located along a wash bordered by thickets of mesquite. The surrounding area was flat low elevation desert with a few nearby hills. In the distance, large masses of granite and lava rock arose abruptly from the desert floor. The rocky mountains were for the most part bare except for a few succulents, cacti, and shrubs that dotted granite faces. At the Tule Well campground, there was a working windmill that pumped water into a holding tank. This was probably where the rangers collected water to put in tanks for the pronghorns on the other side of the refuge. There was also a little cabin, which had a picnic table, fireplace, and cabinet. The cabinet held some random supplies left by previous visitors. There was even a geocache on one of the shelves. On a hill overlooking the desert were a marker and a giant American flag left by several boyscout troops. The campground was also less than 5 miles from the Mexico border.

After setting up camp, we walked down the wash and enjoyed our new surroundings. A few flowers bloomed in the wash, including desert four o’clock, purple mat, desert star, and blazing star. Out of the wash, desert sunflowers bloomed above the desert cement, adding color and beauty to what could be an otherwise desolate looking place.

Evening began to set in and rather than take any chance with border patrol (or even the minute chance of running into smugglers), we stayed by our campsite. Later in the evening a border patrol vehicle must have seen our shoe prints in the wash and got out of the car around the campground to investigate. Once we waved when the flicker of his flashlight fell over us, the guard returned to his vehicle without questioning us.

Night set it and a slight breeze kept the temperature down. A poorwill called once, but the air became silent except for the occasional squeak of the windmill, flap of the flag, and the quiet chirps of crickets... and the occasional border patrol going by.

Tuesday, April 20th: Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge

In the morning, we set out to hike the Christmas Pass road. Going toward Mexico didn’t seem like the most intelligent thing to do (vs. camping in a war zone is OK). At least this way we might decrease the chances of running into the border patrol. The sun was just starting to peak over the mountains and would have made it scorching very quickly if it weren’t for a breeze that kept the cool air circulating.

The hike through the low desert was more interesting than I thought it would be. Micro-niches in the low desert hosted a variety of environments in distinct patches: teddy bear chollas, pincushion, creosote and bursage, desert sunflowers, and spiny calico. Sometimes the ground was able to host a mixture of flowers. The tiniest flowers added to the beauty of the arid land. Thick carpets of desert skeleton settled over the ground in a mist of green and yellow. Near a shallow wash, we found one deliciously scented, blooming desert lily. In some places, the ground was seemingly devoid of plants. But even these patches of desert cement held beauty and intrigue.

In front of us, we could see multiple layers of mountains in the far distance. Each mountain range was only a silhouette against the low blazing sun. Their strange rocky formations seemed more obvious in profile.

Though not as bountiful as a riparian area, the low desert was rich in bird life. Brewer’s, Chipping, and Black-throated Sparrows sang from the creosote bushes. House Finches, Phainopeplas, Warbling Vireos, Ash-throated Flycatchers, Pacific-sloped Flycatchers, and Costa’s Hummingbirds relished life in the washes. And no matter where we were, the song of the Northern Mockingbird was always in the air.

Three or four miles down the road, we began to notice large piles of rocks. We couldn’t determine if they marked the graves of the hopeful prospectors or if they were random pilings, until we came upon a large piling about 6 ft long with a larger piling at one end. The grave was positioned nicely to give the deceased a nice view of the mountains, if the deceased could still enjoy it.

A road closed sign marked the end of the 5 miles. We thought we’d see the Christmas Pass Campground, but it looked like the road closure was before the pass. We wondered if there would be a physically barrier across the road, but I suppose with border patrol using the roads, it would be inconvenient for them to unlock a gate.

Hiking back down the road, I stopped to look at something, when a high-pitched buzzing started right off the road. At first I thought it was an insect, but noticed movement on the ground just four feet away from me. That’s when I realized the buzzing was emitted from the rattle of a sidewinder no longer and a foot and a half. The small sidewinder’s tiny rattle made a high buzzing. It wound its way to the safety of a creosote bush and, except for the rattling, was well camouflaged.

Back towards the Mexican border, a helicopter flew low over the mountains. It passed by several miles away from us. Unlike the helicopter we had an encounter with the last time, this one was white and quite obvious. Military jets also flew over the refuge. I began to wonder how much noise it takes to harass the pronghorn if these jets, helicopters, and border patrol vehicles are around constantly.

