This past weekend I had the privilege of participating in the 50th anniversary celebration of the Sister City relationship between the City of Prescott and Caborca, Mexico. There was a light dusting of snow and the temperature was down in the 20’s when our delegation left Prescott early Friday morning.
Our route took us through Wickenburg, where we continued south on Vulture Mine Road until we eventually got on State Highway 85 which took us down to the border. It was a lovely day—the air quality was superb following the storm—it was as if you could see forever.
Ironically our route took us through many of my favorite birding destinations—Peeples Valley, Yarnell, Congress, Wickenburg, and the “thrasher spot” at the intersection of Baseline Road and Salome Hwy. We also went through Ajo, where I participated in a Tucson Audubon Society sponsored bird walk fifty years ago!
Interestingly, I’d never driven the section of the 85 between Ajo and the border. I was so taken by the beauty of this area—the rugged mountains, the abundance of sahuaros, as far as the eye could see, and of course, organ pipe cacti. I love the beauty of the Sonoran Desert, it speaks to me in a way that no other habitat does.
We stopped briefly at Organ Pipe National Monument, another first for me. When I commented to a ranger that I was surprised by the number of Sahuaros in the park he stated that they believe there are more sahuaros in Organ Pipe National Monument than in the Sahuaro National Monument, in Tucson!
Caborca is about one hundred miles south of the Lukeville, Arizona border crossing and is located in our sister state, Sonora. The habitat there is very similar to what is found in southern Arizona—palo verde, mesquite and ironwood trees, creosote, sahuaros, chollas, prickly pear, and the list goes on.
Knowing that the Sister City Committee scheduled free time for those of us going down, I packed my birding gear, as I was hoping to squeeze in a little birding. Prior to leaving on the trip, I did some research in eBird to see what kinds of bird species I might expect to see.
Interestingly, there was only one eBird checklist recorded for Caborca, and the individual reported only six bird species—mostly introduced species like rock pigeon, Eurasian collared-dove and house sparrow.
The fact that there was only one checklist in eBird for this area meant it was under-birded. There was an obvious lack of documentation of the bird species that occur in this part of Sonoran. I felt I could contribute to the body of knowledge of bird species found in this region by getting out and doing a little birding.
With the limited amount of free time I had, I identified over thirty species and recorded my sightings into eBird. Some of the highlights for me were lesser nighthawks, monk parakeets and house wrens.
The biggest surprise was finding a swamp sparrow. I never would have expected to see this species in this environment and habitat. The elevation in Caborca is under 1,000 feet and there wasn’t any standing water, which is where you would typically find a swamp sparrow.
The festivities surrounding our visit made for a sweet, tender experience with our friends in Mexico. My heart was touched by the kindness of our hosts. We were greeted with warm hugs and a live band when we arrived Friday night. Other activities included many cultural events and visiting an orphanage. It was a wonderful experience with our fellow Sister City friends in Caborca.
Until next week, Happy Birding!
Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn, Arizona Field Optics, and Hallmark in Prescott, Arizona. Eric has been an avid birder for over 50 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.