On my bird photography trips throughout the USA and further afield, I stay at a wide range of accommodations, from self-catering cabins, bird lodges, and family-run motels to mainstream hotel chains. On my 2022 trip to south-eastern Arizona with my birding guide Steve Huggins, I stayed in a real gem of a bed & breakfast, Casa de San Pedro in Hereford, a stone’s throw from the Huachuca Mountains.
The day we arrived, we spent a great morning photographing birds at Patagonia State Park and the famous Paton’s Hummingbird Garden. Our drive to Casa de San Pedro took us through the Las Cienagas National Conservation Area. Then the heavens opened with what had become daily mid-afternoon monsoon storms that forced us to abandon our photography session with the resident Cassin’s Sparrows and the recently ‘split’ Chuhuahuan Meadowlarks that grace the grasslands here. We arrived at Casa de San Pedro just as the monsoon rain was finally slowing down and just before darkness fell. Both owners, Karl and Patrick were there to greet us with a trolley to carry our bags and give us a quick tour and rundown of the accommodations. Though we were on a downward trend for Covid-19 cases, it was reassuring to be requested to show proof of vaccination to enable us to stay at the property.
The lodge itself was built in the mid-nineties specifically for birders but sadly had not done as well as the owners had hoped. Karl and Patrick, both originally from Seattle, purchased the property in 2002 and opened it up again to birders. They also broadened its appeal to non-birders with the help of the internet and it has become an attractive spot for people who just want to get away from the hustle and bustle of nearby cities like Phoenix and Tucson. They must be doing something right! Twenty years later they are still going strong. On our first night, we were surprised to be the only guests, which was very cool as we had the place all to ourselves Other guests arrived on each of the following nights. As we sat in the center courtyard that first evening, we were able to relax with the sound of the water fountain and one of the local Great-horned Owls calling from the nearby willow trees at the backside of the pool.
Both Karl and Patrick were very helpful in providing ideas on great places to eat. On the first evening, we headed back towards Sierra Vista to eat at Pizzeria Mimosa for Italian food and on our last to the Brite Spot Steakhouse. When we mentioned we were staying at the Casa de San Pedro the owner immediately told us we would receive a 10% discount. The steaks were exceptional too.
All the guest suites surround a central courtyard that is a great place to see and photograph hummingbirds. There is a lovely garden with flowers in bloom as well as always filled hummingbird feeders that attract a wide array of hummingbird species. The rooms themselves are immaculate; furnished with Mexican-style furniture. They have individually controlled air-conditioning units, high-speed internet, and relaxing showers. Coffee and tea are available pretty much 24-hours a day and there are also some of the most delicious homemade pies I’ve ever tasted, made fresh daily. You will struggle to resist having seconds. If you enjoy reading, the library has an impressive selection of books. When I returned home, I had the pleasure of sending a copy of my book Bringing Back the Birds to add to their collection. Check out my book here.
We stayed at the Casa for three nights. As most birders and photographers know, an early start is almost a requirement. Knowing that we were going to be heading to the nearby canyons each morning Karl and Patrick were very accommodating in providing us with a packed breakfast consisting of boiled eggs, homemade pastries, and coffee. On our last morning, before we headed back to Tucson for our flight home, we realized what we missed leaving so early every morning when we were treated to one of Karl and Patrick’s homemade gourmet breakfasts. Yes, I did request seconds that day.
Although most birders will mostly use the lodge as a base to head to the nearby birding destinations such as Ramsey, Carr, Ash, and Miller Canyons, birding at the lodge itself should not be missed. Situated on the San Pedro River with both riparian and grassland habitats, the grounds have a great diversity of birds, feeders around the lodge have Broad-tailed, Black-chinned, Anna’s, and Broad-billed Hummingbirds as well as occasional rarer species such as Lucifer Hummingbird. The bird tables have Common Ground-Dove, White-winged Dove, Gambel’s Quail, Gila, and Downy Woodpecker, Brown-headed and Bronzed Cowbird, Abert’s Towhee, Lesser Goldfinch, House Finch, and Northern Cardinals. In the nearby riparian brush, Yellow-breasted Chat, Vermillion Flycatcher, Say’s Phoebe, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Cassin’s Kingbird, Blue Grosbeak, Pyrrhuloxia, Cooper’s Hawk, Gray Hawk, Swainson’s Hawk, Common Yellowthroat and Botteri’s Sparrow can all be readily seen. As the light fades, the aforementioned Great-horned Owls put on a show as well as the dancing Lesser Nighthawks. If you carefully watch the nearby owl boxes you may be lucky to see one of the resident Barn Owls leave the box into the night.
When I go back to Arizona I’ll be sure to visit Casa de San Pedro again. The breakfast especially is calling my name!
Casa de San Pedro is located in Hereford, about 2 hours southeast of Tucson. From Palominas Road drive to the eastern end of Waters Lane where Karl and Patrick will be there to greet you. Check out the website here: https://www.bedandbirds.com