The Desert’s Avian Gems
Winged masters flaunt their grandeur
Rewritten by Joseph Garnett, Jr. - From the Archives
June 8, 2015
Springtime in southern Arizona is for the birds! That’s why it’s a great time to capture Kodak© moments while traveling in your luxury motorhome or towable RV, thanks to displays by hundreds of feathered species that either reside near Lazydays Tucson or stop here en route to warmer climates.
One notable place to be wowed by avian acrobatics is the historic San Pedro House, a 1930’s ranch house converted to a visitor center, located just an hour southeast of Tucson. Open daily, with its bustling bookstore and info desk, the San Pedro House is a scenic oasis that’s perfect for picnics and photography. Just a meander from the San Pedro River, the house serves as a starting point for a number of easy trails that wind from the grasslands through to the river. Along here, spring birders will chance upon dense nesting areas and may observe hawks, vermilion, flycatchers, orioles or hundreds of other species that have made San Pedro their migration highway.
The river flows through a riparian forest – one of the most endangered forest types in the world – where cottonwoods, velvet mesquite and willow trees provide essential habitat for a variety of wild life.
Riparian zones are part of what make southern Arizona such a delightful birder attraction. The natural desert ecosystem comes alive when snowmelts drain from mountains. Birder central just might be the San Pedro House, which sits in the heart of the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area – a huge public land expanse of nearly 57,000 acres designated as a national conservation area in 1988.
Up With Birding
Adjacent to the San Pedro House are ramadas, interpretive exhibits, picnic tables and bird feeders for close-up encounters with the tiny travelers. For a full day of birding, there are guided tours and special programs including humming bird banding sessions in the months of April and May, where over 14 different species of hummingbirds will be caught, banned and released. People often return to banding sessions year after year, to check in on record-holding hummers.
Hoots and High Sightings
Bandings, workshops and other programs are held regularly at the San Pedro House, free of charge. A special interpretive river walk is held each Saturday at 8 a.m. teaching hikers about plants, animals, birds and history of the area. If a colorful flash of feathers buzzing through the desert quickens your heart, head on out to the San Pedro,
where avian encounters will trigger snapshots as well as astonishment. Prime bird watching – that’s part of the perfection of Southern Arizona’s Spring.
The San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area is full of opportunities beyond wildlife viewing. These include camping, hiking, biking, horse-back riding and visiting local attractions. You’ll learn tales of the Wild West with the San Pedro as your backdrop when you visit the Fairbank Historic town site. Once there, you can peer into a restored schoolhouse, view an 1882 Mercantile building and walk the trails to the river. Learn how life was scratched out by hardy pioneers in this historic ghost town, which was once a thriving stagecoach station and railroad depot. More details can be found on the Friends of the San Pedro River website www.sanpedroriver.org/fairbank.shtml.
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