By Peg Abbott, Dodie Logue & Lynn Tennefoss, Portal, AZ
Southeast Arizona in the spring is a birder’s paradise. Mexican species flow across the border in April and May to court and nest in the stunning, mountainous sky islands, lush riparian zones, and remnant grasslands of Southeast Arizona, alongside resident species not seen further north. Complementing Arizona’s signature birds are lovely weather, nationally acclaimed lodges, and delicious food!
To help birders focus on specialty species of the area, Naturalist Journeys has recently updated a popular handout listing the 25 signature species by habitat, targeted by birders visiting the region. Additionally, a dozen more species seen a bit more broadly in Arizona and Texas and five highly-prized (though infrequent) specialties are listed along with five widely-recognized sub-species seen in the region. Enjoy our handy list of Arizona’s signature birds below.
People travel far and wide to see tropical rain forests, but our expert guides like Woody Wheeler rank time in the temperate rain forests of the Pacific Northwest just as highly. Picture towering, half-century-old Sitka Spruce, Hemlock, Cedar, and Douglas Fir trees skirted by lush layers of ferns, wild berries, and other vegetation iconic to the Olympic Peninsula. On this tour, naturalists share expertise on hikes through several of these leafy green “cathedrals” near Lake Quinault and in the Hoh River rainforest. Look and listen for Pacific Wren, Vaux’s Swift, Varied Thrush, Northern Spotted Owl (very rare), and Roosevelt Elk.
Migration is fascinating! The mass movement of songbirds crossing our hemisphere each spring and fall is the best reminder that nature is amazing. So, take a break and join us to witness the wonders of the natural world.
1. Join a Great Leader Our friend and colleague Bob Behrstock has led groups, private clients, and nature festival tours in the Texas Hill Country since 1980, so he knows the region like his own backyard (P.S. Have you seen Bob’s list of backyard birds? Amazing!). Bob is also a photographer and writer — he’s even prepared several family accounts for The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior. His expertise in birds, damselflies, and butterflies makes this a well-balanced journey.
Our British group greatly enjoyed their tour of the Southwest National Parks.
By Guide Pat Lueders
Sharing five of our magnificent Southwest National Parks with visitors from Great Britain was the hidden pleasure of leading Naturalist Journeys’ September Southwest National Parks trip to Utah and Arizona. The 2016 tour was shared by three couples that weren’t acquainted at the beginning of the trip, but they became great friends by the conclusion of this exciting adventure. The beauty of the scenery, the discovery of new bird species, the sighting of unusual mammals, and the variety of reptiles we saw kept the British group in a constant state of excitement. Continue reading Naturalist Journeys Explores the Southwest National Parks→
Fall is Golden in Greater Yellowstone – an account from a recent Naturalist Journeys adventure
By Guide Woody Wheeler
When it comes to fall colors, the eastern half of our country has the reputation for the most colorful displays. Another less-heralded display occurs in the west that combines brilliant fall colors with a major river, abundant wildlife, a backdrop of spectacular mountains and more than half of the world’s thermal features. Fall is Golden in Greater Yellowstone. Continue reading Fall is Golden in Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem→
“The great pointed paw of the state of Florida, familiar as the map of North America itself, of which it is the most noticeable appendage, thrusts south, farther south than any other part of the mainland of the United States. Between the shining aquamarine waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the roaring deep-blue waters of the north-surging Gulf Stream, the shaped land points toward Cuba and the Caribbean. It points toward and touches within one degree of the tropics.” — Marjory Stoneman Douglas
In this eloquent passage, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, author of The Everglades: River of Grass, beautifully captures the essence of Florida’s unique geography within the United States. Due to its closeness to the tropical Caribbean and the warm Gulf Stream, this peninsula harbors several unique plant communities found nowhere else in the USA. One of these is tropical hardwood hammock, a dense stand of hardwood trees of primarily Caribbean origin (sometimes over 90% of native species present). These rich and diverse forests with such evocatively named trees such as gumbo limbo, cocoplum, and wild cinnamon are important for a number of South Florida’s Caribbean birds that reach the northern end of their range in here: White-crowned Pigeon, Mangrove Cuckoo, and Black-whiskered Vireo. They are also an important wintering ground for a wide variety of songbirds.
White-crowned Pigeon is a handsome, large pigeon that depends on these hardwood forests to feed. During spring and early summer, these birds can be seen streaming overhead into Florida Bay by the hundreds in the afternoon at Flamingo in Everglades National Park. They can also be seen throughout the year in suburban Miami where they have taken a liking for ornamental fruiting trees in people’s yards! In spring, the nasal call notes of Mangrove Cuckoo and repetitive song of Black-whiskered Vireo can be heard in healthy tropical hardwood hammocks in South Florida — the former is partially resident while the other flies all the way from South America to spend the summer here. Of course, all three of these species are among the most desired of South Florida’s Caribbean birds to see for the visiting birdwatcher.
In fall and winter, these forests become even more active! Mangrove Cuckoos fall silent and Black-whiskered Vireos depart for the true tropics, but a couple dozen species of warbler, vireo, tanager, oriole, and flycatcher spend the winter in South Florida in this habitat. While the rest of the country lies in winter’s grip, January and February are a great time to observe “summer” birds in Miami and the Keys: Baltimore Oriole, Yellow-throated and Blue-headed Vireo, Great Crested Flycatcher, Summer Tanager, Painted and Indigo Bunting, and diverse flocks of warblers that can include everything from Worm-eating to Yellow-throated to Black-throated Blue. Winter is also the best time to see Short-tailed Hawk, a striking South Florida specialty often missed on spring tours, soaring high overhead.
In conclusion, South Florida and its unique tropical hardwood hammocks always have something to offer, whether it is a spring tour to catch up with uncommon summer breeders or a winter tour for the sheer diversity of wintering songbirds. Please consider joining us for either the winter or spring version of our Florida tour!
A special thank you to Carlos Sanchez for such a well-written and informative post on South Florida’s Caribbean birds. Recently, Carlos gave a talk entitled “Following Birds to the Heart of Brazil” to the Linnaean Society of New York at the American Museum of Natural History. What an honor!