2023-07-14 Five-Stripe Fever in Box Canyon

Five-Striped Sparrow - Amphispizopsis quinquestriata
The final birding episode for my 2023 North American Expedition was to Box Canyon. It yielded an encounter with Five-Striped Sparrows, an Arizona specialty species I’d been hoping to meet for over a decade.

The Five-Striped Sparrow is a bird I had longed to meet. For more than a decade I tried, but never managed to be at the right place at the right time. While chatting with the manager at Paton’s, he gave me some directions to follow. So late Thursday afternoon I drove away west on AZ-82 from Patagonia and then took the I-19 north towards Green Valley. Only a few miles south of town, I found a nice roadside rest at Canoa Ranch. I settled in at a large gravel lot next to the formal rest area, and fine-tuned my plans for sparrow hunting. I found an email where someone found the Five-Striped birds yesterday in the same area I was headed. 

It was an adventure, and not without some misdirection, but I found the Five-Striped Sparrows Friday morning. My Google guidance system led me 25 miles astray, which was discouraging. I thought about abandoning my mission, but later relented. I doubled back to the correct coordinates, and found the birds in only a few minutes after my arrival. The morning light was perfect. So my ‘glass half full’ perspective tells me had I stopped earlier, the light would have been less than ideal.

While I was spending time with the sparrows, an Anna’s Hummingbird stopped by to say “hello”. The light was so nice, I could not resist snapping a few frames of her. As I began my drive away, I paused to see if there might be more sparrows lurking nearby. A flowering agave attracted my attention. And as I was looking through my viewfinder, I noticed a variety of flying insects in the blossoms. The morning light was lovely, and I diverted my focus from flowers to insects on flowers. These were the final images I would collect on this 2023 North American Expedition.

With my morning’s success, I bypassed Madera Canyon. I found a nice cafe in Green Valley (Mama’s Kitchen) and fed myself. Then, it was time to hit the road for home. I had a ton of work to do when I got home. And I had saved up about 10 days worth of images and stories to weave into blogs. There were also several fixes and systems to troubleshoot on the RV before I could take another trip.

After my morning success with the birds, and enjoying my breakfast, I hit the road. I pushed hard through the scorching desert heat. The temperature climbed to 118°F between Gila Bend and Yuma. My seven hour drive home included a drama with a bad sensor in the van. It caused me to struggle climbing the 4200 foot grade from below sea level in the desert. I got into Poway at 6:30 pm. As I have done at the conclusion of all my expeditions, my first stop was at the Mexicocina Restaurant near my home. Folks there treat me like family, and it was good to be back in their warm embraces.

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