Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Birding the California Gulch

Montana Peak-There are great views of this peak on the way into the California Gulch.

If you have ever birded in southeast Arizona or have read about the birding locations in this region you have probably heard of the California Gulch. It is the only known location for Five-striped Sparrows in the US that isn't a long hike. Many people hire guides to go into this location and many people give warnings about going into the Gulch alone or after rains. For the most part birders are overstating the difficulty of birding this location. The times that this location is difficult to get to is when there has been a lot of rain because there are many creek crossings on the way.

I decided to go in through Nogales, AZ because I wanted to stop by Pena Blanca Lake, where Least Grebes had been reported. The road is paved all the way to the lake so the drive didn't take long. When I arrived at the lake I realized I didn't really know which part of the lake the grebes had been using the most but I was able to find them after a short search. The grebes seemed to be building a nest in a fallen tree on the lake so they were difficult to find at first but I had great views once I found them.

The trail down into the California Gulch.

From the lake it is about a 45 minute drive to the Five-striped Sparrows. It's not that far, mileage wise, but you have to take it slow on the road in to the sparrows. When I got to the gulch, I started my hike to the bottom thinking it might take a while to find the sparrows since I was there at 3pm. Within a couple hundred feet a Five-striped started singing and eventually t'd up to allow good looks.

A Five-striped.


Kirigalpoththa said...

Fascinating area!

Anonymous said...

Nice job on the Five-striped Sparrow. That species always makes me think of the mention of it in Kaufman's "Kingbird Highway". I think his friend calls it a Fly Stiped. :D

Usually it is hard to capture the steepness of a trail in a photo, but your photo of the trail into California Gulch makes it look scary steep.

Amy Kearns