Especially for Bird Lovers
Duncan is a wintering destination for Sandhill Cranes and there are some very nice places from which to view them. You can walk along the Gila River Birding and Wildlife Trail right here in Duncan. Or take a short ride out to rural Virden, New Mexico, where you can park by the bridge, open up a picnic lunch and observe Sandhill Cranes to your heart’s content.
Premier Bird-watching Sites in Southeastern Arizona
Blue and San Francisco Rivers Ecosystem/Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest (an Audubon Society Important Bird Area)
White Mountains Audubon calls the Blue River “one of the most interesting and under-birded areas in east central Arizona” and gives good directions for finding their preferred spot. They report sightings of Greater Pewee, Hepatic Tanager, Common Black-Hawk, Black-chinned Sparrow, Mexican Jay, Painted Redstart, Bridled Titmouse, Purple Martin and Band-tailed Pigeon in the summer with occasional appearances of Montezuma Quail, Gambel's Quail and Wild Turkey.
There are two Riparian National Conservation Areas in the US and this is one of them. Graced by four perennial streams—the Gila and San Francisco Rivers and Bonita and Eagle Creeks—this desert woodland oasis is home to more than 150 bird species as well as bighorn sheep, javelina, white-tail and mule deer and beaver. Wildlife viewing is good year-round but birding is best during the spring and fall migrations or the summer nesting season. Birders report seeing common Blackhawk, canyon wren, and ladder-backed woodpecker among others. The most accessible viewing station, at Bonita Creek, is a lovely 55-mile drive from Duncan.
Reay Lane Reclamation Ponds and Marsh
This wastewater reclamation facility in the Town of Thatcher on Highway 70 provides excellent waterfowl and shorebird habitat and has yielded numerous rare bird sightings. Close to town and adjacent to the Gila River. Directions: From Highway 70 in Thatcher, turn north on Reay Lane. Ponds are just before river access. About 45 miles from Duncan. For more information, call the Town of Thatcher (928) 428-2290
Cave Creek Canyon in the Chiricahua Mountains
The Simpson might be about the nicest place to stay in short driving range of Cave Creek Canyon (90 miles from Duncan to Portal, Arizona), home to animal and plant species found nowhere else on earth. Tropical birds make their way to this range, which contains the largest of Arizona’s legendary “sky islands.” There are said to be some 300 different birds to be seen over the course of a year in the Chiricahuas. Birders are especially excited about the Elegant Trogons and Eared Quetzals. In the hamlet of Portal at the mouth of Cave Creek Canyon, you will find the Southwestern Research Station, a facility of the American Museum of Natural History. Visitors are welcome to observe the station’s hummingbird feeders and to visit the station’s small gift shop. From time to time the station offers programs and even housing facilities to the public, but its mission is to accommodate scientists. So keep quiet!
We also recommend that you peruse their annual newsletters online
Also see the, Southeastern Arizona Birding Trail Map/Guide
News flash – three cheers for the George Walker House, http://www.thegeorgewalkerhouse.com/ in the hamlet of Paradise in the Chiricahua Mountain foothills near Cave Creek Canyon. Proprietor Jackie is an expert birder, and the historic guest house is just as sweet as anyone could want.
On your way to Paradise from Duncan, you can make a stop at the Chiricahua Desert Museum right at the turn-off on NM 80 that takes you to Portal and on to Paradise. This 8000 sq. foot facility celebrates the diversity of wildlife and spectacular beauty of the eastern Chiricahua region. 4 Rattlesnake Canyon Road, at Portal Road & NM 80 28 miles south of I-10.
And over the border in New Mexico:
The Southwest New Mexico Audubon Society has a number of online resources. You can see their Southwestern New Mexico Birding Trail Map here at the Simpson or pick one up at a ranger station or in Silver City, a 90-minute drive from Duncan. The Society will be happy to recommend birding trails that are within two hours’ drive from Duncan, including the following:
Gila Lower Box Canyon Wilderness Study Area
This remote site is close to Duncan (about a one-hour drive) but is very “back road” and should not be undertaken without thorough preparedness. See the video at the top of this page for a preview. Part of the Gila Corridor riparian area, the Gila Lower Box is an Audubon Society Important Bird Area and a designated biological Area of Critical Environment Concern under the Bureau of Land Management. A migration route for neotropical migratory birds, it hosts more than 170 bird species throughout the year.
Chihuahuan Wildlife Heart Bar Riparian Area
A variety of wildlife animal activity such as black-headed grosbeak, yellow-breasted chat, mallard, common merganser and other species. The common black hawk has been sighted here. Take NM Hwy 15 north of Silver City about 30 miles. Look for the tiny settlement of Gila Hot Springs and start counting mileage from the Gila Hot Springs Store. Continue 1.3 miles north of the store to the sign for Little Creek. Just past sign, pull off road on right and look for a trail encircling the pond. Another 1.5 miles north along NM 15 look for a dirt track to the right, just beyond mile marker 41; the track is flanked by wooden poles on each side. For more information call New Mexico Dept. of Game and Fish (505) 476-8000. About 120 miles from Duncan.
A very isolated shallow canyon along the southern border of the Coronado National Forest, said by the BLM to be an outstanding natural area for its birding habitat. Guadalupe Canyon is called one of the “best getaways” in Great Outdoor Getaways to the Southwest by Bill McMillon. The streams in the canyon are seasonal and thus subject to flash flooding, so be prepared. Nearly 160 bird species have been recorded in the canyon, some of them rarities within the United States, including the buff-collared nightjar, thick-billed kingbird, fan-tailed warbler and elegant trogon. The canyon is a free camping area. To access, you must first go to Douglas, Arizona, and take Geronimo Trail east for about 25 miles to Guadalupe Canyon Road, where you make a right. Just past the New Mexico state line, go north on a forest service road north for about two miles to the canyon. Douglas is about two hours from Duncan. For more information call BLM Las Cruces District Office: (505) 525-4300. .