Monday, 6 January 2014

Southern California - update four

Birds of the deserts. I spent a couple of nights in Palm Springs, where amongst the shopping malls and Marilyn Monroe statues, there were a couple of decent little sites that I visited on consecutive mornings late last week.
Black-throated Sparrow, Santa Rosa National Monument 2nd Jan 2014
The first place I visited isn't really on the birding map, and perhaps should still be considered a bit of a subsidiary site. However, for some reason, I really wanted to see Black-throated Sparrow - a real looker of a bird. And with the invaluable resource of Ebird, I was able to sniff out Santa Rosa National Monument which is a small area of desert with a visitor centre immediately south of Palm Desert on route 74. I wasn't to be disappointed, as there were a couple coming to feeders by the car park and they showed exceptionally well. Verdins, Rock Wrens and Black-tailed Gnatcatchers all provided suitable quality backup, while a trip up the (expensive) aerial tramway gave me decent views of higher altitude species, Steller's Jay and Mountain Chickadee. Remarkably these birds seemed unperturbed by stupid, offensive grown men howling in the woods - seems to be a US pastime that as soon as they're in the country, they take the liberty to behave like stupid animals.
Verdin, Santa Rosa National Monument 2nd Jan 2014
After a night of bargain shopping, I was ready to get amongst Big Morongo Canyon Preserve - a really diverse site 20 minutes north of Palm Springs and recommended by Mr H and Vicky, who visited the place a week previously. I managed to get some excellent views of California Thrasher, as well as commoner species like Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Costa's Hummingbird, Phainopepla and Hermit Thrush. The place is well set up with trails, and felt really birdy - the couple of hours I spent here really didn't do the place justice.
California Thrasher, Big Morongo 3rd Jan 2014
Phainopepla, Big Morongo 3rd Jan 2014
 And so that was my desert birding experience for this trip. Off to the coast again...

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