Trip report: Arizona Photo Tour (July 2020)

Guided by Ben Knoot. This was a set-departure tour.

Southeast Arizona is one of those bird photography destinations that can be good at any time of year, although, it is arguably at its best during the monsoon season, usually its wettest and greenest. I have been photographing in this wondrous state for for over 8 years now and each time has something different and exciting to offer. During this specific time of year, neotropic birds and the normal U.S residents are common and are beginning or in the midst of their breeding season, meaning that males are actively singing and defending territory, great for photographic opportunities. And just where are these birds? Well, they are surrounded by a vast array of habitats – the iconic rocky desert dotted in saguaros, arid grasslands, oak covered foothills and a few verdant oases wreathed in wetlands.

As the monsoons come with winds and rain that breathe new life into the arid desert, many bird species are at their most photographic. This is especially true of the hummingbirds, one of the key groups visiting photographers wish to spend time with, and there is no better area for this on the continent. On this tour we will visit feeder set ups where Broad-tailed, Rivoli’s, Lucifer, Berylline Hummingbirds are all possible, in addition to North America’s largest species, the bold Blue-throated Mountain-Gem, just to name a few of the possibilities. This area is also fantastic for species that just reach into the states. Birds like the gorgeous Five-striped Sparrow, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, White-eared Hummingbird, Elegant Trogon and the elusive Mexican Whip-Poor-Will. These rare and range restrictive birds really make this trip something unique and special for the guests and the guide. All of the special birds are surely found in very special locations.

Among the hallowed mountain destinations that will feature are Miller Canyon in the Huachuca’s, Cave Creek Canyon in the Chiricahua’s, and Madera Canyon in the Santa Rita’s, which all have high value birds to photograph both at feeders and in the field. The forests in these sky islands are home to vibrant species like Elegant Trogon, Red-faced Warbler, and Painted Redstart, while the desert areas below host Gambel’s Quail, Greater Roadrunner, Gila Woodpeckers, Varied Bunting and the difficult to pronounce, Pyrrhuloxia. This part of Arizona provides plenty of stunning landscapes in which to photograph too, an often missed feature of this destination. This tour should appeal to those from the east, wanting to experience the vastly different western birds, but also those who have visited Arizona in a different season, or in a different year. There is so much to offer in Arizona it justifies multiple visits, for no two single seasons are the same and neither the years.


Top Five Birds:
1. Varied Bunting
2. Elegant Trogon
3. Scott’s Oriole
4. White-eared Hummingbird
5. Pyrrhuloxia

Top Three Other Animals:
1. Collared Peccary
2. Gila Monster
3. Desert Blonde Tarantula 


Full Arizona Photo Tour trip report July 2020. (4.8 MB, PDF format)