Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Nerdy Birdy: Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree is true desert terrain and at first glance you wouldn’t think much would live here. The trick in the desert is that you just have to be patient, look harder and try to be near some type of water. Picnic areas and campsites are also great places to make sure you check out. I only spent four hours driving to different parts of Joshua Tree but I found so much. The desert is quieter but there is life here.




I found quite of few of the common desert birds. The Bewick’s Wren, Cactus Wren, Painopepla, Road Runner, Gambel’s Quail and House Finch are birds I see every time I come here.




One surprising bird for me was the California Towhee. Although I have seen this bird all over in LA I didn’t expect to find one out in the middle of the desert.


Every stop I made I waited, watched and listened. Expecially since it was the hottest part of the day, birds are like us they don’t like to be working up a sweat so they move less in teh heat of the day. They do still move, just less often.




My two target birds I was hoping to see were the Pinyon Jay (I have only seen a flock from a great distance at Joshua Tree before) and the Black Chinned Sparrow. Both are Fairly common at this park and although I have been here a half-dozen times I still haven’t gotten a photo of either. Today I was in luck, I didn’t see the Pinyon Jays but I was successful in finding one shy little Black Chinned Sparrow. A new bird for me to cross off the Nerdy Birdy List!


I also spotted a Verdin for just a moment. I always miss getting a great photo of this bird, either it is too far OR too fast. The Verdin does not like people and I usually get my camera up just as they are flying away from me. And when they take off THEY TAKE OFF without any chance of me being able to follow. Today I was photographing the Wilson’s Warbler, even though I have photos of him already, sometimes I just like to see if I can get a better shot. Then out of the corner of my eye I caught a Verdin land. If I hadn’t had my camera already focused in that area and if the Verdin hadn’t landed so close to the Wilson’s I was photographing I would have never got this shot. The Verdin landed for just a moment and then took off far into the landscape. I only got two photos, one of them came out great. Now I have a Kodak shot of this very pretty elusive bird, see the old photo here.


I was able to even do some birding from the car. This Loggerhead Shrike was calling on a cactus just off the side of the road. Photographing birds like this from the car sometimes allows you to get quite close. The car acts as a kind of blind, some birds, like this Shrike ignore it. The second I stepped out of the car however he took off.


The afternoon got pretty quiet. I stopped a few times and took some photos of the flowering cactus’ but in general I didnt see much for a good hour.



And then as I was driving slowly down the road a coyote stepped onto the concrete. There wasn’t any traffic so I pulled over carefully. I was pretty far away so I got out with my big lens to take a few photo. The second I crouched down he started trotting straight for me. TIME TO GO! I got back in the car and honked the horn... I didn’t want to get anywhere near this guy.



When I got to the cactus forest near the end of the park I gave up on finding anymore birds but then a few moments later I saw a bunch of swallow like birds darting around. A whole colony of White Throated Swifts were eating the bugs swarming around. Although they are super fast and ALMOST impossible to photo I got a few not so fantastic photos. Still it’s a new bird for me, and although I wasn’t expecting to see this bird it made my day! Two new birds in Joshua tree hurrah!



After spending a good hour trying to get photos of the swifts the sun was starting to set, it was time to find something to eat and a hotel. When I am birding I keep country hours. Even though it was only going on 7:30pm it was time for bed, I woke up EARLY after all and tomorrow was going to be another early morning wake up call.



paul peggy zeus said...

Good for you finding new birds today AND a coyote. Great picture of that tiny Verdin. We find him on the Octillio Cactus at the visitor center sometimes too.

Jennifer Arens said...

I must say, I enjoy our landscape a little more than the desert. Glad you got to scope out some fun birds and wildlife! For the record, don't watch the movie 'The Grey'. it is ridiculous

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