Patagonia and the Nogales area are close to the Mexican border and they account for more strays and rare birds than any other area of Arizona.
If you are coming from the Huachua mountain area south on Highway 82 towards Nogales, you will come to the town of Patagonia where the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve is situated.
Run by the Nature Conservancy, their hours of operation are a bit complicated, so check their website before you go. As of this writing they list their openings as follows:
April-September: Wednesday-Sunday, 6:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
October-March: Wednesday-Sunday, 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
Closed: Mondays & Tuesdays all year & on Thanksgiving, the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year’s Days.
Some of the Park’s usual birds are Bell’s Vireo , Gilded Flicker , Verdin , Cactus Wren , Bridled Titmouse , Northern-Beardless Tyrannulet, and Rufous-crowned Sparrow . It is not uncommon to find White-tailed Deer which are comfortable with visitors.
Just before the Creek on the road going into the Park is the Paton’s home. Their wealth of feeders have attracted a regular wealth of good birds and the feeder area is open to the public. Gray Hawk are resident just behind the house and commonly seen. Hummingbirds are excellent here and it may be the best place in the U.S. to find Violet-crowned Hummingbird . Another rarity often found in the summer months is the Plain-capped Starthroat. Other regulars include Broad-billed , Black-chinned , and Anna’s . Other birds that may be found are Gambel’s Quail , Ladder-backed Woodpecker and Gila Woodpeckers , Inca Dove , Bewick’s Wren , Northern Cardinal , Bronzed Cowbird and Lesser Goldfinch .
On Highway 82 at the south end of town is a rest area which has been very productive of rarities through the years. In fact, two first records for the United States have been found here, Black-capped Gnatcatcher and Yellow Grosbeak . In 1969 a colony of Five-striped Sparrows was found here but by 1977 they had disappeared. In the last few years both Fan-tailed Warbler and Yellow-Green Vireo have made appearances. While you may not find a first national record here, you will find some great birds like Gray Hawk , Rose-throated Becard , White-winged Dove , White-throated Swift, Cassin’s Kingbird , Brown-crested Flycatcher , Phainopepla , Pyrrhuloxia , Bullock’s and Hooded Orioles , and Rufous-crowned Sparrow .
As you move south toward Mexico, you reach the town of Nogales on the border. There are numerous excellent areas for birds here including the Nogales Sewage Ponds, a prime area for waterfowl. One of the best spots for Gray Hawk is the Country Club Ponds off of Interstate 19. A downside is the amount of traffic, but their are a few places to pull off.
Traveling north on Highway 19 from Nogales towards Tucson brings you to the Juan Bautista De Anza Historical Trail. The 4.5 mile trail (one way) winds along the Santa Cruz River and has a wide variety of birds. Depending on the season, you may see Gray Hawk , Cooper’s Hawk , Sharp-shinned Hawk , White-winged , Mourning and Inca Doves , Yellow-billed Cuckoo , Broad-billed , Black-chinned , Anna’sand Costa’sHummingbirds , Gila Woodpecker , Gilded Flicker , Bewick’s Wren , Phainopepla , Pyrrhuloxia , Northern Cardinal, Canyon and Abert’s Towhees , Hooded and Bullock’s Orioles . In migration you can expect almost anything.
North of this are is the rest stop from Exit 53 (from the southbound road). It is worth a stop because it has Rufous-winged Sparrow behind the buildings.
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