Sierra Vista, Arizona, and its surrounding area is truly a birder’s—and photographer’s—paradise. Sitting at an elevation over 4,600 feet, Sierra Vista is the hub of Southeast Arizona. It has an average of 275 days of sunshine and a temperate climate. Many think of Arizona a flat desert; this region is anything but flat—arid grasslands are hemmed in by the Huachuca and Chiricahua mountain ranges, with peaks as high as 9,763 feet. In between these mountain ranges, the San Pedro River is the last undammed river in the American Southwest. Filled with mountains, canyons, riparian areas and wetlands, these habitats provide an incredible home to wildlife—a plethora of tropical birds, countless dragonflies and hummingbirds, and even the extraordinary and rare jaguar and a huge range of plant life. This area is an eco-crossroad with five life zones within five miles. Habitats and species from the Sierra Madres of Mexico, the Rocky Mountains, and the Sonora and Chihuahuan deserts can all be found in these “Sky Islands.” The bird watching, wildlife viewing areas, and photography are world-renowned. With 15 species of hummingbirds passing through Sierra Vista annually, this is one of my happy places!.
Our Monday travels took us to the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area where the winds were howling; a few birds posed for photographs. After hiking along the river for some distance, we returned to the San Pedro House Visitor Center where Kay astutely pointed out what I overlooked as a Northern Cardinal in one of the shrubs; it was a Pyrrhuloxia. Kay has become an invaluable asset to our birdwatching and photography.
From San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, we drove to Ramsey Canyon, another sub “life list” item. The Nature Conservancy’s Ramsey Canyon Preserve is known among birders as one of the best “hummingbird places” in the US. We hiked much of the trail, and enjoyed watching the occasional hummingbird feed at one of the many feeders present. Even though August is the prime month, Kay and I were able to spot and photograph a Calliope Hummingbird in the cold, windy weather.