Nature’s Way: Cuckoos Are Back Again this Year

Left to right: Jim Bradford, Jim Hoagland, and Laurie McCoy

Yellow-billed cuckoo

Jim Hoagland

The SaddleBrooke Ranch Cuckoos team’s participation in the 2021 Tucson Audubon’s Birdathon was such a success that the Cuckoos are back this year. They have a big task ahead of them to top last year’s event since they were crowned Grand Champion of the 2021 Tucson Audubon Society (TAS) Birdathon.

The team of Laurie McCoy, Kathleen Williams, Jim Bradford, Jim Hoagland (“Birdman of SBR”), along with newcomer Deb Sandin will try to do just that. Jim added, “We had a learning curve last year, modifying strategies and routes. This year we have planned our route to stay local in Pinal County.”

The team will be doing a “Big Day: Free Style” for 24 hours. Unlike last year where they went from Madera to Marana and ended up in SBR, this year they will focus on the birds here in Pinal County. They’ll begin before sunrise on May 6, searching out the owls in Peppersauce Canyon.

After the early morning in Peppersauce Canyon, they will travel to Oracle State Park and Oracle City Park before heading up to the Mammoth area to check out the sewer ponds. Then they’ll head toward the Dudleyville area for gray, black, and zone-tailed hawks along Aravaipa Road. Depending on what birds’ species they are missing, stops on Willow Spring Road may happen before they finish up at SaddleBrooke Ranch.

The goal will be to see over 100 species in the “Big Day: Free Style” format and raise over $5,000 to support TAS’s mission of, “Inspiring people to enjoy and protect birds through recreation, education, conservation, and restoration of the environment.”

The chance of the SBR Cuckoos seeing their namesake will be slim. Yellow-billed cuckoos are late migraters arriving in the summer and being one of the last to migrate. They have been seen in the Peppersauce Canyon area, so the team is hoping for an early arrival.

“Since moving to SaddleBrooke Ranch in June 2020,” Jim says. “I have been posting weekly on SBR Facebook and Nextdoor, as well as writing articles for the SaddleBrooke Ranch Roundup under the title, ‘Nature’s Way.’ Now is your chance this month to help me thank TAS for all the great education on the Southeast birds, wildlife, and flora they have provided and I have disseminated to you.

“We are honored to help support such a great organization and hope you will join us with your pledges. There are two ways to donate to help us achieve our goal of $5,000. You can make a flat donation or, what would be more fun, make a pledge that challenges us. This type of pledge is only limited by your imagination. You can pledge so much for each species we see or for each photograph of a bird species I take. Or even challenge us more, such as an extra amount like $5 for every soaring bird species we see, or every bird species seen floating on water. Just let your imagination run rampant.” Visit and look for the 2022 Birdathon Cuckoos’ team page.