- Southeast Arizona Birding Guide, Richard Fray - https://www.arizonabirder.com -

Night Birding at California Gulch

A successful evening jaunt to California Gulch for night birds, and plenty more besides.

Ruby Rd:

Heading in from Green Valley via Arivaca, we saw PYRRHULOXIA, BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK, and VARIED BUNTING along the road.

Ruby Lakes (California Gulch Dam):

We only stopped here briefly, but it was productive, as usual. Highlights included ‘MEXICAN’ MALLARD, PIED-BILLED GREBE, GREAT BLUE HERON, GRAY HAWK, VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW, singing CRISSAL THRASHER, YELLOW WARBLER, YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT, SUMMER TANAGER, and HOODED ORIOLE.

Great Blue Heron [1]

There has been another fire, now contained, which took out a large portion of the hills between Ruby Rd and the border, centered around Montaña Peak and Sycamore Canyon. As with the Peña Blanca Canyon fire, the majority of the precious habitat in the canyon bottoms looks to have been spared, although it will be interesting to see how Sycamore Canyon fared, as the fire appears to have been most intense in this area. The area around Montaña Peak looks extensively toasted.

One unintended bonus of this fire is that an odd, unfriendly family of ‘occupiers’ that had moved in and were living in the little picnic/camping spot by California Gulch Dam have finally been moved on. They had been there for three months, and were slowly trashing the place, while grunting and showing us their automatic weapons, so I’m not displeased to see the back of them. It will be nice to picnic in this area again the next time I’m here at lunchtime.

Montaña Peak from California Gulch Dam [2]

Confluence of California Gulch & Warsaw Canyon:

Just as we arrived at the confluence, we saw a male MONTEZUMA QUAIL cross the road, and were able to watch him from the car for a couple of minutes. What a treat!

Montezuma Quail [3]

Montezuma Quail [4]

Montezuma Quail [5]

Montezuma Quail [6]

As the sun went down we racked up more species, including ASH-THROATED and BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHERS, NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW, CANYON WREN, BLACK-TAILED GNATCATCHER, calling CRISSAL THRASHER, LUCY’S WARBLER, YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT, RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROW, SUMMER TANAGER, and HOODED ORIOLE.

Summer Tanager [7]

A male BUFF-COLLARED NIGHTJAR started singing at dusk, and we soon got views of him perched and in flight. Better still, he was joined by his female, and we had great views as the pair chased each other around, only a few feet away. We even got to see the male displaying briefly – he landed on the ground a couple of feet from his mate, bent his head down, and fanned out his tail, peacock style. I didn’t manage to get a photo but it was a thrilling experience.

We also heard another couple of males singing in the distance, as well as ELF OWL and COMMON POORWILL before we left.

Ruby Rd:

We stopped at a likely-looking spot with mature oaks and soon heard a WHISKERED SCREECH-OWL calling. We only got brief flight views however, as it kept perching in dense trees and remained out of sight. We also saw a LESSER NIGHTHAWK, and heard more COMMON POORWILLS.

Green Valley:

Our last bird was a GREAT HORNED OWL, which flew just over our heads as we got back to Continental Plaza.