In an Ash Canyon backyard

Southeast of Tucson, the vegetation changes to an oak grassland and pinyon pine mix, and the tongues of mountains dipping down to the grassland valley create canyons well worth exploring for their scenic beauty as well as the wildlife they harbor.

Ash Canyon, Arizona

The oak grassland habitat of Ash Canyon area, southeast of Tucson.

In the backyard of MJ Ballator’s amazing garden at the Ash Canyon B&B, dozens of feeders of all types and sizes attract most of the avian wildlife and some of the mammals as well.  A few examples of what we saw over the couple of hours we spent there…

Mexican Jay

An extended family of about 30 Mexican Jays patrols the backyard, helping themselves to suet, peanuts, and more.  They are larger (and prettier) than the western Scrub Jay.

Acorn Woodpeckers

Acorn Woodpeckers are in charge here. They dominate the feeders, even excluding the jays from their favorite suet feeder. Males and females differ in the amount of black on the top of their head. Males on the left have more red, females on the right have more black.

Ladderback Woodpecker

Ladderback Woodpecker male, molting a few of its crown feathers

Gila Woodpecker

Gila Woodpecker (male) — close relative of our eastern Red-bellied Woodpecker

Curve-billed Thrasher

Curve-billed Thrasher

Bewick's Wren

Bewick’s Wren

Inca Dove

Tiny Inca Dove

White-winged Dove

Much larger White-winged Dove



Audubon's Warbler

Audubon’s Warbler, the western equivalent of what we usually refer to as Yellow-rumped Warbler, but now considered a separate species (again).

and there were more, too many to include.  We missed the best time to visit here by over a month.  In September, visitors can find all 15 species of hummingbirds that reside or migrate through southeastern Arizona.  This is a must visit place!!

7 thoughts on “In an Ash Canyon backyard

  1. Your postings are my small heaven everyday. I’m wondering how long could we keep and see the scenery and wildlife as they are now. When I’m retired, could I really see them there?

  2. I thought it was a must-vist place too, and now I’m more than a visitor. I’m a resident. During the summer of 2015, I went out in the desert that borders Tucson Mountain Park almost every morning, taking notes. And nearly every day, I discovered something new. The purple martins are especially interesting. They are the only ones in the country that don’t nest in structures built for them by humans. Here they nest in cavities in the saguaros, and their breeding time has changed to take advantage of the increase in the insect population brought on by the monsoons. It is thought that they might be genetically unique.

    Today I was ruing the departure of the black vultures and the lesser nighthawks. I was so busy with freelance editing jobs that I never got to say goodbye this year. A few of the black vultures will hang around all winter, but not many. On the other hand, I was out walking when the white-crowned sparrows arrived, exactly three weeks ago today.

    Tucson and southeast Arizona are indeed a naturalist’s paradise. But I confess I do miss the duck migration along the Great Lakes, though I have gotten a couple of lifers here in Arizona.

    Thanks for all your interesting observations.

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