Springtime in Joshua Tree National Park
Our kids had spring break last week. While the adults weren’t so lucky, we managed to squeeze in a two-night camping trip to Joshua Tree National Park. As usual, we headed to Indian Cove campground. It’s a rock scrambling wonderland. And the April weather can’t be beat. It was also a full moon while we were there – amazing for night walks, but it does wash out most of the stars.
April is a good time of the year for birds in Joshua Tree. Migrants are passing through and residents are singing their hearts out and putting on displays. The best spot for birds at Indian Cove is a wash west of the campground. It’s full of vegetation, including a few trees. The can’t-miss birds visually are the Phainopepla. They were everywhere in the wash and attract attention with their flight displays and white wing flash. Another ubiquitous presence in the wash were the Gambel’s Quail. You hear them more often than you see them, making noise from deep inside some brush. Sometimes, you hear them and see them at the same time. The guy below was perched on a snag singing away
The wash was full of desert specialties. The tiny Verdin aren’t numerous, but it seemed like there was one every time I went out for a walk. This guy was working the bushes around our campsite.
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, like the one pictured at top, were also few and far between. White-winged Doves were coo-ing, Costa’s Hummingbirds zoomed about, I spied a Ladder-backed Woodpecker a couple of times, and a Scott’s Oriole was around on the last day, Black-throated Sparrows were (along with Phainopepla) the most common bird in the area.
The wash with the good birding is at the (west/left) end of the dirt road seen here after a walk through cactus and scrub. The Indian Cove Nature Trail dips into the wash briefly. Our campsite, #75, was on the north side of the road, just off screen to the right. It’s picturesque, and a decent spot. But because it’s on the south side of the rocks, the shade didn’t last long in the morning and arrived late in the afternoon (the group sites are on the north side of the same outcrop, and offer more shade during the day). As you might guess, Indian Cove is a popular spot with rock climbers.