#462 Black-throated Sparrow in Hawk Canyon

After leaving the Tamarisk Grove campground, Beth and I arrived in Borrego Springs with just enough time to drop our bags off at the hotel and meet our tour group around noon for a more challenging trek into the desert than our little Prius could handle. After forty minutes of wandering around the parking lot looking at House Finches and a couple of Say’s Phoebes, we piled into two Army surplus six-wheel trucks, and drove out into the desert. The desert wasn’t quite blooming yet, but flowers were starting to pop out.

Anza-Borrego Desert

We spotted a few birds from the trucks, but couldn’t really identify any of them. It was a four hour tour, but IMHO too much time was spent driving and not enough walking. That meant we saw more of the park, but had relatively little time to really explore and look closely at the flowers and the desert.

White lily blooming in desert

We stopped for lunch around two, and I found some House Finches and some interesting beetles. Otherwise, it was quiet until the late afternoon when we arrived at Hawk Canyon around 3:50 P.M. This was the first stop that was really birdy. As soon as we hopped off the trucks, you could hear multiple birds singing from the cliffs, so I disengaged myself from the slow and botanically oriented tour group and wandered over the cliffs. For the first time since we got there, I didn’t know where to turn. Halfway to the cliff, I found a lizard; but could still hear the birds singing. Lizard or bird? Lizard or bird? Lizard or bird? What a conundrum. I ended up watching the lizard until it disappeared under a bush, and then continued on to the cliff where the birds were fortunately still singing.

lizard in desert

Several sparrows were dancing around the cliff. At least some of them were White-crowned Sparrows, though I suspect there may have been another species mixed in that I never got a good look at. However, no sooner had I established the White-crowned Sparrows than I heard an unfamiliar song from a little ways down the canyon. I still can’t recognize all the songs out here, but I have gotten good enough to realize when I’m listening to a song I haven’t heard before, and this one was clearly a new song. It took me a little while to locate the bird, but not too long. It was perched right on top of a bush singing its heart out. Even if I didn’t have a field guide and had never heard this species named before, it would have been obvious: a Black-throated Sparrow:

Black-throated Sparrow singing

I watched it sing for a while, and got quite close before a station wagon drove by and frightened it off. After that I walked a little further down the canyon to some impromptu camp sites but no other birds were found. heading the other way up the canyon, I found one male Costa’s Hummingbird and some pretty wasps and beetles. I heard a lot of buzzing bees, but possibly those were actually more hummingbirds. I never did see any large bees or hives that would be required to account for the loud buzzing.

After taking some more time to admire the flowers that were blooming here more than anywhere, we left Hawk Canyon around 4:30 and got back to the Overland compound around 5:15 P.M. or so. So far the day total was about a dozen birds, and that included several we saw from our car on the drive down from Irvine. However that did include two life birds, and the day wasn’t over yet. More on that soon.

2 Responses to “#462 Black-throated Sparrow in Hawk Canyon”

  1. Amy Johnson Says:

    Cool pictures, but I think that’s actually a black-throated sparrow, not a black-chinned sparrow.

  2. Elliotte Rusty Harold Says:

    You’re right, of course. Looking at my notes and eBird report, I did list it as a Black-throated Sparrow there. Just a thinko when I typed this up I guess.

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