South Face of Mt. Elden (6/6) - black-chinned sparrows
7 Jun 2010, 10:13 AM,
South Face of Mt. Elden (6/6) - black-chinned sparrows
After seeing a couple gray vireos near Elden Spring last fall I've speculated with a few people about the possibility that they might be breeding up on the south-facing slopes of Mt. Elden. The heat-trap formed by the rocks makes the local area quite hot and dry, with vegetation to match. I finally motivated myself to scramble up there, and managed to cover quite a bit of ground up to about 8'200 feet. The going is not easy, although the scrambling on rocks is fun. It is very interesting to go up from ponderosa pine forest at the base into pinyon/juniper between 500 and 1000 feet higher.

As for birds, I did not see gray vireo, but I did find several singing BLACK-CHINNED SPARROWS (including good looks at one male). They were about 400-700 feet above the base of the mountain, just high enough that I could not hear them singing from the base (the noisy trilling of spotted towhees didn't help, either). Given the date, I presume the BCSPs are breeding up there. I don't have access to the AZ breeding bird atlas, so I can't check if this is a known breeding site, but it was certainly unknown to me. I've seen at least one post to this site of BCSP from near Elden Spring (August, 2009), which I suppose could be interpreted as local movement rather than longer distance migration.

Anyway, it was an interesting foray up there. The only other birds I saw that were notable were northern mockingbirds, which I've never seen near Elden Spring. I wouldn't rule out the presence of breeding gray vireo in the area, and will likely look more for them in the future. The habitat looks right, and I certainly associate them with BCSPs. There is a lot of ground that can be covered up there, and, as I mentioned, the going is not easy.

8 Jun 2010, 7:55 AM,
I had a Northern Mockingbird in my yard yesterday, and as the crow flies we are not too far from Elden Springs Road.
10 Jun 2010, 5:05 AM,
Jason, the AZ Breeding Bird Atlas does not show any records of breeding Black-chinned Sparrows for the Flagstaff area. For northern AZ, it shows them near Cameron, on Black Mesa, and up in the AZ Strip region. The account states that the birds on the strip could be part of an expansion or just due to a lack of coverage in that remote area. However, if not many folks scramble up the rocks above Elden Spring looking for birds, maybe the sparrows have just gone undetected. Looks like you've discovered something here!

Good birding,

10 Jun 2010, 4:37 PM,
The BBA paints an interesting, if mixed, picture of this specie. With both resident and migratory populations in our state its difficult to get a handle on their distribution.

They do seem however, to be generally capable of locating and settling on isolated patches of habitat that meet their requirements, and with populations in Sedona and on Gray Mountain, the peaks don't seem out of line.

Jason - what altitude is that?
11 Jun 2010, 6:17 AM,
In the vicinity of 7,500-7,600 feet. Roger, do you think the birds I saw could still be migrants?

11 Jun 2010, 12:34 PM,
[rquote=9436&tid=4316&author=jawilder]In the vicinity of 7,500-7,600 feet. [/rquote]

The BBA says 3800' -7720' so this is within their upper range.

Quote:Roger, do you think the birds I saw could still be migrants?

That seems unlikely in mid-June, when their breeding should be well-advanced.

My comment was directed more to the statement that there is a resident population AND a migrant population in AZ. I don't know if the migrants winter in MX and move up here after wet winters, or how that plays out - and perhaps no-one does yet. They are handsome little birds and its interesting to pick up any new tidbits on them that we can find.
13 Jun 2010, 4:33 PM,
BCS on Tonto Plateau
We have often observed BCS on the Tonto Plateau in the Greand Canyon in the late fall or even winter. I just figured that they were breeding there. Don't know if anyone has any details on that up at the Park.
14 Jun 2010, 9:13 AM,
birdvest, do you mean Black-THROATED Sparrow?

Black-chinned Sparrows do breed extensively through the Grand Canyon Region, occasionally occuring as low as the Tonto, but to the best of my knowledge are unknown from the region in winter.

Black-throated Sparrows are abundant breeders on the Tonto Plateau, and although most years they depart for the winter, in some years, significant numbers remain in the canyon at and below the Tonto.

Brian Gatlin
Grand Canyon, AZ
20 Jun 2010, 3:35 PM,
Saw and heard several Black Chinned Sparrows a little ways down from top of Mt. Elden on Heart Trail this morning.

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