Arizona Field Ornithologist


The Mazatzal Mountains, Yavapai, Gila, and Maricopa Cos.

14-16 July 2017

Leader: Felipe Guerrero




The Mazatzal Mountains rise some 5,800 ft. from the banks of the Verde River to their highest point on Mazatzal Peak at 7,900 ft. Here, where the spine of the range serves as the Yavapai-Gila County line, north-facing slopes and canyon systems contain pockets of montane conifer forest and Madrean evergreen woodland. Though the area is fairly accessible by trail – the Arizona Trail passes through nearby - few visitors come to these high elevation communities in search of birds. As such this area holds great promise for discovery in light of shifting and expanding ranges of Madrean species.


Running approximately 50 miles in length from north to south the Mazatzal Mountains ascend from near the confluence of the East Verde and the Verde River and terminate at Apache Lake southwest of Roosevelt. Surrounded on three sides by Sonoran desertscrub, the mountains also host considerable stretches of semidesert grassland, vast seas of chaparral, and various riparian, woodland and forest communities. This rich botanical diversity makes for a correspondingly diverse suite of birds.


Species of interest for this expedition include many Ponderosa Pine-Gambel Oak/ Mixed Conifer Forest associated birds as well as Madrean species, e.g. Flammulated Owl, Spotted Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Mexican Whip-poor-will, Magnificent Hummingbird, Greater Pewee, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Hutton's Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Stellar's Jay, Mexican Jay, Mountain Chickadee, Bridled Titmouse, Red-breasted Nuthatch, House Wren, Western Bluebird, Townsend's Solitaire, Hermit Thrush, Olive Warbler, Virginia's Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Grace's Warbler, Red-faced Warbler, Painted Redstart, Hepatic Tanager, Western Tanager, and Red Crossbill.


The expedition will be based at the Mt. Peeley Trailhead near the Arizona Trail at an elevation of 5600 ft. For Maricopa Co. birders, this is the trailhead at the end of the Slate Creek Divide Rd. (FR201) which takes you through the higher elevations. Car camping gear is required as well as a high-clearance vehicle. Please contact expedition leader to register.



Friday: Leaders and participants meet at Mt. Peeley Trailhead in the afternoon/evening and set up camp. Local birding. Logistics in the evening. Those that cannot make it Friday evening may join the expedition at the trailhead very early on Saturday morning.

Saturday: Expedition departs camp at 5:00 a.m. for upper Sheep Creek. A 2.8-mile hike travels through drier communities of chaparral and open, previously burned woodland before reaching a saddle that marks our descent into the canyon. From here the expedition continues between 1 and 4 miles down canyon surveying the drainage and especially the north-facing, forested slopes along the way. Lunch in the canyon bottom. Return to base camp at Mt. Peeley Trailhead in afternoon. Thus this will likely be an 8-12+ mi. round-trip, with an 800-1000 ft. elevation change.

Option: for those participants interested in sticking closer to camp, nearby Deer Creek (Gila Co.) provides an option for surveying on Saturday morning.

Sunday: Expedition departs at 5:00 a.m. for nearby Deer Creek. Surveying commences immediately upon descending into the canyon from camp and continues along the drainage and north-facing, forested slopes.

Things to know and bring:

Carpooling and Parking

If you wish to carpool please contact one of the expedition leaders. Parking will be available at the Mt. Peeley Trailhead. Please do not leave valuable items in your vehicle.

Hiking and Backpacking

We will be day hiking as our means of travel. Backpacks must be large enough to fit all of the gear you may want to bring. A large day packs (30+ Liters) is recommended and must be large enough to carry lunch, water, field guides, layers, sunscreen, headlamp, etc.

Food and Water

Participants will need to provide their own food and water.

Food is needed for the following days:  Friday: dinner, Saturday: breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and Sunday: Breakfast and lunch. Three liters of water capacity is suggested. Participants must bring all of the water they require for the entire expedition (5+ gallons).


Participants should bring the following: binoculars, field guides, hats, sunscreen, several layers of clothes, tent/tarp, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, insect repellant, day pack, sturdy hiking shoes that cover and support ankles, headlamp/flashlight, pencil/pen, paper, phone, GPS unit, toothbrush/paste, toilet paper, ziplock bags, phone, watch, sunglasses, first aid kit, compass, utensils/container, lighter, rain gear.


“No Trace” practices are encouraged.


July is typically one of the hottest months of the year and precipitation occurs regularly in the afternoon as monsoon thunderstorms. Daytime temperatures will be hot (90-100 F), especially while hiking back to base camp on Saturday. However, generally, in the higher elevations layers will be needed in the evening. Predicted weather will be monitored for that weekend.