This feature is a reprint of a story that originally appeared in Arizona Wildlife Views.
Don’t put those binoculars away just because it’s winter. Mammals are active during the cool days, while the earliest summer birds start to arrive in late winter. In Arizona, rewarding wildlife experiences can be had even in the wintertime.
Central: At the Nature Conservancy’s Hassayampa River Preserve, find winter-resident birds such as red-shafted and gilded flickers and cedar waxwings. At Palm Lake, watch for herons, white-faced ibis and pied-billed grebe. Look for evidence of mammals: the tracks, droppings and bedding or denning sites of deer, javelinas, raccoons and ringtails. Use stealth and be alert to see the animals themselves.
Southern: Waterfowl are numerous at Willcox, Patagonia and Parker Canyon lakes. The Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area attracts more than 20,000 sandhill cranes and 14 species of raptors. The Sulphur Springs Valley also is a great place to find and photograph end-of-the-rut Coues’ white-tailed deer.
West: Winter is a good time to explore Cibola National Wildlife Refuge while temperatures are cooler. Watch for Canada, snow, and Ross’ geese along the three-mile self-guided auto tour. Don’t forget to scan dead, standing trees around the lake for a variety of birds and small mammals. Common larger mammals include mule deer, javelina and bobcat.
North-central: Pronghorns and Rocky Mountain elk graze in the grasslands here. The White Mountain Grasslands Wildlife Area often holds numerous pronghorn and raptors, including the occasional golden eagle and ferruginous hawk. The Wenima Wildlife Area has a resident herd of mule deer that often can be seen at sunrise and sunset by walking the area’s trails.
Northern: Around Flagstaff, groups of wintering bald eagles can be found at the area’s many lakes. Dress warmly for the cold temperatures and be at these lakes in the early morning and late evening for good views of elk in their winter coats.
Go wildlife watching with family and friends and get to know Arizona. The state offers gratifying wildlife viewing year-round and the experience is never far away.
—Joe Yarchin, Arizona Game and Fish Department watchable wildlife program manager