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Palm Springs - Winter

Friday

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 was bumpy.

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 QUAIL.  PHAINOPEPLA,
MOCKINGBIRDS, LOGGERHEAD 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 desert.

Saturday

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 KINGLETS, a
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
WOODPECKER.  There 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
trough.  

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
binoculars...PINYON JAYS.  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
LOGGERHEAD SHIKE.

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.

Sunday

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
was encountering.  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
saying "wow".  

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 ascent.

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 and crystalline.

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 nature...

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
~slow~ pace.

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
close. <GGGG>

 

 

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