What is Craig’s Big Year?


2016 is Craig’s Big Year! Veteran Arizona birder and Audubon Arizona volunteer “Bird Nerd” Craig Anderson hits the road to visit as many of Arizona’s 46 Important Bird Areas – and see as many species of birds – as possible from March through December. Join him on his journey through Arizona’s wild places, and save birds at the same time! Important Bird Areas are protected habitat sites crucial to birds, and beautiful areas where the public can see birds and wildlife.

Audubon Arizona is hosting a “Birdathon” in connection with Craig’s Big Year to support our Important Bird Areas program.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Enter the Birdathon with a $5 participation fee – your name will be put in a raffle to win a great prize and you’ll receive exclusive updates about Craig’s adventures.
  2. Pledge per species to help Audubon protect their habitats. For example, if you pledge 10 cents per species and Craig sees a total of 100 species, your pledge would amount to $10.
  3. Finally, you can even join Craig on one of his expeditions for $25 per person (optional of course). All proceeds benefit the Audubon Arizona Important Bird Areas program.

Click here to participate!

Craig’s Next Big Year IBA Visit schedule:

  • October 23rd – Bubbling Springs, Page Springs
  • November 6-12th, White Water Draw & Wilcox Playa
  • November 14-18th, Huachuca Mountains, East & West side
  • November 21-23rd, Cibola NWR, Colorado River
  • November 28-Dec 3rd, San Pedro NCR

And on December 15th, join us at the Rio Salado Audubon Center in Phoenix to hear Craig share highlights of his adventures at Birds n’ Beer!

Hummingbirds and Moon Rocks!


Calliope Hummingbird. Photo: Richard Pick

Sonoita Creek State Natural Area/Patagonia Lake IBA, Patagonia-Sonoita Creek TNC Preserve IBA & Patton House, and San Rafael Grasslands IBA.

To date by the numbers, I have visited 19 Arizona IBA’s, traveled 4,636 miles, spent $885 (excluding gas), and camped 31 days. I’ve had four individuals accompany me on one or more trips and I’ve seen over 225 species of birds.

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Fliers, Flowers and New Friends – Pinaleno Mountains July 24-29

The title is very descriptive of this IBA trip. While the birds of the Pinaleno Mountains were our primary objective, one could not help but be amazed by all the other “fliers”. The sheer abundance of butterflies, moths, beetles, grasshoppers, dragon flies, lady bugs, deer flies, wasps, and varieties of bees would capture almost anyone’s attention – unless you were comatose or playing “Pokemon.”

Sympetrum_flaveolum_-_side_(aka) (Wikipedia)

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Waiting for a Trogon

Elegant Trogon

Elegant Trogon. Photo: Tracey Harmon

Chiricahua Mountains IBA Trip, June 12-18th, 2016

The blue-gray silhouette of the Chiricahua’s greet me as I leave Wilcox, Arizona at sunrise. They rise to over 9,000 feet and once again, I’m surprised by this massive chain of mountains. My anticipation to be in them rises just as the sun does. It’s been over thirty years since my last visit. The mountains remain ever present as I travel south on Highway 80 towards Portal.

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Lower San Pedro Trip, May 17-20, 2016

Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher. Photo: George Scott

Volumes of Vermilions

This report must start with a GREAT BIG “Thank You” to Celeste Andersen, Nature Conservancy Manager of the 7B Ranch near Mammoth and also her Supervisor Bob Rogers, Manager of the 3 Links Ranch, a Globally Significant IBA site down by Benson. Both of these individuals graciously gave us their valuable time so that our visit would be successful.

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Elk, Birds and Bears – The Mogollon Rim Snowmelt Draws IBA, May 9-15, 2016

Standing on the Rim's Edge

View of the Mogollon Rim. Photo: Craig Anderson

The bottom line: the snowmelt draws along the Mogollon Rim are well-worth adding to your high-priority birding locations. Allow yourself two to three days to be in the area.

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Sonoran Borderlands & Lower Colorado River IBAs Report


Spectacular vistas, sunsets, the Streakbacked Oriole, and thousands of swirling tree swallows made this tour memorable. I now have traveled over 1,300 miles to visit seven Arizona Important Bird Areas and they have exceeded my expectations. I’m in awe of Arizona’s varied habitats and unique wildlife.

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Joshua Tree Trip Report

Joshua Tree Forest.jpg

Photo: Craig Anderson


If solitude and serenity are what you are seeking for your next birding adventure, Joshua Tree IBA, Arizona’s newest Important Bird Area, is definitely a trip for you!

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