Birding Guide Services in Southeastern Arizona
Many thanks for visiting! I’d be delighted to be your birding guide in southeast Arizona. I offer half day (Rio Rico area only), full day and multiple day birding guide services in SE Arizona .
- A $50 deposit per day is required to secure your booking
Please send a check to: Richard Fray, 72 Avenida Pastor, Rio Rico AZ 85648
- If you hire me, you agree to my terms and conditions (below)
I’ve tried to keep my pricing as simple as possible, but there are so many variables that inevitably it can get a bit complicated. I want you to be confident that there are no hidden extras when you hire me as your birding guide. I’m a full-time, professional birding guide and tour leader; this is my livelihood so I have to charge fairly and appropriately. I’d love to do it just for fun, but sadly the mortgage won’t pay itself.
There are potentially three fees payable to me (plus entrance fees where required) when you hire me as your birding guide, as follows:
1. Guiding Fee
My wages. This also covers my guiding permit fees, training and certification costs, insurance and other business expenses. You’ll find that I offer the best value in Arizona! I count a full day as just that, dawn till dusk, whereas most local guides charge extra beyond eight or ten hours.
|Half day (Rio
Rico area only,
up to 5 hrs) *
(up to 5 hours) **
* Half day price ONLY available in the Rio Rico area. I’m willing to travel for a half day, but I have to charge for a full day outside of my immediate area.
** Price for night birding in Santa Cruz County ONLY, or elsewhere when added to a full day. For stand-alone night birding outside Santa Cruz County, I charge for a full day.
2. Meeting Point Fee
I live in Rio Rico, which is an hour south of Tucson along I-19. I’m happy to meet you anywhere in SE Arizona, but it’s a big place and I have to cover my travel costs. Most local guides charge for travel costs plus additional time for travel to/from the starting point, or include their travel time, eating into your birding hours. I only charge the following flat fees to cover my costs, and I don’t charge for additional hours, leaving you free to enjoy your full day of birding.
|Meeting Point||Meeting Point Fee|
|Rio Rico||NO CHARGE|
|Arizona City (Santa Cruz Flats)||$50|
|Douglas *||$60 *|
|Portal/Chiricahuas *||$80 *|
* While I enjoy guiding in the Portal area and the Chiricahua Mountains, it’s so far from where I live that it’s not really practical. It’s a seven-hour round trip for me and an early start is unrealistic in terms of me having to leave home three-and-a-half hours before we meet. In almost all circumstances, you’ll be better off seeking a guide in that area, rather than having to pay me to drive halfway across the state and arrive an hour or two after sunrise. Please see my list of alternative guides , some in the Portal area or much closer than I am (eg: Sierra Vista).
3. Vehicle Fee
From our meeting point, if we take your vehicle, there is no further charge. If we take my vehicle (smallish 4×4 SUV) I charge a Vehicle Fee per mile of travel, which covers gas, vehicle maintenance, and comprehensive passenger insurance.
|Vehicle fee per mile||45c|
- Note: the current government rate for vehicle usage is 53.5c/mile, so I’m offering a good discount.
- Please see the mileage charts below to help plan your day.
Discounts and Bonuses
- Second and subsequent consecutive full days: $10 off.
- Weekly discount: pay for six days, get the seventh day free.
- Bonus # 1: I always carry my camera and sneak a few photos in, so I’ll email my best digital photos from your trip, free of charge.
- Bonus # 2: I’ll email a field checklist  for planning, use in the field, or for later reference. On request, I can provide printed checklists on the day.
- Bonus # 3: I’ll log everything we see on eBird  as we go, and share those lists with you via eBird (if you have an account) and by email. Alternatively, on request, I can provide a full checklist  of our sightings, in spreadsheet and PDF formats.
Let’s say you’ve decided that your group of four wants to spend two full days birding, starting in Tucson both days and taking my vehicle. The first day we do 180 miles, the second day we travel 70 miles. The cost would be: Guiding Fee for four people, 1st full day $270, 2nd full day $260 (using 2nd day discount); Meeting Point Fee, 2 x $35 = $70; Vehicle Fee, 250 miles in total x 45c/mile = $112.50. Total: $702.50.
You come down to Rio Rico, pick me up on I-19 and we spend five hours birding locally using your vehicle. The cost would be: Guiding Fee for one person for a half day, $145; Meeting Point Fee, none, Vehicle Fee, none. Total: $145.
- I am certified in first aid, CPR, and defibrillator use. My vehicle is equipped with a comprehensive first aid kit. Please advise me in advance of any medical conditions or special requirements you may have.
- My vehicle is regularly maintained and equipped with a new spare tire, tire pump, heavy duty jack, battery charger pack, jumper cables, basic tools, extra water, etc. I also have AAA breakdown and emergency coverage.
