Ogden Ranch Road is a bumpy dirt road on the distant outskirts of Cottonwood. It is nine-hundred-eleventy miles long and all you do for hours is drive at 6 miles an hour swinging your neck back and forth looking for birds perched on the top of scrub bushes. It is car-birding at its finest. Any car will make it okay, but if you come in a 4×4, you’ll be glad you did. To experience this safari correctly you want to be with three friends, so you have more eyes looking for birds. “Stop!” and “Back Up!” will be repeated frequently. Then you dead-end into a loop, turn around, and drive for 10 minutes at get-the-hell-outta-there miles per hour. You might at some point ask yourself, “How did I get here?” The answer of course is you asked someone, “Where is the best place to look for the Sagebrush Sparrow?” or “Where can I find a Black-chinned Sparrow?”
The Sagebrush Sparrow and other grassland sparrows–Vesper, Savannah, Brewer’s and White-crowned Sparrows–along with other cool species like Mountain Bluebirds and Crissel Thrashers live in a grassland/scrub habitat. If you have a scope, you’ll put it to use.
It doesn’t look like it when you’re driving, but Ogden Ranch Road steadily climbs in elevation. About 3/4 of your way up the road, the habitat changes and you notice the addition of juniper trees and prickly pear cactus. You start to see Red-shafted Flickers and Woodhouse’s Scrubjays.
When you get to the end of the loop, you’ll want to park and walk the Black Canyon Trail for about a mile down into a ravine. It is there you will find the Black-chinned Sparrow and Rufus-crowned Sparrow in the winter, before they breed further up Mingus Mountain.
Ogden Ranch Road is not an eBird designated hotspot. Therefore I will not be able to give you a complete listing of the birds that can be seen here. However, as mentioned, it is known among locals as a place to find grassland sparrows and a few cool surprises like Mountain Bluebirds and Crissal Thrashers.
Title Photo by Chip Engelmann