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Arizona

Calendar of Nature Events

Wildlife is the number-one attraction at Arizona's six nature preserves open to the public. Visitors from all over the world come to see hundreds of species including southwestern specialties such as the magnificent hummingbirds, giant saguaros and Bebb willows.

The following calendar is a general guideline of nature events to help you plan your trip. Contact the individual preserve for current conditions.

JANUARY

Aravaipa Canyon PreserveMigratory waterfowel are occasional visitors to the creek and upland ponds. Only Anna’s humming- bird remains through the winter.
Hart Prairie PreserveClosed for the Season
Hassayampa River Preserve

Winter resident bird species abound including  red-shafted and occasional gilded flickers, cedar waxwings, white crowned sparrows, yellow-rumped warblers and ruby-crowned kinglets. 

Muleshoe Ranch CMACoatimundis seen in large troops in canyons. Woodpeckers, green-tailed towhees, dark-eyed juncos, and white-crowned sparrows active around headquarters. Mule deer are common.
Patagonia-Sonoita Creek PreserveOccasional snow dusts the surrounding Santa Rita and Patagonia mountains. At night, great horned owls and ringtail cats forage while throughout the day ladder backed woodpecker, Anna’s hummingbird, red-tailed hawk and   ruby-crowned kinglet are easy to spot in the bare cottonwoods along the creek. 
Ramsey Canyon PreserveDark-eyed and yellow-eyed juncos, woodpeckers, nuthatches, siskins, and other winter birds are active. White-tailed deer and coatimundi forage in the canyon bottom. Occasional snow blankets the canyon in white.

FEBRUARY

Aravaipa Canyon PreserveMid to late February, turkey vultures are the first harbingers of spring. Cottonwoods start to bud out. Western screech and elf owls vocal at night.
Hart Prairie PreserveClosed for the Season
Hassayampa River PreserveWinter resident bird species still evident including spotted towhees, American robins, scrub and Stellar’s jays. Transition from winter residents to migratory and summer resident breeding species begins.  Anna’s hummingbirds begin courting behavior. Increased sightings of many of the desert mammalian species, including all four North American species of skunks, coyote, mule deer, javelina, raccoons, ringtails and possibly an occasional bobcat or mountain lion. Most deciduous flora have shed leaves for winter dormancy; which facilitates bird viewing.
Muleshoe Ranch CMASame as January
Patagonia-Sonoita Creek PreserveSame as January
Ramsey Canyon PreserveGolden eagles return to the canyon to begin nesting. First sightings of painted redstart and broad-tailed hummingbird late in month. Barberry and manzanita begin blooming. Rare warm spells bring out the year’s first butterflies.

MARCH

Aravaipa Canyon PreserveBlack hawks and gray hawks return and establish nesting territories.
Hart Prairie PreserveClosed for the Season
Hassayampa River PreserveSome winter-resident birds remain; summer-resident breeding species arriving as well as those merely using the preserve as a rest & refuel stop on their way further north. Hummingbirds are the first noticeable arrivals, beginning their courting displays as early as  mid-February; species include Anna’s, Costa’s, Black-chinned, Rufous/Allen’s (migratory) and Broad-tailed, as well as an occasional Calliope (migratory).  Ring necked ducks, Cinnamon and green-winged teal begin to arrive for a long stopover at Palm Lake. The early flowering/budding of Fremont cottonwood and Goodding willow begins this month, with downy catkins showing up.  Penstemon, fleabane, lupine, poppies, primroses, mallows, brittlebush, and other flowering varieties in the interpretive garden, reinvigorated by the spring warming and moisture, begin their annual show.
Muleshoe Ranch CMAWarblers, hooded orioles, and hummingbirds return to headquarters. Zone-tailed hawks and black hawks return to canyons to nest, as do turkey vultures. Many migrant songbirds passing through. Rock squirrels, spiny lizards and leopard frogs emerge from hibernation.
Patagonia-Sonoita Creek PreserveThe return of gray hawks and vermilion flycatchers mark the first sign of the spring migration. More than 80 species of birds have nested on the preserve including phainopepla, green-tailed towhees and violet-crowned hummingbirds. Insect eating bats arrive as well.  Watch where you step!  Darkling beetles and whiptail lizards criss-cross the trail.  Prickle poppies open up on the lower preserve while ocotillo and other varieties of cactus bloom on the upland trail. Fremont cottonwood trees leaf out.
Ramsey Canyon PreserveWarblers and other songbirds begin to arrive, along with a few migrant hummingbirds. Whiskered screech owls begin calling at night. Rock squirrels, spiny lizards, and more butterflies begin to appear.

