Nature’s Way: Fall Migration

Baird’s Sandpiper

Lazuli Bunting

Nashville Warbler

Jim Hoagland

August is one of the best months for birding in Arizona. In normal years, migration picks up and diversity of species peaks during the summer monsoons. There is no better way to enjoy bird watching this time of year than by going to a birding festival. They are organized to get you to great birding spots with experts and local birders helping you see more birds while meeting people who share your hobby. Some of the locations are not accessible other than at festival times.

Therefore, the Tucson Audubon Society selected August for its Southeast Arizona Birding Festival. Although most field trips and workshops filled up early in June, there are still great seminars, social events, and exhibits to visit during the festival the week of Aug. 11 through 15. The festival headquarters is at the DoubleTree Hilton Hotel–Reid Park in Tucson. You can attend in person as well as virtually. More than 25 exhibitors will be there to show you the latest in optics, nature tours, photography, and many other opportunities. Visit for more information.

The oldest birding festival in Arizona is the Southwest Wings Birding and Nature Festival held Aug. 4 through 7 in Sierra Vista. It is a great way to see areas you might not otherwise go to or even know about. The canyon and mountains around Sierra Vista are known worldwide by birders. Go to to learn more.

So, what will we see at SaddleBrooke Ranch during the fall migration? First, let us look at the pond at the Ranch House. One likely duck would be the Blue-Winged Teal as they pass through here on their way to their wintering grounds in Mexico and South America. Several types of shore birds, such as Plovers and Sandpipers, will also make a showing. One that I was able to photograph last year was the Baird’s Sandpiper. This sandpiper had started its journey from its breeding grounds in the tundra of northern Canada and was on its way to wintering grounds in South America.

Other species that pass through the Ranch during fall migration are the hummingbirds, specifically the Broad-Tailed Hummingbird and the Rufous Hummingbird. These hummingbirds winter in Mexico.

Look up high and you might catch a Vaux’s Swift as it travels from western Canada and Washington/Oregon to Mexico and the northern triangle of Central America.

And who does not love seeing our migrating warblers, as they pass through, including the Nashville, MacGillivray’s, Hermit, and Wilson’s Warblers.

And one last possibility that I saw in August at the Ranch last year was the Lazuli Bunting, a striking bird with bright blue upperparts, cinnamon-brown chest, and white belly.

So, check out the festivals this August and sign up for one or more of their offerings so you can enjoy our fall migration. August is the month that many wintering birds begin to return.

August and September are also great months for seeing vagrants and rarities from Mexico in the mountains in the southeastern part of the state. More on chasing the rarities in a future article. Till then, good birding.