Southeastern Arizona is one of the premier butterflying destinations in the North America. The “sky islands” that are really an extension of Mexican mountain formations, harbor many species that can be found nowhere else in the United States.
April is an ideal time to visit this area. The weather is usually comfortable, without the extreme heat of the summer months. With some luck, spring species will still be flying while summer species will just be beginning their flights!
The trip begins at 7 PM on Friday night in Tucson, Arizona. We will use comfortable hotels in Tucson and in Sierra Vista as our bases for the entire trip. This will enable us to easily reach all of the prime butterflying areas while only changing accommodations twice.
We intend to visit most, if not all, of the areas described below. We will remain flexible as to the exact order we visit localities and the amount of time spent at each in order to take best advantage of hot spots and to enable us to work with weather conditions, not against them. Butterflies are more unpredictable than birds. Exactly where and when populations will appear is highly dependent upon local environmental and climatic conditions. The uncertainty heightens our excitement.
We will visit most, if not all, of the following areas:
Garden Canyon, Huachuca Mountains
Located in the heart of the majestic Huachuca Mountains, Garden Canyon is hard to beat in terms of beauty and butterflies. Over 140 species of butterflies have been found within the canyon, many of which will be on the wing for our viewing pleasure. Close-up looks at mint-green Arizona Hairstreaks, Juniper Hairstreaks and Zela Metalmarks are the rule. Two-tailed Swallowtails and California Sisters will dazzle us with their brilliant colors as they sail overhead. Pacuvius Duskywings may fly with a white-fringed population of Juvenal’s Duskywing and the very local Scudder’s Duskywing. Garden Canyon is also a favorite haunt of the seldom-seen Black Checkerspot.
Silver Creek/South Fork Canyon, Chiricahua Mountains
No trip to southeastern Arizona would be complete without a visit to the Chiricahua Mountains. With peaks almost 10,000 feet tall, the Chiricahua’s are the most botanically diverse of southern Arizona’s mountains. Equally diverse are the butterflies. We will explore the area between Paradise and Portal known as Silver Creek. Here we may encounter Mormon Metalmarks, Elada Checkerspots and perhaps glimpse a Great Purple Hairstreak. Both Tropical and Common Buckeye’s are known to patrol the creek bottom.
Ramsey Canyon, Huachuca Mountains
This internationally known birding area is also home to many special butterflies. We will look for Short-tailed Skippers and Nabokov’s Satyrs. Naturally, we will take some time to observe the incredible hummingbirds near the Mile Hi visitor’s center. Perhaps as an afternoon sidetrip we will travel to the southern tip of the Huachucas to Coronado National Memorial, where a short uphill hike takes us to the summit of Coronado Peak and hilltopping butterflies. Expect good looks at Theona Checkerspots and Black Swallowtails. Occasionally a Great Purple Hairstreak will appear and a variety of duskywings and other skippers is always present. The unspoiled view from the summit is spectacular. One can look out over the very same country that the great Spanish explorer Coronado traveled in the 1500’s.
Located a few miles west of the town of the same name is a classic desert riparian area, affording us the opportunity of hiking in one of Arizona’s most endangered habitats. Nearly 90% of similar habitat has already been altered or destroyed. We will seek Tiny Checkerspots, Golden-headed Scallopwings, Arizona’s version of the Viceroy, and Queens. Marine Blues may be abundant. Often, one or more of Arizona’s three species of emperors are seen flitting through the hackberry trees. Tropical Least Skippers and Arizona Metalmarks are always a possibility.
We will take a ride on the wild side when sojourning through the rugged Atascosa Mountains via Ruby Road. The trip will take us by Pena Blanca Lake, an area famous for moths, through scenic Sycamore Canyon, and then past the private ghost town of Ruby to the town of Arivaca. The large wetlands near the town afford excellent bird and butterfly viewing. Among the many possibilities are Western Pygmy-Blue, Painted Crescent, Acacia Skipper, Carus Skipper and White-barred Skipper.
Located on the northern fringe of Tucson in the lower Santa Catalina Mountains in the heart of the Sonoran Desert, Sabino Canyon is home to a myriad of butterflies including Texan Crescent, Empress Leilia, Arizona Powdered-Skipper, and Violet-clouded Skipper. Perhaps we may spot an Erichson’s White-Skipper, a rarely seen Xami Hairstreak, or an elusive Cestus Skipper, a very local denizen of the saguaro-grassland interface. Sabino Canyon, with its majestic walls covered with giant Saguaro Cactus and bisected by a desert stream is a sight not to be forgotten.
The trip ends at 9 AM on the morning of the ninth day, Saturday, in Tucson, Arizona.
Leader will be Jeffrey Glassberg.
Cost of the trip is TBD/person from Tucson. Cost includes double-based accommodations, lunches and soft drinks, ground transportation, airport transfers, tour leader fees and entrance fees. Not included are dinners, alcoholic beverages, laundry services, and other items of a personal nature. Single supplement is TBD.
Click Reservations for a Reservation Form.
A platoon of Two-tailed Swallowtails
in Garden Canyon
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