APRIL

Aravaipa Canyon PreserveThe air is full of Cottonwood seed. Hummingbird migration is at its peak.
Hart Prairie PreserveClosed for the Season
Hassayampa River PreserveMigratory birds visit en route or settle in for summer breeding and nesting. Hummingbird courtship flights are common around the visitor center and some of the most colorful summer residents begin arriving, including Hooded and Bullock’s orioles, various warblers, flycatchers, grosbeaks and tanagers. Fremont cottonwood seeds fly all around and Goodding willows flower, to be followed by mesquite and palo verde.  Penstemon, verbena, fleabane, claret cup hedgehog cactus, brittlebush and other flowering varieties in the interpretive garden begin their annual show.
Muleshoe Ranch CMASame as March
Patagonia-Sonoita Creek PreserveSame as March
Ramsey Canyon PreserveMany migrant songbirds passing through. Hummingbird diversity and numbers increase. Mating season for coatimundis. Bats feed over frog pond at dusk. Cottonwood and sycamore leaves appear. Butterflies common.

MAY

Aravaipa Canyon PreserveRattlesnakes as well as other reptiles become most active. Watch out for them warming themselves on the road late afternoon.
Hart Prairie PreserveSpring arrives late at this high elevation and snow can still be seen covering much of the upper slopes of the San Francisco Peaks, feeding ribbons of fresh running water into Hart Creek.  Elk and mule deer can be seen foraging in the meadow at the base of the Peaks.  Songbird migration has slowed but the summer residents are busy building nests.  Quaking aspen and Bebb willow leaves begin to appear.  Look for red-naped sapsuckers, western and mountain bluebirds, and violet-green swallows nesting in the aspen trees around Hart Prairie’s historic log buildings. Early butterflies such as the mourning cloak arrive. Short-horned lizards (horny toads) reappear after the long winter hibernation.  Spring wildflowers make their appearance.
Hassayampa River PreserveNumbers and varieties of bird species are at their peak as breeding swings into high gear and neotropical migrants make their appearance, including southwest willow flycatcher, yellow-billed cuckoo, western tanager, blue grosbeak, indigo bunting and others. Resident fauna are busy raising their next generation. Non-native figs and mulberries ripen, providing a welcome food source for many birds, mammals and reptiles.  Elderberries, mesquite, palo verde, seep willow and many other native species flower, keeping butterflies and bees occupied and well-fed.
Muleshoe Ranch CMAFlycatchers and kingbirds abound. Golden eagles, falcons and Cooper’s hawks seen throughout the Muleshoes.  Gambel’s quail and pygmy owls heard at dusk. Young great horned owls announce their place in the world at night.
Patagonia-Sonoita Creek PreserveMesquites leaf out, and snakes emerge from hibernation including the Blacktail rattlesnake.  Black-bellied whistling ducks perch in the trees and summer resident birds make their presence known including the blue grosbeak, Cassin's and Western kingbird, common yellow throat, as well as lazuli and indigo buntings.  Coue’s white-tail deer are born in the late spring.
Ramsey Canyon PreserveSongbird migration slows. Hummingbird numbers peak, though some species leave by mid-month. Elegant  trogons and sulphur-bellied flycatchers arrive. Many birds nest. Columbines, penstemons, and other plants bloom.

JUNE

Aravaipa Canyon PreserveEphemeral tributaries like Turkey Creek start to dry up as the trees demand for water is at its peak. Black bears and big horn sheep come down to the Aravaipa as other waters become scarce.
Hart Prairie PreserveElk and mule deer continue to forage in the meadow in the early morning and late evenings Coyotes monitor elk’s movements and vice-versa.  Occasional pronghorn antelope stride across the grasslands.  Cottontail rabbits venture out to feed.  Broad-tailed hummingbirds are common at the feeders on the Mariposa Lodge front porch.  Aspen and willow are now leafed out and late in June, their trunks surrounded with 3-foot lush bracken ferns or the daunting but beautiful monkshood, respectively.  Look for the small Bebb willow flowers “catkins” to emerge, spewing the air with fuzzy seeds.  Activity around nest cavities in the aspen, fir, and pine trees is at a high level as eggs are in the nests.  Red-tailed hawks and turkey vultures can be seen soaring over the meadows.  Native flora opens its blooms – locoweeds fuchsia to blue, the bright red of penstemons, and deep orange-yellow of the orange mountain daisy.  Western tiger swallowtail butterflies saunter from bloom to bloom of the intricate western iris.
Hassayampa River PreserveResident migrant birds are breeding, nesting or fledging.  Many small mammals and lizards are now very busy raising their young.  Later-blooming species bloom such as desert willow, aster, sacred datura, desert broom, yerba mansa and some cacti.
Muleshoe Ranch CMASame as May
Patagonia-Sonoita Creek PreserveSame as May
Ramsey Canyon PreserveWhiskered screech owls, golden eagles, and other young birds leave their nests. Many newborn spiny lizards visible along trails. Sightings of black bear and coatimundi increase as fruits ripen. Lemon lilies bloom.

