Every March, hundreds of birders converge on Ron Morriss County Park in Tubac for the annual Hawk Watch, a free event. The stars of the show are the Common Black Hawk, the Zone-tailed Hawk, and the Gray Hawk, but other raptors may appear, including vultures, eagles, and accipiters as they migrate north along the Santa Cruz River.
If you are like many of us, the fascination of watching hawks soaring in the sky brings a pause as we look up in amazement. You can feed that fascination on March 11 by joining the Tubac Hawk Watch. Drive 90 minutes south to Tubac on I-19 to see one of nature’s most spectacular birding events.
The Tubac Nature Center will host this special event, “Celebrating Arizona’s Hawk Migration,” from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Ron Morriss Park. Don’t worry about having to identify the hawks on your own. There will be member experts from the Tubac Nature Center to help with identification and answer your questions as well as expert Peter Collins, from Hawk Watch International, a regular annual counter, who will call out the species as they fly over. Guided Nature Walks are available along the Santa Cruz River and there will be activities for children. They are also holding a raffle drawing (must be present to collect). Peter Collins, Founder of the Hawk Watch, will speak late morning. Major optics companies will display their products, and it’s a good opportunity to upgrade your equipment. Bring your binoculars, scopes, water, and a chair for a fun day.
Also being hosted by the Tubac Nature Center, for the first time, a Raptor Identification Workshop with noted author and hawk researcher, Bill Clark. The workshop will be held on March 17, 18, and 19 at the Tubac Community Center. They ask for a donation of $185 for the three-day workshop and to register online (tubacnaturecenter.com).
The 2022 migration was a record-setting year in recent history, with 3,385 various hawks/accipiters, vultures, falcons, and other raptors. Almost 500 Common Black Hawks, 127 Zone-tailed Hawks, and 28 Gray Hawks were counted during the month-long survey.
Black Hawks have been known to spend the night in the Tubac’s cottonwoods along the Santa Cruz River. They start dropping into the trees in the early afternoon. So, watch closely in the morning as they begin to take flight.
Unlike most birding experiences where you need to be up before the crack of dawn, the organizers say the best viewing times are from about 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. from March 10 to March 25, with the peak around the 15th of March. If you can’t be there on Saturday, March 11, Jim Hoagland will be there on March 13, so track him down.
To reach Ron Morriss Park, drive south on I-19 toward Tubac. Take Tubac exit, go east and turn left at the Frontage Road. Turn right on Bridge Road. Follow Bridge Road to Calle Iglesia, turn right.
Don’t miss this excellent event to see a large number of raptors in one place with the help of experts to identify them.