Christmas Bird Count – 29 Palms, California

December 31, 2014 at 5:00 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, National Parks, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife) (, , , )

Indian Cove, Joshua Tree National Park

Indian Cove, Joshua Tree National Park

On Sunday I went to my third CBC in Southern California.  Bill and Herman live in the area of Joshua Tree National Monument and were familiar with the areas.  Like most birders, Bill checked places where he had seen such-and-such a bird before.  For years afterward, certain rocks or trees or areas will always be remembered as “the place I saw….” That’s the way we birders are.

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While at the Indian Cove campground in Joshua Tree, we had mostly overcast skies, with just a wee bit of strong sun for a few minutes.  Indian Cove doesn’t have many Joshua Trees, so what you see in this photo are Mojave yuccas.

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Rattlesnake Canyon has some intriguing rocks that look like bits of brickle candy were tossed into the granite before it hardened.

Silver cholla

Silver cholla

Silver cholla abounds, and last year’s nests of wrens or thrashers were safely cradled in their prickly arms.

Barrel Cactus

Barrel Cactus

Barrel cactus is a pretty Christmas red this time of year.

Twentynine Palms

Twentynine Palms

The view from Indian Cove’s ranger station.  There is a large Marine Corps base in this view.

Verdin

Verdin

As far as birds go, the numbers were sparse.  I published photographs of the phainopepla and black-tailed gnatcatcher I had seen here in a previous blog. My favorite bird this time was the Gambel’s quail.

Gambel's Quail - Male

Gambel’s Quail – Male

I was hoping for a photo showing the breast patch, but these guys were wily – managing to stay hidden or exploding in flight.  This one shows its topknot quite well.  Their cartoonish scurrying always provokes me to make “boop boop boop boop” sound effects.

Robin Tree

Robin Tree

The birds were in full force at the 29 Palms Inn at the Oasis of Mara.  They feasted on the black-purple berries hanging from the tall California fan palms, flocking from one tree to another -presumably in search of the sweetest pickings.

Red-shouldered hawk

Red-shouldered hawk

A red-shouldered hawk waited for likely prey.

Mockingbirds

Mockingbirds

I’ve never seen so many mockingbirds in one place.  There was even a sage thrasher (photo too blurry) and I think I saw a hermit thrush.

Butterbutt

Butterbutt

Of course the yellow-rumped warblers were plentiful, and their distinctive chips let us know they weren’t going to be overlooked as we counted robins, starlings, and phainopeplas.

Cactus Wren

Cactus Wren

Even a cactus wren got into the act of poking around the palms for delicacies.

Female Costa's Hummingbird

Female Costa’s Hummingbird

The female Costa’s hummingbird had taken up a sentinel perch on a blooming bladderpod at the nearby Oasis of Mara Visitor Center.  I’ve learned to check bladderpods for these cuties.  The curved bill is a distinguishing feature of the plainer female, along with the yellow chin.

Of course, we saw other birds – horned larks, scrub jays, white-crowned sparrows, house finches, and others.  The day began cold – in the upper 20s – but warmed into the 50s.  I thought of the Christmas Bird Counts I’d done on the coast of Maine – in freezing rain and snow.  I’m hoping for one more CBC before the count season ends.  But only if it doesn’t snow.  Stay tuned.

Text and photographs copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre

Feel free to reblog or share

Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

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Contact:  cindy at cindymcintyre.com

 

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1 Comment

  1. Alli Farkas said,

    There were plenty of California quail (not as interesting as the Gambel’s) around my old house in SoCal. It always amused me how they would refuse to fly except under extreme duress. If they could run or hop to their destination, that was their preferred mode of travel.

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