Bird-watching is big business in these parts, with birders' B&Bs, bird refuges, and even birding festivals. The Southwest Wings Birding and Nature Festival (www.swwings.org), one of southern Arizona's biggest annual birding events, is held each year in early August in Sierra Vista.
If you'd like to join a guided bird walk along the San Pedro River or up Miller Canyon in the Huachuca Mountains, an owl-watching night hike, or a hummingbird banding session, contact the Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory (tel. 520/432-1388; www.sabo.org), which also has a public bird-viewing area at its headquarters 2 miles north of the Mule Mountain Tunnel on Ariz. 80 north of Bisbee (watch for Hidden Meadow Lane). Most activities cost $10 to $20, although there are also half-day trips for $45 and day trips for $70. Workshops and tours are also offered.
Serious birders who want to be sure to add lots of rare birds to their life lists might want to visit this area on a guided tour. Your best bet is Mark Pretti Nature Tours (tel. 520/803-6889; www.markprettinaturetours.com), run by the former resident naturalist at Ramsey Canyon Preserve. A half-day birding tour costs $120 and a full-day tour costs $200 to $220. Three-day ($625) and 7- to 8-day ($1,300-$1,400) trips are also offered. Melody Kehl's of Melody's Birding Adventures (tel. 520/245-4085; www.ebiz.netopia.com/outdoor) is another reliable local guide; her rates start at $25 per hour. High Lonesome Birdtours (tel. 443/838-6589; www.hilonesome.com), another local tour company, charges $2,450 per person for a 7-day birding trip.
South of Ramsey Canyon off Ariz. 92, you'll find Carr Canyon, which has a road that climbs up through the canyon to some of the higher elevations in the Huachuca Mountains. Keep your eyes open for buff-breasted flycatchers, red crossbills, and red-faced warblers. The one-lane road is narrow and winding (usually navigable by passenger car), and not for the acrophobic. It climbs 5 miles up into the mountains to the old mining camp of Reef Townsite.
The Environmental Operations Park, 3 miles east of Ariz. 92 on Ariz. 90, is a grasslands and wetlands restoration site at Sierra Vista's sewage treatment facility, and is a good place to see yellow-headed blackbirds, ducks, peregrines, and harriers from fall to spring. For more information, contact the City of Sierra Vista (tel. 520/458-3315) or the Southeast Arizona Bird Observatory (tel. 520/432-1388).
Hummingbird Heaven -- If it's summer and you're looking to add as many hummingbirds to your life list as possible, take a drive up Miller Canyon (south of Ramsey Canyon) to Beatty's Guest Ranch and Orchard, 2173 E. Miller Canyon Rd., Hereford (tel. 520/378-2728; www.beattysguestranch.com), where a public hummingbird-viewing area is set up. A total of 15 species of hummers have been sighted here, and several times, 14 species have been seen in 1 day.
A Holy Bird Sanctuary -- In the community of St. David, 5 miles south of Benson on Ariz. 80, you'll find the Holy Trinity Monastery (tel. 520/720-4016; www.holytrinitymonastery.org), which is near the banks of the San Pedro River and has a 1.3-mile birding trail.
Hikers will find numerous trails in the Huachuca Mountains west of Sierra Vista. There are trails at Garden Canyon on Fort Huachuca, at Ramsey Canyon Preserve, at Carr Canyon in Coronado National Forest, and within Coronado National Memorial. For information on hiking in the Coronado National Forest, contact the Sierra Vista Ranger District, 5990 S. Hwy. 92 (tel. 520/378-0311; www.fs.fed.us/r3/coronado), 8 miles south of Sierra Vista.