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Madera Canyon–Old Baldy Trail

Green Valley, Arizona 85614
Old Baldy Trail webpage
Old Baldy Trail map
Friends of Madera Canyon website
Birds of Madera Canyon
Madera Canyon map

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eBird Hotspot

Santa Cruz County

Madera Canyon–Old Baldy Trail
Coordinates: 31.7064483, -110.868596
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Birding in Arizona

About Old Baldy Trail
Both Old Baldy Trail and the Super Trail lead to the 9,543-foot summit of Mt. Wrightson, the highest peak in the Santa Ritas. Of the two, Old Baldy is the shortest and steepest, while the Super Trail is longer but has a more moderate gradient. The trails form a figure eight making it possible to put together a number of different loops using different portions of each. Old Baldy is the most heavily traveled and also remains the coolest of the two by keeping a more northerly aspect and staying in the trees for almost its entire length. The Super Trail stays within the same drainage as its steeper cousin on the lower loop of the “8”, but it follows a more south-facing slope through a high desert environment. Above the midpoint of the “8” at Josephine Saddle, the Super Trail loops around the south side of the mountain through the even more arid country, while Old Baldy switchbacks through thickets of New Mexico locust on a west-facing slope to Baldy Saddle. The last mile to the summit of Mt. Wrightson via the Crest Trail #144 is the same no matter which trail you’ve followed to the saddle. The views from the summit are, to say the least, breathtaking. The Santa Catalinas near Tucson, Mt. Graham to the east, and the high peaks of the Huachucas to the southeast combine with sweeping views of the Santa Cruz and San Pedro valleys to form a 360° panorama. Actually, you don’t even have to go all the way to the top to enjoy great views. Many of these landmarks are visible from dozens of overlooks along both trails. And while you’re at it, remember that all that’s worth seeing here is not in the distance. The birdwatchers heaven that exists in Madera Canyon extends up the mountain into this area where, in addition to the birds, you have a chance to see Coues white-tailed deer, black bear, and even mountain lion. The trails also boast an impressive potpourri of tree species characteristic of southeastern Arizona including Arizona, Apache and Chihuahua pines, as well as Arizona madrone and a variety of oaks.
From Old Baldy Trail webpage

Tips for birding Madera Canyon
If you are entering eBird data for Madera Canyon there are a number of eBird hotspots in Madera Canyon. There are hotspots for each of the parking and picnic areas, feeding stations, and a number of the trails. Please use these hotspots whenever possible and try not to merge a hike or drive through the canyon into one checklist. Also beware that the Pima – Santa Cruz County line cuts east-west through Madera Canyon. County boundaries are important for eBird data collection and reporting. The county line crosses Madera Canyon Road at the Madera Picnic Area, about at the midpoint of the big parking area on your left as you head up the canyon. If you can see the Santa Rita Lodge, you are in Santa Cruz County so please use the “Madera Canyon—Santa Rita Lodge” hotspot. Otherwise, use the “Madera Canyon—Madera Picnic Area” hotspot. If birding at the Bog Springs Campground, which is bisected by the county line, use the “Madera Canyon—Bog Springs Campground” unless the birds you are noting are on the north side of the campground, then create a personal spot that is in Pima County.

About Madera Canyon
Madera Canyon is nestled in the northern slopes of the Santa Rita Mountain range east of Green Valley and south of Tucson, Arizona. The flora along with the streams that carved out this canyon help to sustain the many bird, mammal, and insect species that breed and visit here. Visitors from all over the world arrive in search of such avian specialties as the Elegant Trogon, Elf Owl, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, and Painted Redstart. Over 230 species of birds have been recorded in the Canyon with 15 hummingbird species among them.

Thousands of birders, hikers, photographers, artists, and those simply seeking a place to enjoy a picnic under the shade of a sycamore tree—next to the cool water of a creek—have fallen in love with Madera Canyon.

Madera Canyon, one of the most famous birding areas in the United States, is a north-facing valley in the Santa Rita Mountains with riparian woodland along an intermittent stream, bordered by mesquite, juniper-oak woodlands, and pine forests. Madera Canyon is home to over 250 species of birds, including 15 hummingbird species. Visitors from all over the world arrive in search of such avian specialties as the Elegant Trogon, Elf Owl, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, and Painted Redstart.

The road to Madera Canyon enters through desert grasslands and ends in juniper-oak woodland, where hiking trails lead up in the “sky island” through pine-oak woodland to montane conifer forest and the top of Mt. Wrightson (elevation 9,453 feet). The spectrum of birds found in these varied habitats includes four species of tanagers: Summer at Proctor Road, Hepatic starting at Madera Picnic Area, Western up the trails in the conifers, and Flame-colored as an occasional breeder. Hummingbirds, owls, and flycatchers are also very well represented in this area. Montezuma Quail are inconspicuous but present near grassy oak-dotted slopes.

In the Santa Rita Experimental Range below Madera Canyon can be found birds of the desert grasslands and brush, including Costa’s Hummingbird, Varied Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, Scaled Quail, Phainopepla, Botteri’s, Cassin’s, Black-throated, Brewer’s, and Rufous-winged Sparrows.

At Proctor Road, most birders walk the productive first section of the trail to Whitehouse Picnic Area to find Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Bell’s Vireo, Lucy’s Warbler, Blue Grosbeak, Varied Bunting, Summer Tanager, and sometimes Yellow-billed Cuckoo. The dirt road shortly above the parking lot may have Western Scrub-Jays and a Crissal Thrasher.

Farther up the road, the Madera Picnic Area has Acorn and Arizona Woodpeckers, Mexican Jay, Bridled Titmouse, Painted Redstart, and Dark-eyed Junco. Three Myiarchus flycatchers , Western Wood-Pewee, and Hepatic Tanager can be found here in season. Watch overhead for Zone-tailed Hawk among the Turkey Vultures.

At the end of the road at the parking lot, the trailhead leads to Old Baldy. Elegant Trogons are most often found along the first mile of either the Super Trail of the Carrie Nation Trail. Hermit Thrush, American Robin, Plumbeous Vireo, Painted Redstart, and Dusky-capped Flycatcher are common along the trails. Yellow-eyed Juncos breed higher up towards Josephine Saddle.

Night birding is a Madera Canyon highlight, especially in May. Listen for Western and Whiskered Screech-Owls, Elf Owls and the much rarer Flammulated and Spotted Owls. Whip-poor-wills are in the forest and Common Poorwills can be heard near Proctor and below. Lesser Nighthawks, Barn, and Great Horned Owls often fly across the road through the beam of your headlights as you approach the canyon.

Friends of Madera Canyon publishes a comprehensive “Birds of Madera Canyon” checklist that is available at the Visitor Information Station, trailheads, and website.
From Friends of Madera Canyon website