JULY

Aravaipa Canyon PreserveMonsoons start, and dry washes turn to rivers. Be careful not to park in the flood plain, and avoid hiking in slot canyons if thunder storms are building. Yellow-billed Cuckoo are vocal.
Hart Prairie PreserveSummer thunderstorms begin along with spectacular lightning shows. Butterflies are now abundant and the rain brings forth a variety of new wildflowers.  The meadow areas become luxuriant green carpets of grasses and sedges.  Rufous hummingbirds arrive from nesting areas further north. Look for insect eating bats flying around the meadow in front of the lodge at dusk. Orange-red scarlet gilia in full starry bloom attracts hummingbirds and the sphinx moth.
Hassayampa River PreserveMost birds have finished breeding and the young are fledging; this month will be spent growing/fueling up for upcoming autumn migration. Young mammals are now old enough to be explorative and grow quickly (AZ rock squirrel, javelina, gray fox, etc.) Plants are now using energy for fruit production and/or dispersal.
Muleshoe Ranch CMASummer rains begin! Whitetail deer seen in mesquite bosques, as well as javelinas. Coatis seen in small bands in canyons at headquarters. Also abundant, praying mantis, butterflies, and bumblebees. Desert tortoises come out of their burrows to feed on new grasses.
Patagonia-Sonoita Creek PreserveMonsoon storms flood Sonoita Creek.  Javelina drink from the springs in the cienega.  Look for fresh tracks on the trails.  With the rain comes an abundance of butterflies and moths.  Cicadas call and fireflies light the fields at night. Hummingbird southbound migration is in full swing towards the end of August.  Mesquite trees fruit.
Ramsey Canyon PreserveSummer rains begin! Some birds nest again. Rufous hummingbirds return. Anna’s hummingbirds arrive from lower elevations. Many new wildflowers bloom. Butterflies and many other insects very common.

AUGUST

Aravaipa Canyon PreserveSpadefoot as well as other toads are awakened by summer rains, calling all night, and rushing to breed in ephemeral puddles.
Hart Prairie PreserveThe summer rains continue and both wildflowers and butterflies are abundant.  Look for mushrooms especially under the aspen trees.  Mule deer and elk are seen more commonly now and both deer fawns and elk calves make their first appearances in the meadows. Voles, field mice and packrats are busy raising families.  Keep an eye out for bluebird and violet-green swallow nestlings as they peer out their nest cavity openings, this is also fledging time and you may see them leave the nest cavity.  Young birds are learning food gathering and the ways of surviving from their experienced parents.  Vultures float in the high sky to take advantage of failures.
Hassayampa River PreserveMigratory birds begin leaving and northern breeders begin to move through on their way southward.  Monsoon rains often produce localized flood events in washes and river.
Muleshoe Ranch CMASame as July
Patagonia-Sonoita Creek PreserveSame as July
Ramsey Canyon PreserveHummingbird migration peaks; up to 14 species may be present. White-tailed deer fawns appear. Nectar feeding bats visit feeders at night. Reptiles commonly seen. Butterflies, wildflowers, and mushrooms are abundant.

SEPTEMBER

Aravaipa Canyon PreserveUpland grasslands become rejuvenated, producing seed heads that feed many species through the fall and winter. Lowland leopard frog is common along the creek.
Hart Prairie PreserveThe rains begin to subside and mid September brings the start of warm sunny fall days. In early September look for migrating short-eared owls as they hunt along the base of Fern Mountain in the evenings.  Many different songbirds can be seen as they migrate through northern Arizona stopping at Hart Prairie.  Elk can be seen in the meadow and listen for their bugling which can be heard for a considerable distance all night long.  Cows herd-up while the bulls snort in anticipation of the fall rut.  Late wildflowers appear and vast areas of brilliant sunflowers signal the beginning of fall colors.  Gentians have sent up slender center stalks to 4 and 5 feet height, covered with uncommon green blossoms.
Hassayampa River PreserveSummer breeding migratory bird species are leaving/have left, following late breeding attempts by some, including southwest willow flycatcher.  Southward migrants move through, including Rufous/Allen’s hummingbirds, warbling vireos. Monsoon rains rejuvenate the flora.
Muleshoe Ranch CMAYoung javelina seen in canyons. Hognose skunks boldly make their presence known! Warblers and other songbirds stop by on their migrations. Great blue herons and other waterfowl seen passing through on their way to the Willcox Playa. In the wilderness, black bears out ambling on fall foraging adventures. Covies of Montezuma quail seen in desert grassland areas.
Patagonia-Sonoita Creek PreserveTarantulas and troops of coatimundi can be seen. At dusk nectar feeding bats are in abundance.  Birds fuel up on under-story berry trees such as the netleaf hackberry before heading south. Listen to coyotes howl at sunrise from the upland trail. Snakes prepare to hibernate.
Ramsey Canyon PreserveWarblers and other songbirds migrate through. Hummingbird numbers drop by mid-month. First sightings of sapsuckers, kinglets, and other winter birds. Nectar feeding bats abundant. Butterfly numbers and diversity peak.

