Mojave National Preserve

April 19, 2015 at 9:50 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, Butterflies, California, National Parks, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Southwest Birds, Wildflowers) (, , )

Mojave National Preserve, near Mid-Hills Campground

Mojave National Preserve, near Mid-Hills campground

Since I moved to Southern California, I’ve been “saving” a visit to Mojave National Preserve for just the right weekend – an early April birding trip with the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society.

Rock Springs House and desert purple sage (Salvia sp.)

Rock Spring House and desert purple sage (Salvia sp.)

The weather was perfect, I added two birds to my life list, and the scenery surpassed expectations.

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The preserve does allow grazing, but few livestock were seen. There are several different habitats that make this 1.6 million acre park a place to return to time and time again.

Joshua tree forest, Cima Road

Joshua tree forest, Cima Road

Northeast of Baker (home of the world’s tallest thermometer, except when it blew down, then it became home of the world’s longest thermometer :-) is Cima Road, which leads through the largest concentration of Joshua trees in the world.

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While we never got a gilded flicker, which nests in these funky yucca, we saw Bendire’s thrashers, mockingbirds, cactus wrens, red-tailed and Swainson’s hawks, and wildflowers, including blooming beavertail cactus.  Of course, with flowers come butterflies.

Desert Swallowtail on Goodding's Verbena

Desert Swallowtail on Goodding’s Verbena

The Desert swallowtail is similar to the Anise swallowtail, but supposedly the ranges don’t 0verlap here so I’m going by faith, since it’s hard for me to tell the difference.  I’m also making an educated guess on the type of verbena.

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Acmon or lupine blue on a tiny white flower

I’m guessing the little blue butterfly is an Acmon male.

California Patch Butterfly

California Patch Butterfly

The patch butterfly was on a moist patch (pun unintended) of ground near an old farm spring.

Chia, a salvia

Chia, a salvia

There are many flowers in the Mojave desert that I’ve never seen in the Chihuahuan desert or in Colorado.  The Chia is one of the more interesting ones.

Mojave claret cup

Mojave claret cup

Also known as the Mojave mound cactus, the claret cup often finds a crack in seemingly bare rock to take hold.

Mojave claret cup cactus flower

Mojave claret cup cactus flower

While similar to the claret cup in Big Bend National Park, Texas, this cactus seems to have more spines, hiding the unique fluted design of the cactus itself.

Patch-nosed snake

Patch-nosed snake

You can see by its nose scale why it’s called the “patch-nosed” snake.

Side-blotched lizard male

Side-blotched lizard male

The side-blotched lizard is a common one seen in the Mojave desert.  The females look a bit different.  (Assuming I’ve identified them properly.)

Side-blotched lizard female

Side-blotched lizard female

The zone-tailed hawk was my most exciting bird.  Our trip leader knew it would be at the Mid-Hills campground, and I got a great view the next morning as it flew toward me.

Zone-tailed hawk

Zone-tailed hawk

They resemble turkey vultures because of their nearly all-black coloration and the way they hold their wings in a “V” while they soar.  But the hawks have a feathered head, yellow bill and legs, and a white-striped tail.  Turkey vultures have bare red fleshy heads, black legs, and generally are all-black.  In the right light, the sun can make the lighter-colored wing and tail feathers glow.  This guy was coming to check out a dead jackrabbit found by ravens.

Turkey vulture

Turkey vulture

A 2005 wildfire took out many of the juniper and pinyon pines in and around the Mid-Hills campground, but enough of them remained to keep the juniper titmice happy.

Juniper titmouse

Juniper titmouse

Near the I-40 entrance and the Kelso Visitor Center are the Kelso Dunes, which are known for singing or booming in the right conditions.  It’s a bit of a walk to even get to the base of them, and sand walking is hard slogging.

Kelso Dunes

Kelso Dunes

I didn’t have time to explore other than to photograph numerous small animal tracks and the Mojave fringe-toed lizard, which can “swim” through the sand.  Look closely at the fringes on its toes!

Mojave fringe-toed lizard

Mojave fringe-toed lizard

I hope to return soon as this park is about 90 minutes away, and full of wonderful vistas and surprises.

Sunset at Mid-Hills campground

Sunset at Mid-Hills campground

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Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America

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Contact:  cindy at cindymcintyre.com

 

 

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Desert Tortoise

April 4, 2015 at 11:11 am (California, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife) (, , )

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Watching desert tortoises isn’t as bad as watching paint dry.  They might freeze up if you approach them, but within a few minutes they will probably resume their foraging, or walking, or whatever. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bighorn Sheep at Anza-Borrego

March 20, 2015 at 6:38 am (California, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife) (, , , )

 

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The highlight of my trip to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park last month was seeing newborn desert bighorn sheep with their mamas on the Borrego Palms trail. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Blinding Blanket of Wildflowers

March 15, 2015 at 3:31 pm (California, Nature, Photography, Wildflowers) (, , , )

California poppies and goldfields, Lancaster, Calif.