Our morning hike was 10 miles total, but we still had energy and were not even close to as tired as we were after the Grass Canyon hike. It’s the difference between hiking a level well worn trail and bushwacking your way up and down a saddle. We spent the afternoon kicking back the shade in the wash near our campsite. I tired seemingly futile attempts to get a good picture of a mockingbird, which I swear was mocking me! However, the lighting wasn’t very good anyway, and by the evening, I had managed to get some decent shots of a more cooperative mockingbird.

It wasn’t until after dinner that the border patrol stopped by. Tule Well was also a staging ground for the border patrol. A border guard and two refuge rangers were talking near the brick house for well over an hour. After the two rangers left, the border guard checked in with us. I guess he wanted to know that they were there to catch smugglers, as if we didn’t get that impression already. At least this guard wasn’t a big of a hard ass like the others.

The night sky was clear. The waxing crescent moon illuminated the desert floor, as a gentle breeze tugged at the corners of my sleeping bag.

Wednesday, April 21st: Tinajas Altas

In the morning, I attempted digascoping once more. I cursed the Wilson’s, Orange-crowned, and Yellow-rumped Warblers, Black-tailed Gnatcatchers, and flycatchers that just wouldn’t pose nicely for me. When I had my fill of frustration, we packed up the truck once more and headed out of the refuge. Our plan was to spend the night at the Tinajas Altas near the high tank.

We took our time leaving the refuge, stopping to take pictures and admiring the scenery. Just as we left the granite mountains behind, we could see the telltale signs of an approaching truck – likely belonging to the border patrol.

Somehow (maybe a sensory in the road) triggered two border guards to meet up with us. We went through the same run down of questions. One of the border guards was particularly nice and gave us directions to the Tinajas Altas Mountains. He proceeded to tell us how beautiful it was and to look for big horned sheep and petroglyphs on the rocks above the tank.

Since we didn’t have a map of the area, the guard even went out of his way to stop at the Tinajas turn out to make sure we turned into the right road. This was quite unexpected, but we were very gracious. We took the middle road to the Tinajas Altas and followed the main road through a valley. Large granite mountains stood on either side of us. The road funneled us through several deep washes, until we hit a sign saying “authorized vehicles only.” Oops, we were within 2 miles of the Mexican border and it look like a straight shot along that road. We turned back and looked more closely for the tank. We didn’t see anything that looked like it could hold water, and we didn’t see any turn offs from the road. As we were exiting the valley, another border guard pulled up. Must have triggered this guy to come out too.

He questioned us, highly concerned about where we had just come from. Once that was straightened out, he directed us on the right jeep road to the tank. We thanked him and got on the right jeep road.

The tank was on the east side of the Tinajas Altas and just a short drive from the main road. Across from the Tinajas Altas we could see the volcanic and granite mountains of Cabeza Prieta just 10 miles east. We pulled into the turn out to the tank and hiked up the wash. The pool was deep and full of deep green water. The granite wall above the tank was smooth with few cracks, and few plants grew above the tank. It was easy to imagine water cascading down the steep granite walls to funnel down to the pool.

The desert birds concentrated around the productive wash and the cliff. Green-tailed Towhees, Phainopeplas, Lesser Goldfinches, House Finches, Mourning Doves, and flycatchers all enjoyed the smorgasbord of insects, seeds, and tasty plant buds. In one of the crevice of the rock wall a raven tended its nest. A Prairie Falcon circled nearby, but surprisingly the raven did not disturb it.

Since we couldn’t camp next to the tank, we hiked down south looking for a campsite. When that direction didn’t turn up anything, we hike up north following the mountain walls. We poked around the washes and climbed up rocks, when we noticed the first elephant tree! We had seen elephant trees at Anza-Borego State Park in California and I had wanted to see them at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (but that trail was closed). So I was happy to see them again here! An unexpected surprise. The more we looked around the rock faces, the more elephant trees we saw. They were everywhere and some with considerable size. I began to wonder, if see all these elephant trees that one could literally drive up to, made our experience with the Anza-Borrego elephant trees less special. In California, we had taken a somewhat strenuous hike up a basin to those elephant trees. Here you couldn’t throw a stick without hitting an elephant tree.

