Friday, April 24 2009:
We left home early, encountering no traffic at all getting out of the bay area, and drove the long’ish slog down I-5 to Bakersfield. Fortunately the drive to this part of California is “only” a couple hundred miles on mind-numbing I-5, rather than the full many-hours-long epic to get to LA, and after a quick lunch at Foster’s Freeze in Bakersfield, the drive was interesting enough as we drove through Tehachapi, and through the desert on Hwy 58 past Mojave and through Boron. We stopped to browse a funky antique shop at Kramer Junction, then continued to Barstow and from there headed south on 2-lane Hwy 247.
Hwy 247 went through some pretty high desert, and some very depressed-looking communities, especially Lucerne Valley, and ended at Twentynine Palms Hwy AKA Hwy 62, in Yucca Valley, a charmless and endless strip mall. We noted a couple of grocery stores for future reference, and continued east to the town of Joshua Tree, which was considerably more enticing than Yucca Valley (a good thing, as we were staying there!). A few miles up the road to Joshua Tree National Park brought us to our rental house, a short 500 miles and 9 hours drive from home.
Beavertail Cactus (Opuntia basilaris)
We were quite impressed with our rental, which had several private acres of sparse Joshua Tree woodland, a hot tub, and more than plenty of space for the two of us (another couple had planned on joining us for part of this trip, but had to cancel).
House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus)
House Finches mobbed the bird feeder in the back yard, and some quail ate the seeds that had fallen to the ground. Hmm, those quail don’t look quite right for California Quail…. A quick look at my field guide showed the reason – they were Gambel’s Quail (LIFER!), a similiar, but mostly not-overlapping-range quail species.
Our rental in Joshua Tree Highlands – sweet!
We unpacked and walked around the property, happy to find that there were many blooming cactii and wildflowers – this boded well, as I had assumed that we would be too late to see much in the way of desert flowers.
Englemann Hedgehog (Echinocereus engelmannii)
We had Beavertail Cactus, Englemann Hedgehog, Joshua Trees, Mojave Yucca, and several types of Cholla all within just a few hudred feet of the house.
Joshua Trees (Yucca breviflora) at sunset
Numerous flowers were blooming as well, but most would have to wait to be identified, as I am/was mostly unfamiliar with desert flora & fauna.
Mojave Aster (Xylorhiza tortifolia)
One easy ID, however, was the Mojave Aster, with its pretty purple flowers and giveaway aster shape. Back at the feeder, a new bird had joined the House Finches, a Black-throated Sparrow (LIFER!). Sweet, two life birds, and we hadn’t even left our rental yet!
After relaxing for a bit we drove back to Yucca Valley, stocked up on groceries, made a simple dinner, and went to bed after a lovely relaxing hot tub.
Location: Villa Rocosa (JT Highlands House) Observation date: 4/24/09 Number of species: 6 * Gambel's Quail - Callipepla gambelii 3 Red-tailed Hawk - Buteo jamaicensis 1 Mourning Dove - Zenaida macroura 5 Common Raven - Corvus corax 2 * Black-throated Sparrow - Amphispiza bilineata 2 House Finch - Carpodacus mexicanus 1 This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org)
Saturday, April 25 2009:
I woke with the sun and enjoyed watching its rays spread out over the mountains and valley. A small yellowish bird briefly perched on a backyard chair just long enough for me to identify it as a Verdin (LIFER!).
A pair of Desert Cottontails frolicked about, jumping around and over each other. I assume it was frolicking anyways – for all I know it could have been a bunny deathmatch!
I walked around our “yard,” enjoying the changing light. The air was full of calling Mourning Doves and Gambel’s Quail, and despite scattered houses around us, all else was quiet.
Beavertail Cactus (Opuntia basilaris)
The cactus diversity was pretty impressive for a little patch of land! Brilliant Beavertail blooms popped magenta in the early morning light, while other cactii were a bit more subtle.
Diamond Cholla (Opuntia ramosissima)
The backyard quail were skittish, and avoided my attempts to photograph them, but I did catch a House Finch and Black-throated Sparrow at the feeder:
House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus) & Black-throated Sparrow (Amphispiza bilineata)
Both birds were voracious, fighting among themselves. House Finches outnumbered the Black-throated Sparrows by about 3:1, and there was much tussling over feeder space.
Acton Encelia (Encelia actoni)
I roused Sarah, and after a bagel breakfast, we headed out for the morning’s hike.
To be continued….
Location: Villa Rocosa (JT Highlands House) Observation date: 4/25/09 Number of species: 6 Gambel's Quail - Callipepla gambelii 3 Mourning Dove - Zenaida macroura 4 Common Raven - Corvus corax 2 * Verdin - Auriparus flaviceps 1 Black-throated Sparrow - Amphispiza bilineata 3 House Finch - Carpodacus mexicanus 2
- Part I – Getting there, settling in <– You are here!
- Part II – Twentynine Palms Oasis
- Part III – Oasis of Mara, Noah Purifoy, Key’s View, Cap Rock
- Part IV – Lost Horse Mine
- Part V – Cholla Cactus Garden, Geology Tour Road
- Part VI – Split Rock, Hidden Valley
- Part VII – Barker Dam, Ocotillo Patch
- Part VIII – Mastodon Peak, Cholla Cactus Garden revisited
- Part IX – Big Morongo Canyon, AKA Birding Paradise
- Part X – Tahquitz Canyon
- Part XI – Living Desert, LA, and home