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In January 2011, an unexpected but welcome opportunity cropped up to spend a week in Arizona based in Phoenix. The week provided a nice break from the bitter cold in New England and produced some outstanding birding. Although the nights were cool, daytime temperatures soared into the mid-seventies – this combined with the spectacle of thousands of birds provided a much needed respite from the brutal winter further north.

Avian highlights were many and included; Pacific and White-billed Divers (Pacific and Yellow-billed Loons), Western and Clark's Grebes, thousands of Snow and Ross's Geese, Barrow's Goldeneye, Ferruginous Hawk, Prairie Falcon, 'Yuma' Clapper Rail, Thayer's, Heerman's and Glaucous Gulls, Ruddy Ground-dove, Costa's Hummingbird, Red-naped Sapsucker, Gilded Flicker, Hammond's, Dusky, and Gray Flycatchers, Plumbeous Vireo, Rufous-backed Robin, Bendire's Thrasher, Sprague's Pipit, Phainopepla, Hepatic Tanager, Green-tailed Towhee, Baird's Sparrow and Lark Bunting. Especially impressive were the concentrations of ducks, geese and cranes – not quite what one might expect from a desert environment! In general, the deserts of Arizona and California were very 'birdy' indeed and a week just wasn't enough.

This photo gallery offers just a taste of what is possible on our full scale Arizona and California tour in January 2012, a tour that I'm very much looking forward to leading.

Yellow-billed Loon Brown Pelican
Neotropic Cormorant Ross's Goose
Snow Geese and Ross's Geese
Ross's Geese
Mallard (Mexican Duck)
Bufflehead Barrow's Goldeneye and Common Goldeneye
Sharp-shinned Hawk Greater and Lesser Sandhill Crane
Glaucous Gull Iceland (Thayer's) Gull
Ruddy Ground-doves Rosy-faced Lovebird
Gila Woodpecker Say's Phoebe
Verdin Rufous-backed Robin
Bendire's Thrasher Sprague's Pipit
Phainopepla Hepatic Tanager
Green-tailed Towhee
Baird's Sparrow Baird's Sparrow
Savannah and Grasshopper Sparrows
Lark Bunting Pine Siskin
San Rafael Valley
San Rafael Valley
Salton Sea
California Sunset
Heermann's Gull

Heermann's Gull