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Birding near Willcox

January
Sandhill craneWings Over Willcox

A Birding and Nature Festival. Birding tours, trade show, seminars and much more. Tours to the Willcox Playa (dry lake) and nearby wetlands to see wintering sandhill cranes, hawks and sparrows. For more information contact Willcox Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture at 520-384-2272 or www.wingsoverwillcox.com.

Birding at Twin Lakes, Willcox, AZ

Birding at Twin Lakes, Willcox, AZ

Willcox Playa and Cochise Lakes
Two areas near Willcox are especially popular with birders--the Willcox Playa (dry lake bed) and Cochise Lakes. The "lakes" are sewage ponds on the edge of Willcox, which afford habitat for waterfowl and shorebirds. The Willcox Playa is a natural alkali bed formed when an ancient lake became dry due to climatic changes. Today it is a favored winter roosting habitat for sandhill cranes, which generally can be seen from mid-October to mid-February. The cranes can also be spotted during the day feeding in the farm fields along Highway 191 and the Kansas Settlement Road. Free

AEPCO Crane Viewing Station
The Apache Generating Station of the Arizona Electric Power Cooperative has created a wetland adjacent to the power plant, which is a prime viewing area for large migratory birds. Sandhill cranes begin arriving in October and stay until sometime in February. They roost in the wetlands area, then fly to the local farm fields where they feed. They return to the roosting sites around sunset. To visit the site, take exit 33l (Highway 191) off the interstate. Six and a half miles south a sign marks the entrance of the viewing area. Free

Cave Creek Canyon, Portal
(520) 364-3468
Coronado National Forest, Douglas Ranger District
From Portal the road into the Chiricahua Mountains winds along Cave Creek Canyon, where you may spot peregrine falcons. In the fall, this is a good place to see the Calliope hummingbird. It is also one of the few canyons in the U.S. where the elegant trogan nests. After the road passes the Southwestern Research Station of the American Museum of Natural History, a dirt road climbs to Pinery Canyon and Rustler Park campground. Red-faced warblers and Mexican chickadees are among the high-elevation species to be seen here. There are several camping areas in the National Forest as well as bed and breakfast accommodations nearby. Free

Chiricahua National Monument (520) 824-3560
Hooded orioleThe Chiricahua National Monument, on the west side of the Chiricahua Mountains, is famous for its strange formations of volcanic rock and rhyolite spires, but it also merits the attention of birders, who will enjoy the zone-tailed hawks which soar above the bizarre formations and the hepatic tanagers which flourish in the canyon bottoms. Some of the other birds seen include Scott's orioles, warblers and several varieties of hummingbirds. Birds of special interest that can be found in the Chiricahuas include: turkey vulture, white-throated swift, acorn woodpecker, ash-throated flycatcher, Cassin's kingbird, Mexican jay, red-faced warbler, black-headed grosbeak, spotted towhee and yellow-eyed junco. Seventeen miles of maintained trails feature picturesque views and all degrees of difficulty. There is a campground at the monument but the nearest supplies and services are in Willcox. Wheelchair accessible, drawing by Bob Savannah, USFWS 36 miles SE of Willcox $6/vehicle, $3 motorcycle/bicycle

Chiricahua Wilderness (520) 364-3468
Coronado National Forest, Douglas Ranger District
South of the Chiricahua National Monument, the 87,700-acre Chiricahua Wilderness is a much less traveled destination than the nearby Monument. Here, too, the wide variations in elevation, moisture and slope produce corresponding variations in wildlife. Many of the birds to be seen here are more common in Mexico than in the United States. The terrain is often difficult and for safety visitors should remain on the developed trail system. Free

Dos Cabezas Mountains Wilderness (520) 348-4400
Bureau of Land Management, Safford Field Office
The rugged slopes of the Dos Cabezas Mountains are home to white-tailed and mule deer and mountain lions. The peregrine falcon, a state and federally listed endangered species, migrates through this rugged area, which also is home to golden and bald eagles. Steep slopes and granite outcroppings offer climbing challenges as well as long-distance views of the Sulphur Springs and San Simon valleys. Access by dirt road from Bowie east of Willcox. BLM Safford Field Office. Free

Muleshoe Cooperative Management Area (520) 586-7072
Seven perennial streams provide some of the best aquatic habitat in Arizona. Rrugged canyons and riparian areas attract many birds including zone-tail, black and Cooper's hawks, Gambel's quail and pygmy owls. Many species of mammals and reptiles are also to be found here, including javelina, coatimundi, and rock squirrel. 29 miles northwest of Willcox, take Airport Road out of Willcox for 15 miles, then turn right at the junction and go another 14 miles.

Rustler Park (520) 364-3468
Coronado National Forest, Douglas Ranger District
Rustler Park Campground, reached from either side of the Chiricahua range by a steep, winding, unpaved mountain road, is in a large meadow surrounded by pines at an elevation of 8,500 ft. A trailhead provides access to Chiricahua Wilderness. Look for hairy woodpecker, pygmy nuthatch and Mexican chickadees among other high elevation species. Free

Sulphur Springs Valley
This valley stretches between the Willcox Playa and the Mexican border between Bisbee and Douglas. A drive through this valley, either on the main highway (191) or on the back roads of the ghost town areas, will afford many sightings ranging from sandhill cranes (in fall and winter) to hawks, eagles and the always-lively roadrunner. Free