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.

Mojave-Natl-Preserve,-Mid-Hills-area,-CA-(14)-copy

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 ūüôā is Cima Road, which leads through the largest concentration of Joshua trees in the world.

Mojave-Natl-Preserve,-Cima-Rd,-CA-(6)-copy

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.

Acmon-or-lupine-blue,-plebejus-sp,-Mojave-Natl-Preserve-CA-(4)-copy

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

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Contact:  cindy at cindymcintyre.com

 

 

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3 Comments

  1. AnaLuciaSilva said,

    Great shots =)

  2. Alli Farkas said,

    I’m always amazed at how you know exactly what all that flora and fauna is. I’m hopelessly uneducated about what I come across in the wild!

  3. Cindy McIntyre said,

    Actually I usually don’t know the plants and butterflies until I get home and consult my numerous field guides or the internet! Even then I’m not always sure. Sometimes I even remember what they are next time I see them. ūüėČ

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