During the hike, I lost my pen for my notebook. I retraced my steps looking for the pen. During my futile search for the black pen among the thick desert shrubs, I found an odd piece of metal or aluminum. It was a long, rectangular, and flat with a tapered edges on the long sides. On one corner was what looked like two small rods to allow it to pivot on the missing object. I picked up the piece curious as to what it was. Having no clue, we trundled onwards over the desert.

We continued to follow the granite wall and eventually crossed over a mini-saddle (nothing compared to Grass Canyon) to the other side. We followed the wall southward. On the rock walls, gila live-forever were almost ready to bloom, and the white stem milkweed flourished their pale yellow blossoms on the thin tall stalks. The radiant pink blossoms of the beavertail cacti brightened up the sides of the roads.

While we were hiking along an animal trail, I looked down and noticed an odd cylindrical object sticking out of the ground. And lo-and-behold, on the end was the same piece of metal I had found earlier. It was a blade to a bomb! The area was used to practice during WWII and unexploded ordinances weren’t something out of the ordinary. Looking around the area, we found 3 more bombs sticking out of the ground. All of the bombs were in a cluster 20 feet from each other. A little farther away in the dirt road was a bomb sticking out only a few centimeters above the ground. It had obviously been driven over repeatedly without dire consequences. We left the bombs and continued down the road that cut through the valley we had driven earlier.

The sun peaked through the clouds, occasionally illuminated the white granite mountains. As evening approached and the temperature cooled, a wind slowly began to pick up and send chilling gusts around the mountains. We returned to the car and moved it to a camping spot north of the tank. The spot was tucked into a sheltered nook of the mountains and offered some protection from the stronger gusts of wind. A dark band of clouds appeared on the horizon and was slowly drifting toward us. Thankfully the night sky remained free of clouds and by nightfall the winds had died down. Over the granite walls, a male Great Horned Owls called steadily. Farther away, the female would join in with a few hoots of her own.

Thursday, April 22nd: back to Table Top

Morning brought the return of clouds. By the time we had the car packed, the sky was a layer of white. We returned to the tank where I tried to take bird pictures once again. I didn’t have any luck capturing pictures. Instead I did enjoy seeing a mixed flock of warbler, including a MacGillavary’s, Hermit, Townsend’s, Wilson’s, and Orange-crowned. The Pacific-sloped Flycatchers were very active as were the flocks of Lesser Goldfinches and White-crowned Sparrows. And two Green-tailed Towhees trilled happily from the brush.

We left the tank and headed back out on the main road. Not soon after did I see the familiar border patrol trucks coming to meet us. They were coming out of the Tinajas Altas from a different jeep trail so I stopped at the intersection waiting for them to join up with us. The first truck stopped and a border patrol guard jumped out of his truck. As he round the front of his truck, I noticed he placed his hand on his holstered gun. I thought, “WTF? This guy is going to shoot us? We weren’t trying to run away. In fact, we stopped for them to catch up to us!”

The guard lowered his hand when he saw us up close and proceeded to grill us with the usual questions. Thankfully the guard in the second truck showed up and turned out to be one of the same guards we ran into yesterday. So he vouched for us, and we manage to avoid getting one too many bullet holes in our body. After that the first guard’s attitude changed and he was actually somewhat cordial and even friendly.

So we saw a large spectrum of border guards. Regardless of rasce, the range was from pompous asshole to firm, yet not trying to scare the shit out of everyone. The pompous assholes seem to treat the place like a war zone and saw it nothing more than that. The other side was friendlier once they knew what you were doing. They were more open and could understand and appreciate of the beauty of the area.

During a stop to let the border patrol trucks pass, we almost got stuck in the deep gravel. Thank goodness we got the 4-wheel drive. As we pass through the military range, we passed a few more border patrol guards who don’t stop us. We passed more cars entering the range. They looked like contractors for the military. It looked like they were preparing to do some major test that day. At this point, I realized that seeing the elephant trees in the Tinajas Altas wasn’t exactly easy. There was so much one has to go through just to get there - the constant borage of border guards, going through a military range, needing 4-wheel drive, and being out in the middle of no where. I guess there was also the threat of running into smugglers.

