Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Southern California Desert


After crossing the Colorado River, we drove across miles of the barren, rock-strewn Colorado Desert into the Mojave Desert.  We spent three days at Joshua Tree National Park staying at Cottonwood Campground.  This area is known for it's unique geology and very unusual plants such as the Joshua Tree.
Some large Joshua Trees are over 300 years old

Eroded Monso-granite - 30 ft. Skull

Joshua Tree blooms that form a new branch

Huge granite hills are scattered throughout the park


We stayed two days at Yucca Valley and walked the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve's boardwalks and marsh trails. We added new birds here such as the California Towhee (pictured), California Thrasher, and Bushtits building their large basket-like nests.


We drove through the beautiful Jacinto Mountains up to 6,500 feet passing through 5 life zones.  We observed Oak Titmice, Band-tailed Pigeon and this fantastic White-headed Woodpecker.

Our next stop was the Salton Sea where 10's of thousands of birds gather for the winter: Am. White & Brown Pelicans; 4 species of grebes' 5 species of gulls including Mew and Yellow-footed; Snowy & Black-bellied Plovers; White-tailed Kites; Sprague's & American Pipits; Burrowing Owls; Black & Yuma Clapper Rails; White-faced Ibis; a few lingering Snow & Ross's geese; Am. Avocets; Black-necked Stilts; Long-billed Curlew; and the newly divided Sage Sparrow - the Bell's Sparrow; and Marbled Godwits (pictured).
The agricultural lands surrounding the Salton Sea are also dotted with geothermal electric generating plants.  Near one were these "Mud Volcanoes" - a local tourist attraction.  After 5 days and nights of trains and smelly cattle yards we were ready to move on to the desert wilderness.




The Anza Borrego Desert State Park encompasses 32,000 acres.  We got the last electric campsite.  At sunrise we started our hike into the Palm Canyon Oasis hidden in the jagged rocks.


Birds included the California Quail, Canyon & Rock Wrens, Anna's & Costa's Hummingbirds and Black-throated & White-crowned Sparrows.

A herd of 13 Bighorn Sheep work their way down the jagged canyon walls to the flowing stream each afternoon.
Hidden Oasis of Palms in the desert



With severe weather predicted we crossed the Curamaca Mountains and hunkered down for the much-needed rain near Jamul at Pio Pico Park.  Drought stricken California was eager to get the rain, but fire-barren hills lay waiting for mud slides, coastal surge and wind caused flooding, downed trees and multiple traffic accidents.


In between rains, we added some interesting birds such as Golden-crowned Sparrow (pictured), Lawrence's Goldfinch, Allen's Hummingbird and 34 other species of birds.  We also had a coyote digging out and catching one of the numerous ground squirrels in the hillsides.

Storms gave way to sun and we are now on the Pacific Coast for the  next several weeks.

Over 1,000 days on the road.
Love & Prayers,  Ty & Ida

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