Birding is best here during breeding season when Yellow Warblers, Bell’s Vireos, Orange-crowned Warblers, Wilson’s Warblers, Lucy’s Warblers and Common Yellowthroat are present. Other common or year-round residents include Red-winged Blackbirds, Spotted Sandpipers, Killdeer, Gila Woodpeckers, Black Phoebes, Say’s Phoebes, Verdins, Abert’s Towhees, Song Sparrows, Great-tailed Grackles, Gambel’s quail, and Lesser Goldfinches. Raptors include Cooper’s Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks, Northern Harriers, and American Kestrels. Black-necked Stilts and several species of ducks (including an occasional wood duck) are common during the winter months. About 70-80 species can be seen here regularly, with rarities showing up at times.
Besides birds, you can also watch hundreds to thousands of bats emerge from the Ina Road Bridge on summer evenings. Mexican free-tailed bats are the most numerous occupants under the bridge. Some overwinter in Arizona, but many go to Mexico for the winter and return to Southern Arizona in the summer.
Directions: Take Interstate-10 to the Cortaro Road exit and go west on Cortaro Rd. Turn south on Silverbell Road an turn in at the Crossroads District Park sign. Drive toward the library and turn left into the parking lot by the volleyball courts. Walk east toward the tall swath of greenery along the river. There is a paved trail you can follow to the south to the Ina Road Bridge.
The Tortolita Mountains are located on the northwest edge of the Tucson Valley. The Tortolitas are a small, rocky, rugged mountain range near the Pima/Pinal County border. There are large, healthy stands of saguaro cactus and a few junipers in the higher areas. Elevations range from approximately 2,500 ft to 4,200 ft. There are several crested saguaros visible from the trails in the Tortolita Mountains. Vegetation is Upper Sonoran Desert palo verdi, mixed cacti, and Southwest riparian deciduous forest and woodland.
Cactus wrens, Rock Wrens, Roadrunners, Phainopeplas Black-tailed Gnatcatchers, Cardinals, Brown-crested Flycatchers, Gila Woodpeckers, Mockingbirds, Bell’s Vireos, Anna’s Hummingbirds, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Ravens, Turkey Vultures, Red-tailed Hawks, and more occur in the Tortolitas. You may also catch a glimpse of the wild horses that inhabit the area, as well as Sonoran Desert Tortoises or Gila Monsters.
Directions: Drive north of Tucson on Interstate-10 and take the Twin Peaks Road exit, heading northeast. Go several miles and as you cross Tangerine Road, Twin Peaks becomes Dove Mountain Boulevard. Follow this road to its end (through the gates for the Ritz Carlton Resort). There will be a Marana parking lot on your right a short distance after the entrance gate to the Ritz Carlton. There are several trails in the Tortolita Mountains; you can obtain a map at the Marana Parks & Recreation Department. These hikes vary in difficulty so be aware to bring water and be well-prepared to hike.
The Farm Fields of Marana
There are a variety of species that can be viewed from public roads along the irrigated farm fields in Marana. Species range from waterfowl and shorebirds to burrowing owls and hawks. Some birds that are frequently viewed in the flooded farm fields and along irrigation ditches include: White-faced Ibis, Great Egrets, Red-winged Blackbirds, Horned Larks, and ducks. Between March and July, Burrowing Owl families live in burrows along the irrigation ditches. If you look carefully, you may see the youngsters peeking out of their hole, while a parent stands by watchfully. Some of the owls stay all winter, so it’s worth a drive any time of year.