The 71,000-acre Agua Fria National Monument is known primarily for the many Native American petroglyphs that can be found on flat rocks next to the Agua Fria River. The birding, however, is just as impressive. The Badger Springs Wash Trail leads down a flat, sandy wash to the cattail-choked, boulder-strewn river. Two miles long round-trip, the trail is part of an Important Bird Area that covers the monument’s riparian corridors.
Agua Fria supports one of the higher densities in Arizona of nesting Yellow-billed Cuckoo, a species declared Threatened in the West in early October. Other birds of conservation concern at Agua Fria are Common Black-Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, Golden Eagle, Belted Kingfisher, Juniper Titmouse, Lucy’s Warbler, Bell’s Vireo, Gray Flycatcher, and Abert’s Towhee.
I enjoy the quiet of hiking in the desert environment and have watched Phainopepla, thrashers, Gila Woodpecker, hummingbirds, and warblers in spindly ocotillo and creosote bushes. I’ve spotted raptors soaring over the tranquil river and perching on clifftops. I’ve rock-hopped for miles up and down the river, where flycatchers and Canyon Wrens utilize tall cattails, and various ducks bathe in shimmering ponds. — Chuck Graham