Thursday, May 9, 2013

Birding Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Eric writes:

Greetings from Tucson,

In April I made two trips to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument to conduct bird surveys.  Organ Pipe is located directly on the border of Mexico and Arizona, so the logistics of bird surveys becomes more complicated than in other locations.  There is lots of illegal traffic, both people and drugs, through this part of the state which we could run into at any time.  So, we were in regular communications with park personnel to make sure everything was going well when we were out in the field.  

An Organ Pipe Cactus, the namesake of the park
Whatever the dangers involved, this park has some beautiful terrain, and some special birds.  It is one of the few places in southern Arizona where Ferruginous Pygmy-Owls nest, although only in low densities.  Migrants such as Flycatchers, Warblers, Tanagers, Grosbeaks, and Sparrows stream through this area in April in May.  And, an uncommon bird in Arizona, the Vaux's Swift, can be seen occasionally migrating along a wash.  

I hillside with Organ Pipes and Saguaros

One of the best birding locations in the area is Gringo Pass RV Park that is directly on the border of Mexico, you actually bird right along the fence!  This RV park has nesting Great Horned Owls and Harris's Hawks, both of which give excellent views!  It is also a spectacular area for migrants; the combination of water, trees, fruit, and location in the desert, make it a perfect stopover location.   

Great Horned Owlet at Gringo Pass RV Park
Great Horned Owlet with adult, another adult was
close by.
That's the fence, the other side is Mexico . . . you never
know what might show up at a location like this!

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