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How to pick Field Trips

Each year several people ask the best way to select from among the many field trips we offer. Here are some suggestions.

Think in terms of Elevation, Ecosystems and Habitats. 

We have eight habitats, with in the Southwest Wings area. Close in to town we have the San Pedro River Valley, Semidesert Grassland, Sonoran and Chiuahuan Desertscrub, Madrean Woodland, Canyons and Montane Conifer Forest. Most of our individual trips visit several habitats which are aggregated according to elevation. A trip to the San Pedro will see a different mix of species than a trip up to Carr Canyon. Try to get a mix of habitats in your trip selection. Plan more than one trip to a habitat, a different day can mean different birds or better views of a favorite. 

Look at Last Years' Sightings.

We offer trips to most of the commonly birded canyons in the Huachucas in addition to Patagonia, Saint David and Wilcox and the Santa Ritas. It would be difficult to cover all these areas comprehensively at one festival. Some years Montezuma Quail, which are typically next to impossible to see anywhere, are seen on multiple trips each day. Remember every year is different.

View previous festival Spring Trip Report for records of birds seen.

Seeing Rarities.

Plan your trips to see as many different birds as possible or to coincide with your life list. Tell your guide if you have a special species you are looking for. Don't worry about duplicating areas. A trip on Wednesday can produce many different birds than a trip on Friday. In a few cases a species is only regularly seen in one location, i.e. Spotted Owl in Miller Canyon or Rufous-capped Warbler in Hunter Canyon. Check the ABA listserve or eBird for recent sightings and historical data on what is where. The Chasing Rarities trips have no scheduled destination. Those trips agenda are decided on the tarmac just prior to departure by the group and guide. 

Overnight Trips.

Overnight trips offer extended time and exposure to specific areas and guides. We do overnights east and west from Sierra Vista. For example, the overnight trip to the Chiricahua Mountains gives you the opportunity to see one of the best Sky Island complexes in the United States and stay overnight in Portal near Cave Creek. The overnight trips may also offer summer owling at night. Additionally one species, Mexican Chickadee, is found only in the Chiricahua Mountains. Our overnight trips average about the same species per day as our day trips.


This year all of our field trips are self-drive, using your own car. Check to make sure that the trip does not specify that high clearance/4WD vehicles are needed, if your car has poor clearance. Most trips are on fairly good roads and tracks but a few can be very difficult, Carr, Huachuca and Garden Canyons are the ones most likely to be problematic. 

Read the Trip Descriptions Carefully. 

The base elevation here is over 5,000 feet. Please take this elevation into account. Most of you live in areas that are less 1,000 feet msl. Many mountain trips will end up near 7,000 feet and a few near 9,000. Each trip has a "Difficulty Number" that describes the level of hiking required. The Field Trip General Info tab on the registration website is a must read about what to bring and expect. Be realistic about your physical abilities. The guides will tailor the trip based on what the group can do. But also know that the guides are also there to insure that you safely see as many species as possible. Most of the mountain trips are up and back on the same trail, so people can linger and get picked up on the way back. Trips may be extended or altered by the guide to reach birds desired by the group.

Read the Guide Biographies. 

We have developed a roster of excellent bird guides during the last 30 years. Many of these folks make their living as bird guides or nature professionals. Pick trips that use a variety of guides. Some of you will fall in love with a particular guide. Tell your friends about them and plan to come back and take other trips with them.

Ask Questions.

If you cannot find the information you need on either of our websites please feel free to ask questions. We can describe the trips and guides but what we can't tell you is what the weather will be like on a specific trip or what birds you will see.  Please contact us at

Use The Wait list 

The wait list is a handy tool to let you know if a desired trip opens up after you register. It costs nothing to put your name in the queue. If something opens you will be sent an email asking if you want in. Be sure to have your cell phone on so I can reach you if a trip opens up.


Some Initial Considerations:


Neither smoking nor the uses of recording equipment (except by the trip leader) are allowed on field trips.

 Each trip has a ‘Difficulty Number’ that describes the level of hiking required as follows: 
  1 - easy walking, no hills, or birding mostly by vehicle 
  2 - a little more vigorous, for example: a walk down a narrow path along the river 
  3 - more demanding physically, steeper grades - recommended that you are in good physical condition 
  4 - very steep, possible slippery hills to hike, for example: Miller Canyon, or big elevation changes we recommended that you are in good physical condition.


Please remember you will be hiking at an elevation of 5 to 6,000 feet. Some of our trips will be looking for birds at over 7,500 feet. Please consider the altitude when you sign up for a trip. 

Recommended equipment for all the field trips: hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, comfortable summer clothing, walking shoes (not sandals), and binoculars. For trips with difficulty 4, sturdy hiking shoes/boots are recommended. Brings shoes that can be used in the wet.

Please respect the directions given by your guide. They are there not only to help find and identify birds but they are also there to keep you safe.


We strive to provide exciting, challenging birding tours for all levels of birders.  Very often there will be several different “types” of birders on a tour.  To meet the desires of every person on the trip it is important for everyone to understand the following “rules of the road”. 

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