October 27, 2015 -- Joshua Tree Visitors Center, The Oasis of Mara

    This is the larger and most eastern of the three Visitor Centers and it is surrounded by a very nice oasis habitat with large palms, bushes, grass, and lots of birds.  Without much trouble, I rustled up two iconic desert birds.

 

 

Phainopepla,  Joshua Tree National Park, October 2015

 

 

Cactus Wren, Joshua Tree National Park, October 2015

 

October 28, 2015 -- Black Rock Canyon at Joshua Tree

    My intention was to have a few quiet days in the desert.   Black Rock Canyon did its best to cooperate.  It was a great hike, but even though I left early in the morning and this is a good time of the year for the area, I didn't see a lot of birds.  My only find on the Black Canyon Trail was Ruby Kinglets -- again -- these little, high energy acrobats are everywhere in the southwest.  Then I didn't see any more birds until I was at the beginning of the Panoramic Trail.  That trail was too long to do the whole thing, but I figured that if it lived up to its name, I would get a great mountaintop view.  I went around a bend and saw that the ridge that the trail was heading for was still very far away, but the bank on the left promised to give a great view with just a short climb.  That was a bad idea for a number of reasons.  Going off the trail a little can be okay, but it can damage the environment and it can get you burned.  It almost got me burned really bad.  I was reaching out to grab a rock to balance me on my climb and pulled my hand back just in time to avoid putting it square on top of a large Black Widow spider.  This guy's body was about the size of a fifty cent piece (I know that sounds too big for this kind of spider.  It was huge.), which means that he is packing a boatload of venom.  That's the kind of spider bite that can kill you.  Here's the pic.  Check out the red hourglass markings on its abdomen.

  

 

Black Widow Spider, Joshua Tree National Park, October 2015

 

    I continued up the embankment, which turned into a longer climb than I anticipated.  At the top, I came up on a flock of Dark-eyed Juncos, the Oregon variety.  These look completely different than the ones we have in the east.  The Oregon have completely black heads and throats.

    I sent some cell phone messages, ate my lunch, wrote a poem, and sat there for a while.  I may have lost my birding edge somewhat.  It shows in the poem.  That's okay.  The last four weeks have been a fun ride.  On the way out I got up close to a Ladderback Woodpecker feeding on top of a Joshua Tree and got his pic.  Here's my poem.

 

 

        "Everywhere I go, there I am"

I packed my bag with stuff that could deter

The bugs and sun and thirst and hunger too.

My boots crunched loud and scared the birds for sure.

The sand was rough, there's nothing I could do. 

 

I stopped and listened to a tiny peep

That came from just a little off the trail.

Be very, very quiet -- creepy creep.

With autofocus off, I should not fail.

 

Atop a peak, I thought, "This is a joke!

I just got here; the birds want me to go."

I ate my lunch and drank a Diet Coke

And watched the beetles on the ground below.

 

Who you are effects what you do, that's true.

But where you go -- that makes a difference too.

 

 

Ladderback Woodpecker on a Joshua Tree, Joshua Tree National Park, October 2015

 

Also saw this beautiful dragonfly on the way out of Black Rock Canyon, Joshua Tree National Park, October 2015

 

October 28, 2015 -- Barker Dam, at Joshua Tree

    The reservoir behind the dam is full of water right now.  Back in the east, it would be just a large pond.  Here in Joshua Tree, in a dry, dry desert, this is the mother load.  The place should be swarming with life and it is, comparatively.  An easterner would expect the wildlife to be around the pond.  It's not.  It's in the marshy area downstream from the dam.  I think that's because the frequently dry reservoir probably doesn't have a lot of fish or other food in it.  Even if it does, the desert animals are not adapted to capture food in a water environment.  But they are having a ball catching insects and eating seeds in the marshy spots.

    I did see quite a few birds and should be very happy with that.   I was a little put off my game by all the other people.  There were a lot.  It should make me happy to see so many people venture so far out into the wilderness to look at nature.  Intellectually, I am happy.  But it kept interrupting my birding.  Yeah, yeah.  You are saying, "Cry me a river".   I could use a little support here, you know.  And I certainly can do without the sarcasm.  Stop it.  Just stop it.

    Here's what I saw:  Pinyon Jays, Western Scrub Jays, Cactus Wren, White-crowned Sparrow, Black-throated Sparrow, and Spotted Towhee.   All these are beautiful birds and found only in the far southwest.

 

 

White-crowned Sparrow, Joshua Tree National Park, October 2015

 

 

Black-throated Sparrow, Joshua Tree National Park, October 2015

 

 

Spotted Towhee, Joshua Tree National Park, October 2015 (same bird that I showed from Big Bend, but I really like this guy!)

 

 

October 29, 2015 -- Big Morongo Canyon Preserve 

    This is a beautiful facility near the town of Morongo eighteen miles south of Joshua Tree on route 62.  I went there in the spring of 2014 to sit at the hummingbird feeders and take pictures.  There were a ton of Hummingbirds and Lesser Goldfinches and a Ladderback Woodpecker.  I would have done better taking pictures, if I had known how to use Manual Focus.  I do now.

    I got there at 7:30 and sat in the car for about fifteen minutes because it was really windy.  I was hoping that the wind would die down and it seemed to abate a little.  When I got in to the trails around the trees, that gave some protection from the wind and I saw a decent amount of birds.  Did you notice the word that I slipped into the last sentence - "trees".  This site has water and has actual woodlands and marshland.  It also has drier environments and a long trail in a Canyon.  I think it is an absolute gem of a place to hike and a very decent place to bird as well.  I saw a California Thrasher (life bird), lots of sparrows (mostly White-crowned), Lesser Goldfinches, Ladderback Woodpeckers, a Flicker (red-shafted, the western variety), Oak Titmouse (third new kind of titmouse for me on this trip), Mountain Chickadee (another first for me), White-breasted Nuthatch, Ruby-crowned Kinglet (of course, they really are everywhere down here), Mockingbird, Phainopepla, Oregon Junco, and lots of very red and beautiful House Finches.

 

 

Northern Flicker / Red-shafted, Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, October 2015

 

 

Western Scrub Jay, Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, October 2015

 

 

October 29, 2015 -- Cottonwood Oasis at Josuah Tree and drive thru the park

    After leaving Big Morongo, I drove south on 62, picked up 10 East, and reentered the park at its southern entrance, Cottonwood Oasis Visitor Center.  I had intended to hike and bird there for a few hours, but the hike to Lost Palms Oasis is 7.6 miles.  I can do that without too much trouble, but I did not have the time starting so late in the day.  Besides, it was so windy that it was difficult for me to stand.  So there would be zero chance of seeing any birds.  I hiked up the trail a little bit, then booked on out of there.

    The drive up through the park was pretty crappy at first.  Did I say that?  Well its true.  The southern part of the park looks like a dried up, old construction site with piles of dirt and rocks and dead brush and very little that anyone could honestly say is pretty.  It is what it is.  This is actually a little closer to what I expected out of a desert than what I have been experiencing in Texas and Arizona.  The northern part of the park with its thousands of Joshua Trees and its giant rock formations is much more scenic.

 

 

A Joshua Tree is called "the tree of life", Joshua Tree National Park, October 2015 

 

 

rock climbers on Intersection Boulder, Joshua Tree National Park, October 2015