California poppies and goldfields, Lancaster, Calif.

I’ve always wanted to see the fields of poppies in California, especially paired with the famous oaks near the central coast. And even though I’ve seen spectacular fields of wildflowers in the subalpine meadows at Mt. Rainier and in the San Juans of Colorado, I was just agog at what I saw last week near Lancaster, California.

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As you can see, it looks like a literal blanket of both California poppies and the small daisy-like goldfields.  Obviously there was adequate rain this winter (it’s still winter for a few more days, actually.) Read the rest of this entry »

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Salvation Mountain

March 1, 2015 at 11:10 am (California, fine art photography, Photography) (, , , , )

Salvation Mountain, Niland, CA

Salvation Mountain, Niland, CA

A psychedelic mountain rises from the desert on the east shore of California’s Salton Sea, a beacon to the lost and the joyous.  Vivid flowers and red hearts and lime green words abound.  One phrase repeats over and over again.  “God is Love.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Salton Sea Shore

March 1, 2015 at 3:07 am (California, fine art photography, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

Sunrise in the palms, Mecca, Calif.

Sunrise in the palms, Mecca, Calif.

It’s not really a sea.  It’s a lake with a strange history.  You see, the Salton Sea was once a legitimate lake (a small portion of prehistoric Lake Cahuilla), but then it dried up thousands of years ago.  When a canal was built in the early 1900s to divert water from the nearby Colorado River to the Imperial Valley for crops, the engineers failed to take into account the fact that the river sometimes floods. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mountain Lion!

February 2, 2015 at 10:00 pm (California, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife) (, , , )

Juvenile Mountain Lion

Juvenile Mountain Lion

I’ve worked at several national parks that had mountain lions, and try as I might, I never saw one.  Until yesterday at Montana de Oro State Park near Morro Bay, California.  This young cat had been seen a few minutes earlier by a jogger and some hikers who told me to look out for it.  I had my camera locked and loaded, visualizing the hoped-for encounter.

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When I heard a slight rustling in the shrubs alongside the trail, I stopped.  And then he appeared!  He sat right in front of me, blinking, as if he had been expecting me.  Then he figured he’d done his duty and returned to his nap spot.

He seemed large enough not to need his mother, which would have made me extremely nervous knowing she might pounce at any minute.

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From the side, he (or she) looks like an oversized orange tabby cat.

The lead photo has been retouched to remove the green glow that you normally see at night when a flash is used.  Oddly, the young lion’s pupils were apparently fairly wide open when he stepped into the bright sunlight, even though the sun was behind him.  If he had been napping, that would account for the dilated pupils, which allowed the sun to bounce to the back of the retina and reflect green.  I did not use a flash, so this was a very odd thing to see.  I just replaced the green glow with black and added a highlight in each eye to make it look as normal as possible.

Demon eyes

Demon eyes

I wish this young cat well.  I hope he learns to stay away from cars and people, and finds plenty of deer and squirrels to fill his belly.

Feel free to reblog or share

Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America

These photographs can be purchased here.

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Contact:  cindy at cindymcintyre.com

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East Jesus and West Satan

January 22, 2015 at 1:02 pm (California) (, , )

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This might be a peculiarly California thing:  a squatter city in the desert.  If you like Funky Artsy Fartsy weirdness like I do, you will feel right at home in Slab City, just east of Niland on the Salton Sea.  (Warning:  bad words ahead.  Get over it.)

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I had heard about Slab City from co-workers who had been there.  Salvation Mountain, at the entrance to Slab City (see future blog post) is perhaps more famous, but you can see the influences of one upon the other. Read the rest of this entry »

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Hummingbird Ballet

January 21, 2015 at 10:42 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife) (, , )

Male Anna's Hummingbird

Male Anna’s Hummingbird

Sometimes the mistakes turn out to be unexpected poetry.  The hummingbird blurs remind me of Ernst Haas’s work in “The Creation” – lovely and purposeful motion blurs of nature.  While I could invoke Pee-wee Herman who capsized his bicycle in “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure,” and say “I meant to do that,” the truth is I didn’t. Read the rest of this entry »

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Go Watch Birds! (And Watch Movies About Birds)

January 18, 2015 at 12:06 pm (Bird photography, Birds - California, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife) (, , )

Male Buffleheads taking flight, Silverwood Lake

Male Buffleheads taking flight, Silverwood Lake

Walking around with binoculars and peering intently into trees or across a lake is sure to elicit strange looks.  Sometimes, though, people aren’t just making conversation when they ask, “See anything interesting?” Read the rest of this entry »

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