Thursday, 30 April 2009 (continued from here):
After our fun little hike at Tahquitz Canyon, we had a delicious breakfast at Chubby’s, where I ordered a bacon flight consisting of 5 different types of bacon (yeah!), and then checked out and headed a half-dozen miles south to Palm Desert/Indian Wells, where we visited the Living Desert, a combination zoo (containing only un-releasable animals), wildlife oasis, and state-of-the-art animal hospital. A docent at Big Morongo Canyon the day before had recommended the Living Desert both as an interesting zoo and garden, as well as a good place for wild bird-watching, so we were interested to see what all was here.
Black-crowned Night Heron in the aviary
They had a nice walk-in aviary, in which were a few Black-crowned Night Herons, some Common Ravens, and Green Heron. While we were in the aviary, I saw a (wild) Common Roadrunner (LIFER!) walking quickly by on the outside, but of course since I was IN the aviary, I couldn’t go chase it – oh, the irony!
Many of the animals, especially the birds, didn’t lend themselves to photography, as they were behind mesh fences, but I couldn’t resist taking on of this adorable little Pygmy Owl. Near it, a gregarious American Kestrel hopped toward us and perched right at the edge of its cage, chatting away like crazy, then bringing over a bit of mouse gore to share – very cute!
??? Hummingbird (any ideas which?)
I saw another wild bird, this time a hummingbird, although I haven’t figured out what kind it was just yet. If you have an idea, do please leave a comment! The animal hospital has a program every hour or so, and we swung by to see what there was to see. A staffer had a large desert iguana and talked for a few minutes about its natural history, and the work the hospital does, then invited everyone to walk around, which would have been interesting (many of the examination and operating rooms have glass walls), except that there was nobody working there, so we gave that a pass.
The weather was pretty warm as it approached mid-day, it must have been in the 90s, and there was not a whole lot of shade in much of the zoo’s landscaped areas, so we didn’t linger too long, which was too bad, as this was the sort of terrain that I’d expect to find interesting wild birds.
We looked for a good while for a supposed Mountain Lion in the cat exhibit, but it must’ve been hiding in the shade, for we never got a glimpse. A cooperative bobcat did wake up long enough to look at us before going right back to sleep.
Another aviary had doves, coots and kingfishers, along with a bunch of turtles and some fish. It was nice that they had several walk-in aviaries, as they’re a great way to see even common birds much more closely than usual.
A hot and fly-bitten-looking Mexican Wolf sat in the dappled shade of its exhibit, which featured information about the reintroduction of wolves into the US after they’d been hunted almost to extinction.
In a spiny bush I got a nice look at a (wild) Verdin with its lovely little yellow head.
By this point we had seen most of the native desert section of the park, and walked a little ways to the Bighorn Sheep exhibit. It was quite warm here, save for a couple of verandas, which had mist spraying from their perimeter, and we enjoyed some good looks at the Bighorn Sheep, which had eluded us in the wild on this trip.
Desert Bighorn Sheep
Desert Bighorn Sheep
Although there was still a large part of the Living Desert we had not seen (the African desert section), we decided it was too hot, and anyhow we had a fair bit of driving ahead of us to get to Sarah’s brother’s house in north LA, so we bought an overpriced Iccee and hit the road.
I’d definitely recommend a visit to the Living Desert to anyone passing through the area, as their exhibits were well-done, and they do good rehabilitation and conservation work there.
From there, we drove to LA, stopping briefly at the El Cabazon outlets, and finding no particular treasures there, continued on through San Bernardino and into Los Angeles, where we spent the last couple of days of our trip.
Friday, 1 May – Sunday, 3 May:
The remainder of our trip was spent with my my brother-in-law and his family in north LA, where we enjoyed some great food and wonderful company, but didn’t do anything photo-worthy, other than a visit to the new’ish Getty Villa, and I believe that the photos I took there cannot be published here due to copyright, so I will leave it at that (plus I don’t think my readers necessarily want to see dozens of museum photos!).
On Sunday morning we left for home and endured the torturously long and boring drive north on I-5. Total driving for this 10-day road trip: ~1600 miles.
California’s southern deserts are a true pleasure to wander around in (in season!), and it was super-nice to have so much time to relax and see so many lovely sights in Joshua Tree National Park. The birds and wildflowers were beyond anything we had hoped for, with a good many new species of both seen.
Thanks for reading this far, and happy hiking!
- Part I – Getting there, settling in
- 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 – Taquitz Canyon
- Part XI – Living Desert, LA, and home <– You are here!