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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Nerdy Birdy: Joshua Tree National Park

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Joshua Tree was my third stop on my trip and of course I had my list of desert hot spots for birds. I found four of the five birds that are in this area this season and only missed finding the Pinyon Jay, although not for lack of trying.

The California Thrasher is a new bird for me that is a difficult bird to find. They are secretive and usually hidden by brush. I was lucky that it was so early in the morning that he was out singing away higher up in a tree.

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455.CALIFORNIA THRASHER

The Joshua Trees are blooming which means that the Bullock’s oriole would be around. They really love the flowers and I was able to find a small group at Black Rock Campground.

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582.SCOTT’S ORIOLE

My next bird was MUCH harder to find. Secretive and shy this guy does NOT like anyone anywhere near them. I was barely able to get these shots of a pair before they took off into the desert.

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468.PHAINOPEPLA FEMALE

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468.PHAINOPEPLA MALE

Of course there were other desert birds hanging out. I found this female roadrunner practically next to me. Her plumage blends in so well with the surrounding landscape and they are so quite that I almost missed her AND I was looking for birds.

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279.GREATER ROAD RUNNER

There were two cactus wrens making a nest and this little guy posed at the top of a tree long enough for me to snap a shot.

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415.CACTUS WREN

And then very oddly I found a Gambles Quail. Well it was not odd to find the Quail they are everywhere around here, what was odd is that I found one in a tree, something I had never seen before. Normally they are scurrying around on the ground or hiding in some bramble.

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58.GAMBEL’S QUAIL

With breeding season in full swing all the birds are dressed to impress. This little white crowned sparrow looked so smart with his brilliant hairdo.

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546.WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW

When temperatures started getting too hot it was time to head into the shade. Even this tiny hummingbird took a break from the glaring desert sun.

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HUMMINGBIRD HIDING FROM THE HEAT OF THE DAY

Sitting in the shade eating my lunch I was excited to see owl spoor on the ground. Owl pellets were scattered below a palm tree. Not expecting much I looked up only to see a Barn Owl nestled in the shade of the dried leaves sleeping so soundly even my excited whoop of joy did not wake him.

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281.BARN OWL

My birding done for the day I headed back to my campsite. I made dinner, reflected on my day and gazed at the stars.

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I really was winding down thinking I was done for the day when I heard the Hooooing of a Great Horned Owl. Immediately I doused my fire with two jugs of water, chucked everything into the car and headed off into the black night with my camera. Now of course I was being safe. I had heard owls on previous nights be these were far away from my site and this owl was SO CLOSE. Also I was heading to a large open area in the center of the campground not out into the wild desert.

Ever few feet I would pause and listen for the next hoot relying totally on my sense of hearing to guide me in the right direction. Every hoot got me a bit closer until right in front of me I heard a screech. A fight was on it sounded as if a Great Horned Owl and a Western Screech Owl were fighting. There was a flurry of flaps and more screeching.

I desperately tried to get a shot but my camera was SO NOT COOPERATING. It is difficult taking photos of birds it is multiplied by a MILLION trying to take photos in the black of the desert night. But I did not give up even though the first three times I found an owl the photos did not come out. Finally the next two came out pretty clear and I could return to my site. I was however confused. This owl did not look to be big enough to be a Great Horned Owl and it was too big to be a Western Screech Owl however after checking the birds in the area against my book I was still stuck.

The next day I showed my photos to a bird expert and explained my story of how I found two owls fighting. He giggled and said that I had read the situation wrong. The hooting was a mother owl and the screeching was the baby wanting its food. What I had photos of therefore was a baby Great Horned Owl.

SCORE!

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284.GREAT HORNED OWL BABY

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284.GREAT HORNED OWL BABY

GREAT PLACES TO BIRD AT JOSHUA TREE click here to see map

1 comment:

paul peggy zeus said...

Nice owl pictures! All of them are good actually! Nice job.

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