Tag: Black-throated Sparrow (Page 1 of 2)

Springtime in Joshua Tree Nat’l Park

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher Joshua Tree

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Indian Cove Campground

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. 

Black-throated Sparrow

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. 



Indian Cove Campground Campsite #75

Campsite #75

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


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