OCTOBER

Aravaipa Canyon PreserveBlack Hawks and Gray Hawks migrate south for the winter
Hart Prairie PreserveNight temperatures are now below freezing and morning frost is common.  Hummingbirds and many songbirds are now gone for the winter. Elk bugling can still be heard, along with loud antler clacking as bulls compete for dominance.  Aspen and willow are at the height of their fall colors of intense yellow to orange and stunning red, and the aspen leaves begin to flutter to the ground. Only a few hardy wildflowers, such gentians, are still visible in the meadows, which are now beginning to turn brown as winter approaches.   Light snowfalls begin to coat the landscapes.
Hassayampa River PreserveNortherly breeding migrants are still moving through, including Wilson’s warbler, McGillavry’s warbler; winter residents are more evident, such as Spotted and Green-tailed towhees, canyon wren, Red-shafted northern flicker and Great egret. Seasonal tent caterpillar infestations with their obvious webs in cottonwood and willow result in marked defoliation of many trees.  California fan palm tree fruit insures watchable wildlife activity as foxes, javelina, ringtails and several bird species take advantage of this popular food source.
Muleshoe Ranch CMASame as September
Patagonia-Sonoita Creek PreserveSame as September
Ramsey Canyon PreserveWinter birds arrive; most hummingbirds gone. Buck deer rub “velvet” off their antlers. Alligator lizards are frequently seen. Many fruits and nuts ripen. Leaves begin to turn by end of month.

NOVEMBER

Aravaipa Canyon PreserveCottonwoods, willows, and Sycamores start to change color. Belted Kingfisher returns from nesting grounds in Utah.
Hart Prairie PreserveClosed for the Season
Hassayampa River PreserveWinter resident bird species are now the majority, including Gila woodpeckers, red-shafted flickers, cedar waxwings, American robins, yellow-rumped warblers, and Stellar’s jays. Reptilian and amphibious species fade into their winter torpor. Increased sightings of many of the desert mammalian species, including all four North American species of skunks, mule deer, javelina, raccoons, ringtails and possibly an occasional bobcat or mountain lion. Late November brings the golden color change and inevitable leaf drop for decidouos species such as most mesquite varieties, Fremont Cottonwood and Goodding Willow. Isolated varieties of late-flowering plants such as Mexican sage, fairy duster and others tend to concentrate a plethora of lingering butterfly species, enhancing viewing opportunities in the garden.
Muleshoe Ranch CMACoatimundis begin to gather in large groups. Winter birds like the sharp-shinned hawk, northern flicker, and the white-crowned sparrow begin to arrive.
Patagonia-Sonoita Creek PreserveThe colors of autumn appear. Northern Harriers, American kestrels, and sharp-shinned hawks cruise above the native grasses. An occasional bobcat hunts along the railroad trail.  Winter birds such as the loggerhead shrike, dark-eyed junco, pine siskin, and American goldfinch can be seen as well as an abundance of sparrows including chipping, Brewer's, vesper, savannah, Lincoln’s, and white-crowned.
Ramsey Canyon PreserveWinter bird numbers increase. Yellow-rumped warblers and both species of junco become common. Daytime mammal activity increases. Fall colors, particularly in maple, sycamore, and cottonwood trees peak by mid-month.

DECEMBER

Aravaipa Canyon PreserveFerruginous Hawk arrives for the winter. Night time temperatures dip into the teens, and the sun disappears early behind canyon walls.
Hart Prairie PreserveClosed for the Season
Hassayampa River PreserveWinter resident bird species abound, including red-shafted flickers, cedar waxwings, white crowned sparrows, yellow-rumped warblers, and ruby-crowned kinglets.  Gray foxes take advantage of plentiful fruit falling from California fan palm (Washingtonia filifera) trees.
Muleshoe Ranch CMASame as November
Patagonia-Sonoita Creek PreserveSame as November
Ramsey Canyon PreserveFirst snow by mid-month. Robins, hermit thrushes, coatimundi, and ringtails feast on madrone fruit. Occasional sightings of goshawk and dipper in upper canyon. Deer commonly seen during the day.

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