Back in Wellton, we stop for gas and to go to the little grocery store for  a few more supplies. The grocery store was part of a new strip mall built in conjunction with the adjacent golf course and housing resort. The plans for the golf course must have fell through and the grocery store was obviously struggling in the economy. We walked into the moderately sized store to find more than half of the shelves empty. They were about as well stocked as a gas station, and they didn’t even have bread. They did, however, have Japanese peanuts, which we stocked up on. We also picked up a package of fresh medjool dates that we very delicious and perhaps grown at the nearby town, Dateland.

The next day we were flying out, so we decided to spend the night back at Table Top Wilderness since it was relatively close to Phoenix. On the way there, we stopped at Gila Bend for lunch. We stopped at Sofia’s, the only Mexican restaurant on the main street. Even though the painful memory of the Gringo Pass Mexican cafe still lingered in my head (and maybe my intestines), I was willing to give this a chance. We were both happily surprised at how much better this place was than Gringo Pass. The food was very tasty and good going down, and better yet, the rest of my digestive track didn’t protest later.

It was a quick drive from Gila Bend to reach Table Top Wilderness. After a bit of contemplation, we decided to go back to the campground instead of going to the other trailheads in the wilderness area. Down the road, we ran into the same ranger we had met during the beginning of the trip. He said it was busy the past couple of nights and mentioned the border patrol, but that things should be quiet tonight. I’m not exactly sure what that meant, but appreciated that he said things would be quiet.

When turned on the road to the campground, we could see dark clouds approaching from across the deesrt. The whispy tails below the low clouds foretold of rain. Despite the approaching rains, we decided to hike on the Table Top Mountain trail. We weren’t aiming to go to the top, but just to go for a walk. The sun was playing peek-a-boo behind the large clouds as we walked up the trail.

Immediately, we noticed the change in the blooms since just over a week ago. The fairydusters, which were once vibrantly pink and fuzzy, turned white and began to droop. The brittlebush on the lava rock-covered hills had lost their luminosity. However, the prickly pear cacti were now starting to open their yellow blossoms, and desert four o’clock bloomed in the washes.

As we hiked farther up the trail, the sun breaks became few and far between. Soon a thick blanket of white clouds had consumed the sun and the once pleasant wind became cold and chilling. We turned back at the sight of darkening clouds approaching. At the campsite, we set up the tent and tried to we pack up what we could.

When the rain came, we ducked into the tent for cover. The rain hit the tent at a slow but steady pace. The sky was filled with dark blue and black with clouds. The cactus wrens and mockingbirds quieted down, and the smell of desert rain arose in the air. During a lull in the rain, we came out to eat dinner and could see the next rain approaching.

The heavy blanket of clouds seemed somewhat oppressive and stuffy over the desert. The ocotillo stems turned dark with the fallen rain. Cacti flowers were closed tightly. When night approached, another rain followed. We hid in our shelter listening to the splatter of rain on the tent. The elf owl called again, likely from the same place as before.

It rained throughout the night at a steady pace. I would wake up occasion to listen to the drops hitting the tent before drifting off again.

Friday, April 23rd: going home

The rain tapered down considerably in the morning. The birds began to sign for the new day. On the horizon was a band of blue sky that slowly swept the clouds away. Soon the sun peaked out from behind the mountains, and the fallen desert rain began to evaporate.

With the help of the sun and a slight breeze, we began to dry out our gear. Meanwhile the pair of vocal American Kestrels was swooping on the raven again. After a week, the raven hadn’t learned to stay away or the kestrels weren’t very effective at harassing it. While our gear dried, we decided to walk down the road that continued on past the campground. The road passed through a large patch of prickly pears, Arizona pencil cholla, and Christmas cholla. A Turkey Vulture dined on a dead coyote on the side of the road. And a Canyon Towhee sang from the top of a saguaro. We enjoyed our last moments in the desert, reflecting on all the new things we had seen, while acknowledging that there are plenty more new things to see in future trips. It had been another great trip to keep in our memories. And as always, I am looking forward to more.



