It seems that Arizona always has a few surprises in store for birders. For the past 25 years or so, California Gulch and adjacent Sycamore Canyon have been the traditional sites to track down the extremely localized Five-striped Sparrow in Arizona. Prior to that time, birds could be found on the west side of the Santa Rita Mountains in Chino Canyon and south of Patagonia on private property across Sonoita Creek from the roadside rest area. On August 2 of this year, Melody Kehl discovered a singing Five-stripe in Montosa Canyon, a west-facing slope due south of Chino Canyon in the Santa Ritas. While there had been several isolated sightings of birds in this range in recent years, this was the first indication of local breeding in many years.
As luck would have it, I attended a business meeting this week at the Circle Z Ranch south of Patagonia, site of a former colony of Five-striped Sparrows (the first such colony in the United States). Since territorial birds were in evidence in the Santa Ritas for the first time in years, my colleagues and I decided to check the ranch for Five-stripes. Sure enough, a quick check on August 27th revealed at least one Five-stripe on territory there! Adventurous birders might consider checking other former sites in the next couple of weeks, such as Chino Canyon, and maybe even visit Pima Canyon in the Catalinas, where one was seen years ago.