Word of mouth is a powerful thing, especially for birders. Just ask Tom and Edith Beatty, owners of Beatty’s Guest Ranch and Orchard in Southeast Arizona. They’ve never once advertised, yet their guesthouses are always buzzing from April through September.
It’s hummingbird season, and people all over the world are gearing up for a trip to Beatty’s Guest Ranch near Miller Canyon. The Beattys host more than 5,000 visitors in any given season and have welcomed people from Norway, France, Australia and Holland. The ranch has a reputation among birders that other birding hot spots can only dream about. If you’re in the Southwest and searching for hummingbirds, it’s impossible not to have Beatty’s on your list.
It’s easy to see why the ranch is so popular. After all, it holds the U.S. record for the most hummingbird species spotted in 1 day with 14. And bird enthusiasts insist it’s the best place to consistently find rare hummingbirds.
“You can see 15 different species of hummingbirds at Beatty’s. That’s impressive!” says nature photographer Charles Melton, who lives nearby. “And this is the only place in the U.S. to reliably see the white-eared.”
Charles has been going to Beatty’s to see migrating hummingbirds for more than 10 years. He has taken several thousands of photos and many hours of video on their ranch.
“The location is spectacular,” he says. “It’s a 10-acre apple orchard in the middle of a national forest, surrounded by mountain peaks and cliffs. The hummingbird viewing areas are amazing.”
When Tom and Edith bought the property in 1967, they knew they had something special, but had no idea it would evolve into the popular spot it is today. Right away, they noticed a large number of hummingbirds around their land. And pretty soon, others started noticing, too.
“At one point, we had 15 birders leaning over our fence to get a closer look at a white-eared hummingbird at our feeder,” Tom says. “That’s when we knew it was time to create a public viewing area.”
Today, they have four public areas. The most popular is a controlled access site in their orchard, open only to their guests or those who pay a small access fee.
“One of my favorite memories is the time I helped my grandson carry his 89-year-old grandmother uphill to the controlled access site,” Tom says. “She had heard about the area and wouldn’t take no for an answer.”
Tom and Edith have four children. Their oldest, Tom Jr., lives on-site and helps manage the ranch. The others help out and visit when they can. The family’s hospitality amazes visitors. Sam Wilson lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, and he’ll never forget his first trip to the ranch. He was driving around the canyon, looking for the right place, when he came to the Beattys’ private drive. Tom came walking up, and Sam immediately started apologizing.
“The next thing I knew, Tom was telling me to park on the side of the road,” Sam remembers. “Once we stepped out of our car, we looked up and saw what seemed like a million hummingbirds. They were zipping all around and dive-bombing us. I had never seen so many hummingbirds.”
Tom and Sam hit it off right away and started talking like they had known each other their entire lives. Today, Sam still goes back to the ranch to see migrating hummingbirds and visit Tom and Edith.
“Tom is one of the most down-to-earth and honest men you’ll ever meet,” Sam says. “Yet, he’s stern in a good way because he wants to protect those little birds.”
Tom and Edith Beatty are happy to share their little piece of paradise with others during hummingbird season, and they don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. Beatty’s Guest Ranch may not use advertisements or have a fancy Web site, but it doesn’t matter. Word gets around, and the visitors keep coming – and so do the migrating hummingbirds.