SE Arizona – Day 2 (July 17) Part 2: California Gulch

…..continued from part one…….

After our incredible morning at Madera Canyon we started making our way to California Gulch via Ruby Road. This is one of the best spots in the US for Montezuma Quail, which is often seen crossing the road in these areas. We kept our eyes peeled on the way in, but no quail were seen. We did, however enjoy brief looks at a nice male Summer Tanager.

Once on the trail, it took all but a few seconds to hear and then see our first Five-striped Sparrow of the day, which provided decent scope views as it sang way up the hillside. This bird was one of TWELVE Five-striped Sparrows we would tally on the afternoon. Vying for our attention were the gorgeous and ever-present Varied Buntings, quite common at this spot.

Also present during the “day shift” were quite a few Canyon and Rock Wrens, a Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Dusky-capped and Vermillion Flycatchers as well as multiple Bell’s Vireos, Rufous-crowned Sparrows, Hooded Orioles and Brown-crested Flycatchers.

Five-striped Sparrow


Canyon Wren

Vermillion Flycatcher

It was soon decided to stick it out until after dark-a great choice! As the sky began to darken we were treated to a gorgeous rainbow and sunset amidst the Rufous-crowned Sparrow and Lesser Goldfinch song.

Cali Gulch Rainbow

At dusk we enjoyed one of the biggest surprises of the day when we noticed movement in a nearby saguaro. It soon became evident that two Elf Owls were present in two separate holes in that cactus. As it continued to darken, the owls became more active and we were treated to great scope views in the fading light.

Finally, nightfall had arrived. Before leaving, we were able to call in and get decent looks at a nice Western Screech-Owl, a fantastic way to end an amazing birding day!

Western Screech-Owl

No Common Poorwills on the way out but we did find a Tarantula in the road

Besides missing Common Poorwill and a few other birds we ended up getting elsewhere, we basically swept our targets for Day 2, while still having a great time with individual birds and getting some great looks at most everything we saw. I’m still in awe that we were able to put all this into one day, one of the brightest parts of the entire trip! Wow!


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