The Varied Thrush is a rare visitor to the Santa Rita Mountains, so consider yourself lucky if you have spotted one there and added it to your bird sighting list.
This colorful large thrush normally lives in northern states, from Alaska to Oregon, Idaho, Montana and California. It winters in coastal Alaska and south. The dark blue-gray upperparts are accented with rusty colored throat, sides, and breast. The have rust colored eyebrows, and a black banded breast. The stomach is white as is the undertail. Their dark gray tail has white edges. Both the legs and feet are brown. The wings are also dark gray, with rusty-brown bars.
This is an aggressive species, watching over a bird feeder it claims as its own, running off any other birds that try to eat there. When not invading back yard bird feeders, its natural habitat is thick dense coniferous or deciduous forests.
As rare as this bird is in the Santa Ritas, if you happened to see one with white instead of orange, you are doubly lucky. This is a very rare occurrence in this species.
They have an elusive call, so don’t expect to be able to find where they are perched, as the calls echoes and does not give away their location.
Reference: The Nature of Madera Canyon by Douglas W. Moore, Friends of Madera, 1999; whatbird.com
Kent Springs Trail
The Santa Rita Mountains are home to many rare bird and plant species, making it a unique place to visit and learn about. The Santa Rita Experimental Range Station offers lectures during the winter months on such topics as wildlife, geology, and plant life. The book called The Nature of Madera Canyon by Douglas W. Moore, Friends of Madera, 1999, is worth owning if these mountains interest you.
Another great reference book for hiking (and history) enthusiasts is The Hiker’s Guide to the Santa Rita Mountains by Betty Leavengood and Mike Liebert. Not only does Betty Leavengood cover all known trails (and some not-so-known), but her research is excellent on topics including the history of the Santa Ritas and prominent men and women that added richness to its history.
Old Baldy Trail
A good map when hiking is an essential component of your day pack. Although the Forest Service does have a map of the Santa Rita Mountains, there are no topographical contours to give you a good idea of how steep a certain trail is. Ditto for the map published by the Southern Arizona Hiking Club. If you want a topo map, you will have to turn to the USGS. These are available at Tucson Map and Flag in Tucson.