In my continuing tour of the many sites for birding here in the Tucson, Arizona area, I have run across the Sam Lena Park, and athletic complex. My research into the history of this area has yielded very little, only that it is well liked by 786 people on Facebook, the local Disc Golf Group gives it high praise, and that my favorite part of this location, what is called the “Environmental Restoration Area” is popular with several Birding Websites. The area sports several ponds, of varying construction, and size, from the largest, a water reclamation pond of about 5 acres, to at least a half dozen smaller seasonal ponds. These smaller ponds are back away from the bike and jog paths, and well away from the baseball/softball and soccer fields as well. They provide 20-30 acres of mostly untouched riparian area, with willow, pine, cotton wood and mesquite trees. Cattails line parts of the ponds, all of this giving shelter to a very nice variety of birds. Access to the large reclamation pond is somewhat restricted, and is circled on two sides with an elevated bike/walking path, providing excellent views to whatever species should be on the water or its shore line. Below are a couple of the smaller ponds that are back away from the bike trails.

This area has been so fun watching the changes as we move into a more summer-like season. Most days  now we are seeing temperatures in the high 90’s F, the trees are fully leaved, flowers of every kind are either in bloom, or have already finished and the migrants are coming thru in droves. Yellow Warblers, Lucy’s Warblers, Bell’s Vireos, are all over the trees lining the edge of the park. Black-necked Stilts are nesting along the waters edges, with Willets, Long-billed Curlews, Killdeer, Solitary Sandpipers, Spotted Sandpipers and Semi-palmated Sandpipers joining them in the hunt for food. A pair of Chihuahuan Ravens has recently built a nest in a nearby stadium light standard. This winter the waters were consistently holding Ring-neck Ducks, Buffleheads, Northern Shovelers, American Wigeon, Green-wing and Cinnamon Teal, Gadwalls, Ruddy Ducks and Common Mergansers. One of the smaller ponds was home for several weeks to a Red-breasted Merganser. The Ducks are all gone now, headed back north, so now the waters are populated with a good numbers of Neotropic Cormorants. Just yesterday, I spotted a Curve-billed Thrasher, sitting on its nest, just a few feet from the bike path over looking this larger pond. Black-tailed Gnatcatchers along with both Black-chinned and Broad-billed Hummingbirds are seen zipping around the edges of the ponds.

It is gonna take quite a bit of time to get thru all of Tucson’s Parks, but, I am going to give it my all and see if I can get some birds lists at every one of them before the end of the year. Stay tuned for more from South East Arizona!


Here is a good look at that Curve-billed Thrasher on its nest.

One of the early migrant arrivals, this Lucy’s Warbler is found in many of the local parks.


This is one of the Bell’s Vireo that is in the Park.


This Red-breasted Merganser was quite popular for birders in the Southeast Arizona.


One of my “First of Year” birds for Arizona was this lovely Yellow Warbler.


I managed to capture this migrant Common Blackhawk as it passed over Sam Lena Park.


Here are a few of our winter time residents, Buffleheads and Ring-neck Ducks.


With Double-crested Cormorants becoming rarer and rarer, these Neotropic Cormorants have become quite common. If you look closely, at the lower left side, at waters edge are two Black-necked Stilts.


With at least nine different hummingbird species to be found around the Southeast Arizona area, this Broad-billed Hummingbird is the most common one in our city parks.

Written by Tom Brown
Tom Brown grew up in the high desert area of central Oregon. His love for birds and photography started at a young age. Thru the course of time, travel, and a lot of different occupations, he ended up living in Seattle, and met a girl with a sailboat. When he is not scouring whatever area they are in, looking for the next great bird photo, he can be found trying to earn enough money for the next adventure, and of course, a new lens or camera body! Having been nick-named “The Bird Nerd” by his last remaining friends and family, Tom continues search for that next lifer, and the accompanying photo that goes with it. Find his continuing adventures, photographs, and guiding opportunities at Focus on Feathers.