Leaving poor Kate with rain
and snow and cold and dreariness in
Chicago, I flew off for
beautiful, sunny, warm Palm Springs. But
there is justice...the flight
My first surprise, no jetways.
I haven't left a plane via stairs in 20
years. Palm Springs
airport is definitely not O'Hare.
I managed to link up with
fellow CIS'er Christine Rideout about
3:30pm. The sun sets
about 5pm, so we scrambled to get a birding
fix before we ran out of
light. We headed over to 1000 Palms
Oasis and picked up a few
birds, the most exciting of which was a
GREAT HORNED OWL who gave
us a great view. State birds
were the owl and GAMBEL'S
SHRIKES, HOUSE FINCHS
and RAVENS made some final
appearances of the day.
1000 Palms Oasis was pretty
neat. It was literally a forest of palm
trees in the middle of the
After enjoying a delightful
Hampton Inn breakfast with Christine,
her daughter and husband,
Christine and I headed off for Banning
and the start of the loop
around San Joaquin Mountain. We
stopped at several turn-outs
on our way up and saw a PLAIN
TITMICE, BUSHTITS, RUBY-CROWNED
BEWICK'S WREN and ACORN
WOODPECKERS. We struck
gold when we hit Lake Fulmor.
Christine said that she had had
better luck in the parking
lot than the lake itself and she was right.
After spotting a STELLER'S
JAYS and a MOUNTAIN
CHICKADEE, Christine pointed
out a WHITE-HEADED
were several of them. Yippee. I've
wanted that one since we
dipped in San Diego. Hmmm, no Kate.
Guess, we'll just have to
come back for the bird some other time.
We also found a pair of
BLACK-THROATED SPARROWS in
some brush by the lake.
We also found a very slim ROBIN and a
couple of WESTERN BLUEBIRDS.
Continuing on the road, we
found BREWER'S BLACKBIRDS
and a FLICKER on the road
to Humber Park. There wasn't much
at this location, so we
carried on to Lake Hemet. We saw COOTS,
RUDDY DUCKS, SCRUB JAY, WRENTIT, and had a wonderful
look at an AMERICAN PIPIT.
An EARED GREBE played hide
and seek. Ducks included SHOVELERS, BUFFLEHEADS,
GADWALL, LESSER SCAUP and WIGEON.
We started searching some
pines along the road south of Lake
Hemet. This is where
Christine had her life Pinyon Jay and this is
also where the Lane's Guide
suggests a look. We stopped at the
exact point where Christine
struck the last time, and while not
finding either Lewis's Woodpecker
or Pinyon Jay, we did find a
whole mess o' PYGMY NUTHATCHES
drinking from a cattle
We drove a little further,
then stopped to let another car pass us
(we were driving pretty
slowly). I noticed some dark birds flying
into one of the pines and
we both quickly brought up our
Second lifer of the day!
Again, hmmmm, no Kate.
Well, if there's any justice, she had an
Evening Grosbeak on our
feeder today, back in snowy, cold, yucky
Chicago. Oh, did I
mention the weather in Palm Springs was
sunny and about 80?
Our final stop of the day
was one of Christine's favorite places, the
Indian Canyons in Palm Springs.
We didn't see much but the
scenery was pretty neat
and we did pick up both COSTA'S and
ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRDS at feeders
by the gift shop. I
managed to convince myself
~not~ to buy a remarkably tacky bola
tie. On the way out,
Christine found us a SAY'S PHOEBE and a
In the great tradition of
birding, I made a sincere effort to trash the
rental car. I wanted
Jim Bangma to be proud of me. We drove
along, stopping for the
occasional refreshment and I tossed the
debris on the floor.
Chrisine couldn't bring herself to be messy,
but she eventually got in
the swing of things too. When I dropped
her off, as a final act
of freedom, she crunched up some surplus
potato chips and dropped
them on the floor.
We tipped the day in with
ROCK DOVES in downtown Palm
Springs. Total for
the day, 42 birds. But hey, who's counting.
I checked out of the beautiful
Palm Springs Hampton Inn and
headed for Big Morongo Canyon
Preserve. This is a very nice
place...shaded parking lot,
shelter with a recent sightings check list,
bathrooms - what more could
you ask for?
Within a few minutes on the
trail I picked up a BEWICK'S WREN
and encountered a ROADRUNNER.
Now I ~love~ Roadrunners.
This guy just wandered down
the path, straight at me. It would
stop every now and then
and look around, but it just didn't seem to
notice this largish object
in the middle of the path ahead of it. He
got to within 20 feet when
he realized the mortal danger that he
Suddenly, he reversed course and vanished into
the brush. I wound
up seeing 3 of them that morning.
Further on down the trail,
I ran into a flock of LESSER
GOLDFINCHES, a vocalizing
covey of GAMBEL'S QUAIL that
were sneaking around in
the brush, a HERMIT THRUSH and
boatloads of WHITE-CROWNED
SPARROWS. As I was
walking along, I kept flushing
10 at a time. A NORTHERN
HARRIER made an appearance.
Around 9am, the bird activity
ground to an abrupt halt. Happily,
the trail was an interpretive
one with a nice list and lots of markers
so I added lots of plants
to my botanical life list.
On to Joshua Tree National
Monument. What a wonderful place.
The birding was terrible
(a SCRUB JAY and RAVENS) but it was
amazing to just sight-see.
There were limitless vistas of
wilderness, weird rock formations
and enormous savannahs of
Joshua Trees. Even
though I was alone in the car, I just kept
Rock climbing was apparently
the thing there. I kept glassing these
piles of rock that had interesting
things on top and discovering that,
instead of an eagle, it
was a lycra clad rock climber surveying his
domain after a successful
The landscape kept changing
as I headed east. The big rock islands
disappeared and the land
got flatter and the mountains did not look
as rocky. But the
Joshua Trees continued.
Then they disappeared and
Creosote became the dominent plant.
And the mountains got more
dramatic, but with a different look.
Whereas many of the mountains
in the monument looked like big
piles of boulders, there
was a patch of mountains where the
outcroppings were more jagged
Then Mesquite took over from
the Creosote...then Creosote took it
back. It was neat
to see how the vegetation changed just from
slight changes in elevation
as I drove through the desert.
Finally, I got back to the
interstate and high tailed it for the hotel to
rejoin my fellow sales types
in a celebration of the wonderfulness
of our mother company and
some collective chest thumping.
For the trip, I had a total
of 46 birds, 2 lifers and 6 state birds.
One final note, of a geological
When the plane took off on
Tuesday afternoon, I watched the
mountains as we headed toward
Chicago. It was neat to see the
patterns that can only be
seen from the air. In fact, looking at the
mountains amidst the surrounding
desert, it almost looked as if the
desert was nothing more
than outwash from the erosion of the
mountains. It almost
looked like melting mountains at a very
It was a nice trip, it was
great to meet Christine, and now I have a
comfortable, but slight
cushion on my beloved spousal unit. After
all, when she gets her
Thayer's and Iceland Gulls, she's ~way~ too