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Montosa Canyon, AZ
mini location map2022-06-15
20 by photographer avatarcactuscat
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Montosa Canyon, AZ 
Montosa Canyon, AZ
Hiking1.00 Miles
Hiking1.00 Miles   2 Hrs      0.50 mph
 no routes
1st trip
Linked   none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Woke up at the Lodge and got going fairly early.

Decided to try for Five-striped Sparrows today. Drove out Box Canyon Road, where I had seen one once before, not knowing that apparently that hotspot has expired ... they were seen there from 2017-2021, but not this year. Still a fun drive and a lovely area, with some good birds.

Went back to the lodge to check out, birded the feeders there one more time and got my first (and second) Bronzed Cowbird of the year.

I choose Montosa Canyon from my book on a bit of a whim, with Fivers still as the main objective and Black-capped Gnatcatchers as another possibility.

Really pretty drive out to the Whipple Observatory Visitor's Canter (closed to the public, temporarily(?)) ... then parked just past the "concrete creek crossing" at the ebird hotspot. I spent a while in that area, enjoying the Bell's Vireo's, Brown-crested and Ash-throated Flycatchers and a Hooded Oriole. Took a little break in the shade under a very cool old Juniper at the creek crossing, then began the short walk up to my truck, planning to leave as it was already getting hot.

20 yards from my truck I froze as I first heard an unfamiliar bird call, then spotted the bird on the ground like eight feet from me - and it was a Five-striped Sparrow! This is still one of the rarest birds you can see in the US, and every time it's reported it shows up on the national rare bird alert. It's so exciting to find a rare bird like this all by yourself - my heart was racing and my hands were shaking a bit as I got my photos - it's a rush!

After observing the bird for a few minutes, a car approached and I kinda waved them down, assuming they were birders. When the window rolled down I saw my new friend Mary in the passenger seat and her guide, Richard Fray driving ... Mary hopped out to see the bird while Richard went to park the car. We got great photos and heard another bird across the street - so that was one breeding pair. Mary and Richard didn't mind if I tagged along for their hike - and anytime I can get a free hike with an excellent guide, I will take it! So I stayed another 90 minutes or so and hiked up the Canyon with them - Richard is very familiar with the area and had wonderful commentary on the birds and the area. I was ready to turn back after we saw and photographed our SECOND PAIR of Five-striped Sparrows, but he said he had something cool to show us just a little farther up the trail. (Side note, Mary left her water in the car ... Richard said it would be a ten minute hike, but at birding speed it was actually about 45 minutes.)

But the payoff was cool, indeed. See my photos of the sweatlodge. I actually would have found it quite creepy if I had stumbled upon it by myself. I was curious how such a thing exists on FS land, so I looked into it later ... apparently it's been operating there by permit since 1990. I was somewhat surprised that I had never seen it on HAZ before ... but not surprised at all when I searched and found that rwstorm was our only member to visit it previously, as far as I can tell.
 Named place
 Named place [ checklist ]
[ checklist ]  Box Canyon
Arguing with idiots is like playing chess with pigeons.
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