Bird List
Turkey Vulture OPCNM, CPNWR, SDNM
Harris' Hawk  mobbed by kestrel
Red-tailed Hawk OPCNM, CPNWR, SDNM
Cooper's Hawk SDNM, 1
Osprey 1 soaring overhead
American Kestrel OPCNM, SDNM, pair mobbing raven
Peregrine Falcon OPCNM, 1 Alamo canyon
Praire Falcon CPNWR, 1 at high tank, Tinajas Altas
Gambel's Quail OPCNM, CPNWR, SDNM
White-winged Dove OPCNM, CPNWR, SDNM
Mourning Dove OPCNM, CPNWR, SDNM
Eurasian-collared Dove CPNWR
Greater Roadrunner heard near campground, OPCNM
Western Screech-Owl heard, OPCNM,  SDNM
Great Horned Owl heard, OPCNM, CPNWR, SDNM
Elf Owl SDNM, heard 2
Common Poorwill OPCNM, CPNWR, SDNM
White-throated Swift OPCNM
Anna's Hummingbird 1 male, OPCNM
Costa's Hummingbird OPCNM, CPNWR, SDNM
Gila Woodpecker OPCNM, SDNM
Ladder-backed Woodpecker OPCNM(pair), CPNWR(1male), SDNM (heard)
Gilded Flicker OPCNM, CPNWR, SDNM
Northern Flicker nest cavity with vocal chicks, SDNM
Pacific-Slope Flycatcher OPCNM, CPNWR, SDNM
Hammond's Flycatcher OPCNM, ?
Say's Phoebe OPCNM, CPNWR
Western Kingbird CPNWR
Ash-throated Flycatcher OPCNM, CPNWR, SDNM
Violet Green Swallow OPCNM
Cactus Wren OPCNM, SDNM
Canyon Wren heard, OPCNM, CPNWR, SDNM
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher OPCNM, CPNWR, SDNM
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher OPCNM
Loggerhead Shrike CPNWR
Northern Mockingbird OPCNM, CPNWR
Curve-billed Thrasher OPCNM, CPNWR, SDNM
American Robin OPCNM, 1
Swainson's Thrush OPCNM, 1 Grass canyon
Phainopepla OPCNM, CPNWR, SDNM
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1 wash behind grass canyon, 1 alamo canyon, OPCNM
Warbling Vireo 2 in washes, CPNWR
Yellow-rumped Warbler Audubon's, OPCNM, CPNWR
Black-throated Gray Warbler OPCNM (1 wash behind grass canyon, 1 alamo canyon), CPNWR
Townsend's Warbler OPCNM, CPNWR
Nashville Warbler OPCNM (1 Alamo canyon), CPNWR
Wilson's Warbler OPCNM, CPNWR, SDNM
Hermit Warbler 1 at high tank, Tinajas Altas, CPNWR
MacGillivray's Warbler 1 at high tank, Tinajas Altas, CPNWR
Orange-crowned Warbler OPCNM (1 Alamo canyon), CPNWR
Western Tanager OPCNM (1 Alamo canyon), CPNWR
Northern Cardinal 1 alamo canyon, pair natural arch trail, OPCNM
Black-headed Grosbeak OPCNM (1 grass canyon, pair Alamo creek) CPNWR
Lazuli Bunting OPCNM (1 visitor center, 3 Alamo creek) CPNWR
Green-tailed Towhee OPCNM, CPNWR, SDNM
Canyon Towhee OPCNM, CPNWR, SDNM
Chipping Sparrow OPCNM, CPNWR
White-crowned Sparrow OPCNM, CPNWR
Golden-crowned Sparrow 1 visitor center, 1 Alamo creek, OPCNM
Lincoln's Sparrow OPCNM
Brewer's Sparrow CPNWR
Black-throated Sparrow visitor center
Great-tailed Grackle OPCNM, CPNWR
Hooded Oriole  1 bull pasture trail, 2 grass canyon
Scott's Oriole OPCNM
Brown-headed Cowbird SDNM, CPNWR
Rufous-crowed Sparrow OPCNM, 1, near desert view trail
Chipping Sparrow OPCNM
Lesser Goldfinch OPCNM, CPNWR
Lawrence's Goldfinch pair at visitor center

