Urban Birds - Roy P. Drachman Agua Caliente Park

By Kendall Kroesen
From the Vermilion Vaults
Originally appeared: October 2005 issue

Its name says most of what you need to know about Agua Caliente Park—“hot water.” A warm spring surfaces here and runs down a creek to feed three ponds. The ponds are great places to see waterfowl, and there are plenty of other birds to search for in the park.

The park has been a ranch and a health resort. Now it is a county park with lots of places to watch birds, hike, and have picnics. In fall, look for the arrival of ducks such as American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Ruddy Duck, and Wood Duck. Migrating Western Grebes, Pied-billed Grebes, and Spotted Sandpipers might also be spotted around the ponds. Migrant songbirds like Orange-crowned and Nashville Warblers, and Lazuli Buntings may turn up in trees and bushes. A walk on the trail past the north end of the first pond is a particularly good way to look for these migrants.

Many of the ducks stay for the winter. Other birds also spend the winter here, such as Yellow-rumped Warblers, White-crowned Sparrows, Red-naped Sapsuckers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. Look for wintering Marsh Wrens hiding in the cattails around the edge of the ponds.

In the spring, many species return to the park to build nests and find a mate. In the trees north of the ranch buildings look for brilliant Vermilion Flycatchers as they make sorties to catch insects on the wing. The park is also known as a prime site for Northern Beardless-Tyrannulets, a bird best found by following its loud voice.

Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet by Jim Prudente

Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation sponsors many education events at the park, including beginnin bird walks on Tuesdays (Wake Up With the Birds, now THURSDAYS, call 615-7855 for more information). Be sure and visit the new Tucson Audubon Nature Shop located at the park (760-7881).

To get there from Tucson, go east on Tanque Verde Road and north (left) on Soldier Trail. Turn right (east) on Roger Road and look for the entrance to the park on your left.