Tuesday, April 26, 2005

26th April - Desert and snow

Starting off at Covington Park proved a good move as it was teeming with birds. A stunning male Vermillion Flycatcher greeted me on arrival and a pair continued to show well all the time I was there. A Summer Tanager, though completely red, was much less attractive.

I flushed a Barn Owl from a palm tree before it was chased off by what was probably a Cooper’s Hawk. A Nuttall’s Woodpecker provided my first decent views of this species and other birds here included Yellow Warbler, Cassin’s Kingbird, Lawrence’s and Lesser Goldfinches, Hooded Oriole, Western Tanagers, Black-headed Grosbeak, Gambel’s Quail and more.

The neighbouring Big Morongo Canyon Preserve produced more Summer Tanagers, a Blue Grosbeak and both Nuttall’s and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers. There was a good selection of warblers including 7 Wilson’s Warblers, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-breasted Chat and Orange-crowned Warblers. I eventually managed to pick out a couple of Brown-crested Flycatchers, although the very similar Ash-throated Flycatchers were also present. Fortunately both species are fairly vocal and I had brought a recording of their songs to compare them to.

We covered a wide range of habitats during this holiday but it was a bit bizarre being here in this hot, arid semi-desert habitat and looking up at the nearby San Bernardino Mountains with their tops completely covered in snow. And it was to the mountains we headed next, not these ones but San Jacinto to the south.

The long windy road up the mountain took us through and into new habitats and new elevations, and with them were a host of new birds some of which were actually very common in these habitats. Among them were 14 Acorn Woodpeckers, 4 Western Bluebirds, 10 Mountain Chickadees, 4 Oak Titmice, 2 White-breasted Nuthatches, 13 Steller’s Jays, 2 Oregon Juncos and Hairy Woodpecker. A Townsend’s Warbler was also seen – beautiful as ever.

At Idyllwild we took a hike up the Devil’s Slide Trail. This provided more birds in the shape of Band-tailed Pigeons, White-headed Woodpecker, Brown Creeper and a pair of Cassin’s Finches as well as many of the same species seen on the way up.