Tag: Black-throated Sparrow

Trip Report: Indian Cove, Joshua Tree National Park

Cactus Wren, Indian Cove, Joshua Tree National Park

Cactus Wren, Indian Cove, Joshua Tree National Park

Desert Birding at Joshua Tree National Park

A friend of ours reserved a couple of group camping spots at Indian Cove campground in Joshua Tree National Park and invited us to come along. Needing a little getaway from the continuing social restrictions, we eagerly accepted. That it would require driving through traffic to get there, and that it promised to be 99 degrees despite it being October, didn’t dissuade us.

Indian Cove is only three miles off the highway, but it’s not connected by road to the interior of the national park. We’ve camped here twice before. It’s a quiet spot with great rocks for scrambling. Conveniently, in the group camping area, those rocks provide a good deal of shade during the day. There’s no water in sight. And the bushes are devastatingly prickly. 

Indian Cove Campground

Indian Cove Campground

Like most water-free desert spots, there isn’t a lot of bird activity. The most common birds are Black-throated Sparrows. Their tinkling sounds are often coming from a nearby bush. Ravens roam the campground regularly. There’s a wash west of the campground with more vegetation, which I’ve found to be a good spot to find birds. During morning and late afternoon walks in the wash, I saw desert birds like Gambel’s Quail, Cactus Wren, and Verdin. Activity was otherwise pretty low. I didn’t make it over to Rattlesnake Canyon, which is a mile east of the campground. It’s also got a wash full of bushes and is probably the best bet for finding birds in the area.

Black-throated Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow

Loggerhead Shrike Joshua Tree National Park

Loggerhead Shrike watches over the wash

One of the best parts of the trip was that it coincided with a full moon. About an hour after sunset, the moon started to rise in the east. By 9:30, it was incredibly bright out, with clear, dark shadows cast about. Without a need for headlamps, we went for a full moon hike. It was fantastic. The kids were scrambling all over the rocks like it was daytime. I didn’t see anything flying around, and wished I had an infrared camera to see where the birds were hiding during the night. If you’re good at planning, time a trip to Joshua Tree when there’s a full moon. It washes out the Milky Way (we did still see some shooting stars). But the splendor of the night walk is worth it.


Indian Cove Campground Joshua Tree National Park

Camping under a full moon

Full moon rising, Joshua Tree National Park


Birding Wonderland

Comet Neowise Torrey Utah

The comet Neowise over Torrey, Utah

Quiet and Calm in the Interior West

After 125 days of “quarantine”, our family had grown weary. With the COVID case count growing, and stay-at-home measures increasing, we decided it was time to flee Los Angeles. Our destination was a part of south central Utah that the old-timers called Wonderland. My wife’s parents have an amazing house on a wind-swept mesa in Torrey, Utah. It’s a tiny little town, perfectly situated for easy adventures to the red rocks and slot canyons of Capitol Reef National Park or to the alpine lakes and forest of the Aquarius Plateau and Boulder Mountain. The area is a designated International Dark Sky Park, with better views of the Milky Way than I’ve ever seen.  You’re lucky to visit this area any time. These days, it has an added attraction. COVID (like high-speed internet) is just a rumor around here. 

Mountain Bluebird Torrey Utah

Mountain Bluebird, Torrey Mesa, July 2020

We arrived just before sunset on Wednesday.  The wide open space, the quiet, the beauty – it all added up to a calm that I hadn’t felt in weeks. This morning, I took a walk around the mesa. There aren’t a lot of birds right where we’re staying, but the ones that come by are great to see. The first two birds I saw were a Pinyon Jay and a Mountain Bluebird. I added Juniper Titmouse, Lark Sparrows, and Violet-green Swallows. I also found an odd-looking sparrow that I assumed to be a partially leucistic  Black-throated Sparrow 

Black-throated Sparrow Torrey Utah

Black-throated Sparrow

The highlight of the day came this evening – clear views of the comet Neowise zooming through the universe. The photo at the top was taken from our bedroom balcony. I’m so excited that we’ll be spending the next two weeks here in Utah. My target bird is a Northern Goshawk. They can be found on Boulder Mountain, but not reliably. You have to be in the right place at the right time. Crossing my fingers I can finally add it to my life list.

Pinyon Jay Torrey Utah

Pinyon Jay, Torrey Mesa, July 2020