- Bottled water and snacks (granola bars, crackers, trail mix, etc) will be available at all times.
- There are many lunch options in SE Arizona, although some birding areas are remote and without facilities. We can pick something up as we go, or you can bring your own lunch. It’s your call.
- I always carry a spotting scope and tripod, for your use.
- A spare pair of binoculars is available on request.
- I have spare hats, sunscreen, bug spray, etc, should you need them.
- Tips are not necessarily expected but are gratefully accepted and much appreciated.
Terms and Conditions
IMPORTANT! Please read carefully. I hate to be a rule maker and you’ll find that I’m a very laid back guy, but experience has taught me that some things need to be said and understood before we go, to make everyone’s lives simpler and safer. So, if you book my services as a birding guide, you agree to the following terms and conditions:
- The Guiding Fee you pay is the price quoted at the time you make your booking.
- Vehicle Fees and Meeting Point Fees are subject to change at any time due to wild fluctuations in fuel costs (unlikely).
- All prices are in US Dollars.
- Payments are accepted in US Dollars only, by cash, check or money order. I can arrange a PayPal or credit card payment, for an additional fee of 10%. So, for example, a $50 deposit payment becomes $55, and a $300 balance payment becomes $330, and so forth. I do not accept wire transfers.
- A $50 deposit per day is required at time of booking to secure your reservation, with the balance payable at the conclusion of your tour. In the case of a cancellation, deposits will be returned in full, but only if I can re-book the day/s. Reservations are not confirmed until a deposit has been received. Please note that, at certain times of the year, I am very busy and could book myself out multiple times per day, so it’s strictly a case of the first deposit received secures that date. Please don’t leave it until the last minute, for my sake and yours.
- Prices quoted are for guiding and other fees only, as described above. All other expenses remain your responsibility, such as meals, lodging, etc. See our Arizona birding tours  for all-inclusive trips.
- If we visit fee areas (eg: State and National Parks, National Forest, Nature Conservancy) you are responsible for paying fees for all members of the group, including your guide. I can advise you of the current fees for areas we may visit, although these are subject to change without notice. We may visit areas (such as feeder sites) that accept and indeed rely upon donations; at these important birding sites, your generous donations are strongly encouraged.
- If we use my car (medium-small 4×4 SUV, 3 passengers is comfortable, 4 passengers max), some dirt roads are realistically out of bounds, even for a relatively high clearance 4×4. However, I will go to most, if not all the well-known birding sites in my vehicle, given suitable conditions (please bear monsoon season in mind) and the limitations of my vehicle.
- If you provide the vehicle, please note that while most of Arizona’s birding sites are perfectly accessible in any car, even ones along dirt roads, a few locations absolutely require high clearance. Four-wheel drive is preferable, especially in the monsoon or winter rains, but in practice is rarely necessary. I will advise you as best I can, but I take no responsibility for any damage done to your vehicle by attempting to drive on unsuitable roads or in unsuitable conditions for your vehicle. If you would like me to drive your vehicle and can name me on your insurance in advance, I will be glad to do so.
- I employ and encourage the sensible use of pishing, owl imitations and playback at times, but only if I feel comfortable doing so under the circumstances. I want to show you as many birds as I can, but first and foremost I’m a conservationist. I never use playback for certain species or at certain times of the year and will prevent you from doing so if I feel it has the potential to cause disturbance to sensitive species. I feel that I have a sensible, balanced approach to this loaded issue, and I’m always willing to listen to your opinion and work with you to reach our mutual goals.
- Arizona can have many hazards! Your safety is my number one priority. I will take the necessary precautions with my vehicle, if we use it, and do my best to advise you and keep you safe. However, you must appreciate that, while always safe in my experience, southern Arizona does have snakes, smugglers, flash floods, mountain lions, extreme heat, tarantulas, monsoon storms, biting insects, remote, rugged country and various other potential dangers far from the control of a humble birding guide. You are ultimately responsible for your own well-being and are expected to prepare, dress and behave accordingly. I advise that you get travel insurance for a longer visit.
Mileage Chart from Rio Rico
All miles and times are according to Google Maps and measured from exit 25 of I-19, Palo Parado Rd in Rio Rico, Arizona.
