Ina Road Bridge at Santa Cruz River & Crossroads Park
By Matt Norris
This location is one of the lesser known urban birding “hot spots” but it can be as productive as any other given site. Quite often, these lesser known sites become favorites for individual birders as they remember them as the location for observing a rare or casual species for the first time. This site can produce results worth remembering.
Taking Ina Road west of I-10, you will quickly approach the Ina Road Bridge. Crossing this bridge over the Santa Cruz River you will pull off on the north side of Ina Road just west of the Santa Cruz River and pull up to the edge of the overlook above the river. Getting out of the vehicle you will see a metal pipe railing trailing down the slope north along the river out of sight. Walking towards the river and railing you will suddenly notice Western Kingbirds here and there atop the wire fence running along the length of the fields overlooking the river.
Listen for the playful downward-spiraling chatter of Abert’s Towhees chasing each other and beckoning at the base of the slope. Coming to the base of the slope you’ll see Song Sparrows and Red-winged Blackbirds darting this way and that across the river while hearing the melodies of Common Yellowthroats and Marsh Wrens drifting out from the lush river banks. It’s a great way to start an “in the city” birding day without feeling like you’re surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the city.
Once you’ve had your fill of birding at this location you head back to your vehicle. Continue west on Ina Rd. until making a right (north) turn onto Silverbell Road. Follow Silverbell Road until you are almost to Cortaro Farms Road. You will see a sign on the right hand side of Silverbell Rd. for Crossroads District Park.
Turn into the first entrance and then turn left and continue through the parking lot until you park by the flag pole in front of the library. Do not be discouraged by all the human recreation that may be going on or festivals that may be in use at the park. THE BIRDS ARE CLOSER THAN YOU THINK. So go to the right hand side of the library and walk between the library and soccer field until you get to the small path that leads a short distance to the pathway along the Santa Cruz. Upon coming to the pathway along the river you will hear Lucy’s Warbler’s and Yellow Warbler’s singing a greeting. Turning south along the pathway, the river banks are lined with thick tree segments dispersing out into clear banks and back again. This is perfect habitat for a plethora of bird species. Circling and spiraling around you, Violet-green Swallows, Northern Rough-winged Swallows, and Cliff Swallows take off from the embankment and fly up and down the river corridor. Where the foliage clears along the close bank you may see Western Sandpipers and Least Sandpipers working the shallows along with a multitude of warbler species in the trees.
Warblers in particular to watch for include the Orange-crowned Warbler, Lucy‘s Warbler, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Audubon‘s Warbler, the occasional Wilson‘s Warbler. A great find here however is the Wood Duck. While it is very often sighted here, not many know to bird here.
So, take advantage of this location because it’s yet one more hot spot for fantastic birds without having to drive far.