Cassin’s Sparrow in Arizona

2016-03-25 Friday, On The Road To Arivaca

Cassin's Sparrow - Peucaea cassinii

On my drive from New Mexico toward Arivaca Arizona, I made it a mission to find Cassin’s Sparrows. Having stumbled onto them last fall while hunting Golden-Winged Sparrows, my chances should be above average. Without scenic detours, the roads before me covered 220 miles, much of it dominated by scrub and grass. Such habitat had potential for sparrows such as Cassin’s and Botteri‘s. It wasn’t possible for me to avoid driving on Interstate 10 to reach my intended destination, but opted to take a break before leaving the two-lane route I prefer to travel on (US-191) and join the maddening rush of the I-10. I pulled off the road into the start of a rural dirt road (North Monk Ranch Road) and stretched my legs, as required by my new health regime. Right away I noticed small birds in the surrounding sparse brush. Could it be that easy to find my quarry? It was! I spent a short time capturing several poorly lit images. I swear birds will intentionally post themselves as did the old west gunfighters, with their backs to the sun.

The next 75 miles of interstate travel was unworthy of comment. I targeted “Florida Canyon” as a stop along this route. I’d read reports of this place as a birding destination and thought it might be worthwhile to get acquainted with a new ‘spot’. I was letting Google Maps be my navigator, but ultimately it led me into Madera Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains, a location I’d visited last fall. This experience is a common pitfall in over-trusting technology. Not that Madera Canyon is a boring place to explore. To the contrary, it is a wonderful place. But being Friday, there were too many visitors for my taste. I drove to the top of the canyon where the road loops back on itself and stopped to take a walk. Mid-day is not ideal for taking pictures. Let alone finding birds. I did not attempt capturing images with my camera. After my walk I descended from the canyon and resumed my trip to Arivaca. Finding Florida Canyon would have to wait for another day. Perhaps I’ll learn that it is actually an offshoot of Madera Canyon.

Cassin’s Sparrows were still on my radar. In spite of several stops at roadside locations that seemed likely, the only ones I’d seen were those where I joined the I-10 earlier in the morning. The road from the I-19 to Arivaca (Arivaca Road) was where I’d seen one last October. If I wished to accomplish my mission of finding these sparrows, I’d need to do so on the remaining 25 mile stretch of road. I made several pullouts, and found sparrows at most of these stops. One side road allowed me to get well off the pavement, and was especially fruitful. Not having to worry about traffic, I could stop at will, and linger long enough to spend quality time with these birds. When I finished with the sparrows, I arrived in Arivaca in time to take a walk through the Cienega, but this account will be described in the next episode.

Images from this account can be viewed below:

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