* Google Maps sometimes overestimates the time taken to travel on well-graded dirt roads, so actual travel times can be slightly quicker.
|MILEAGE CHART FROM RIO RICO||Miles from Rio Rico||Hours from Rio Rico|
|SANTA CRUZ & S. PIMA COUNTY|
|Going North and West|
|Santa Gertrudis Ln (Anza Tr) Tumacacori||3.1||5 mins|
|Rock Corral Canyon, Tumacacori Mts||3.7||8 mins|
|Bridge Road (De Anza Trail) Tubac||7.4||11 mins|
|Green Valley (Continental Rd)||23.8||22 mins|
|Montosa Canyon||25.1||40 mins|
|Madera Canyon (Santa Rita Lodge)||37.3||54 mins|
|Florida Canyon||35.6||55 mins|
|Arivaca Cienega (via Arivaca Rd)||37.4||56 mins|
|Buenos Airies||56.4||1 hr 33 mins *|
|Organ Pipe National Park||187.0||3 hr 11 mins *|
|Going South and West|
|Peck Canyon, Rio Rico||3.6||8 mins|
|Guy Tobin Trailhead (Anza Trail) Rio Rico||5.3||7 mins|
|Rio Rico Pond, Rico||5.9||9 mins|
|Esplendor Resort, Rio Rico||5.9||9 mins|
|Kino Springs||16.0||28 mins|
|Pena Blanca Lake||18.3||24 mins *|
|Sycamore Canyon||26.7||58 mins *|
|California Gulch / Oro Blanco Mine||36.5||1 hr 35 mins *|
|Arivaca Cienega (via Ruby Rd)||44.2||1 hr 57 mins *|
|Patagonia Roadside Rest||24.5||36 mins|
|Patagonia Lake State Park||24.9||43 mins|
|Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve||27.0||39 mins *|
|Paton’s in Patagonia||28.7||43 mins|
|Harshaw Canyon, Patagonia Mountains||34.8||57 mins *|
|San Rafael Valley||39.1||1 hr 14 mins *|
|Las Cienegas / Empire Gulch||50.8||1 hr 18 mins *|
|Tucson (midtown)||52.8||58 mins|
|Tucson (downtown)||50.0||47 mins|
|Sweetwater Wetlands||54.8||51 mins|
|Saguaro National Park East||66.7||1 hr 15 mins|
|Saguaro National Park West||61.9||1 hr 09 mins|
|Santa Catalinas, Mt Lemmon (bottom)||67.2||1 hr 23 mins|
|Santa Catalinas, Mt Lemmon (top)||92.0||2 hr 07 mins|
|Catalina State Park||67.7||1 hr 13 mins|
|Santa Cruz Flats||108||1 hr 55 mins|
|Phoenix (airport)||159||2 hr 23 mins|
|Buckeye Thrasher Spot||221||3 hr 13 mins|
|Boyce Thompson Arboretum||145||2 hr 29 mins|
|Aravaipa Canyon||118||2 hr 31 mins|
|Sierra Vista||77.3||1 hr 37 mins|
|San Pedro House||83.9||1 hr 44 mins|
|Ramsey Canyon||86.8||1 hr 49 mins|
|Miller Canyon||88.8||1 hr 53 mins *|
|Ash Canyon B&B||89.3||1 hr 49 mins|
|Casa de San Pedro B&B||90.2||1 hr 48 mins|
|Benson||93.1||1 hr 24 mins|
|St. David||101.0||1 hr 35 mins|
|Willcox||128||1 hr 54 mins|
|Bisbee||95.6||1 hr 50 mins|
|Whitewater Draw (nr McNeal)||122.0||2 hr 43 mins *|
|Douglas||122||2 hr 19 mins|
|Portal (via Douglas)||185||3 hr 41 mins|
|Portal (via I-10)||198||3 hr 58 mins|
|Portal (via mountain roads)||187||4 hr 03 mins *|
Mileage Chart from Tucson
Staying in Tucson? If you want your day to begin in or around Tucson, I have a special flat rate of $35 to meet you in Tucson
|MILEAGE CHART FROM TUCSON||Miles from
|Saguaro National Park East||18.2||43 mins|
|Saguaro National Park West||24||57 mins|
|Mt Lemmon (Summerhaven)||37.6||1 hr 12 mins|
|Santa Cruz Flats||58.4||1 hr 18 mins|
|Phoenix||115||2 hr 4 mins|
|Buckeye Thrasher Spot||164||2 hr 55 mins|
|Boyce Thompson Arboretum||94||1 hr 59 mins|
|Aravaipa Canyon||61.9||1 hr 35 mins|
|HEADING SOUTH AND EAST|
|Madera Canyon||46.5||1 hr 18 mins|
|Tubac||51.1||1 hr 3 mins|
|Nogales||72.5||1 hr 22 mins|
|California Gulch||77.3||2 hr 13 mins|
|Arivaca Cienega||60.5||1 hr 25 mins|
|Sonoita||50.2||1 hr 7 mins|
|Patagonia||62.7||1 hr 22 mins|
|San Rafael Valley||74.7||2 hr 1 min|
|St. David||56.8||1 hr 9 mins|
|Willcox||84||1 hr 30 mins|
|Elfrida (Whitewater Draw)||118||2 hr 4 mins|
|Sierra Vista||77||1 hr 41 mins|
|Miller Canyon||87.7||2 hr 1 mins|
|Portal (via NM)||175||3 hr 4 mins|