Other Critters
Black-tailed Jackrabbit OPCNM, SDNM
Desert Cottontail OPCNM, CPNWR
Yuma Antelope Squirrel OPCNM, CPNWR, SDNM
Rock Squirrel OPCNM
Merriam's Kangaroo Rat OPCNM
Coyote OPCNM (heard and on game camera), CPNWR
bat sp OPCNM
Gila Monster 1 on walk to grass canyon, 1 estes canyon, 1 alamo canyon, OPCNM
Red-spotted Toad alamo canyon, also tadpoles and eggs, OPCNM
Zebratail Lizard OPCNM, CPNWR
Clark's spiny lizard OPCNM (1 alamo canyon, 1 wash behind grass canyon), CPNWR
Sagebrush Lizard OPCNM, CPNWR, SDNM
Western Whiptail OPCNM, CPNWR
Side-blotched Lizard OPCNM, CPNWR
Regal Horned Lizard 1 small one, Alamo canyon
Collared Lizard 1 Ajo drive
Desert iguana CPNWR
Mojave Rattlesnake SDNM (1 in road, very pissy), OPCNM (1 grass canyon)
Western Diamonback Rattlesnake 1 alamo canyon, OPCNM
Sidewinder 1 small one, CPNWR
Gopher Snake OPCNM
Ajo Mountain Whipsnake 1 victoria mine trail, OPCNM
Sonoran patch-nose snake 2 ajo drive, 1 road to campground, OPCNM
vinegaroon OPCNM
Giant centipede OPCNM
Velvet ant OPCNM
Master blister beetle OPCNM, CPNWR
Iron cross blister beetle OPCNM
White-line sphinx caterpillars CPNWR

Blooming Flowers
American threefold OPCNM, CPNWR
AZ barrel cactus CPNWR
baby bonnet OPCNM, SDNM
beavertail cactus CPNWR
blazing star CPNWR
bluedicks OPCNM, CPNWR
bristly calico CPNWR
bristly nama CPNWR
Brittlebush OPCNM, SDNM
brownfoot OPCNM
buckhorn cholla OPCNM, CPNWR
Calfornia suncup OPCNM
California fagonia CPNWR
chuparosa OPCNM, CPNWR, SDNM
climbing milkweed CPNWR
common monkeyflower OPCNM
crested prickly poppy CPNWR
desert chicory OPCNM, CPNWR, SDNM
desert lavender SDNM, CPNWR
desert lily CPNWR
desert rosemallow OPCNM
desert senna CPNWR
desert star CPNWR
desert sunflower CPNWR
desert turtleback CPNWR
desert wishbone bush OPCNM
Englmann's prickly pear OPCNM, SDNM
ergonium CPNWR
fairy duster OPCNM, SDNM
fremont pincushion OPCNM
gila liveforever CPNWR
globemallow OPCNM, CPNWR, SDNM
green brittlebush OPCNM
indian paintrbush OPCNM
jojoba OPCNM
larkspur OPCNM, SDNM
mariposa OPCNM
mequite CPNWR
miner's lettuce OPCNM
owl clover OPCNM, SDNM
paleface OPCNM, CPNWR
parry's penstomon OPCNM, SDNM
phlox OPCNM
pincushion OPCNM, CPNWR, SDNM
polo verde CPNWR
purplemat CPNWR
pygmy poppy CPNWR
rattlesnake plant OPCNM, CPNWR, SDNM
rush milkweed CPNWR
saguaro CPNWR
scorpoin weed OPCNM, CPNWR
skeletonweed CPNWR
slender janusia OPCNM
southwest mock vervain OPCNM
strawberry cactus OPCNM, CPNWR, SDNM
strigose bird's foot trefold CPNWR
teddy bear cholla CPNWR
thistle OPCNM
thrub's desert honeysuckle OPCNM
tomatillio OPCNM, CPNWR
trailing four o clock OPCNM, CPNWR, SDNM
white ratany OPCNM, CPNWR
white stem milkweed CPNWR
white whooly daisy CPNWR
wild dwarf morning glory OPCNM
woodsorrel OPCNM
yellow desert primrose OPCNM
yellow fiddleneck OPCNM, CPNWR
yellowhead CPNWR
elphant tree CPNWR
shaggy mane mushroom CPNWR

OPCNM - Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
CPNWR - Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge
SDNM - Sonoran Desert National Monument



Sonoran Desert National Monument
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge

El Camino del Diablo 

Good natural plant and animal guides

Southeastern Arizona Wildflower
Cabeza Prieta Natural History Association


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page updated: 5/1/10