Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Birding the Mojave Desert

Last weekend was a birding weekend away from the Central Coast, but not away from the migratory birds that spend the winter on the Central Coast.  I and five friends drove about six hours to Zzyzx and the Desert Studies Center where we would experience "The Birds of the Mojave Desert." (photo - Zzyzx pond, also known as Lake Tuendae) For more information on Zzyzx and the Desert Studies Center, Wikipedia is an excellent resource.  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desert_Studies_Center

The Desert Studies Center is located 8 miles southwest of the small town of Baker and four miles in from Hwy 15.  As you can see in the above photo, there is a beautiful pond, lined with date bearing palms, many of them Washingtonia filifera, California's only native Palm tree.  The water and the fruit bearing palms are a great attraction to many species of birds.  Late Saturday afternoon we watched a migratory Red-naped Sapsucker feeding on small, yet sweet dates of a native palm. (photo by Judy West)
As we walked from the "Center" to nearby Soda Dry Lake (below photo), we observed Black Phoebe,  Phainopepla, Loggerhead Shrike, Raven, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Cedar Waxwing.  Leading into a spring hidden in a thicket of Tamarix was a trail of Bighorn Sheep scat.
Saturday was a full day of experiencing "Birds of the Mojave Desert."
Baker town park:  Feeding in the freshly mowed grass was a mixed flock of Pine Siskin, White-crowned Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow,  Lesser Goldfinch, Cow Birds.  Ravens were abundant. 

Shoshone: A beautiful little historic town, with ample spring water. The owner of most of the local property is revitalizing the town with a focus on ecotourism.  Protecting wetlands and riparian restoration is paramount.  On the edge of a new crystal clear town pond we saw a migratory Wilson's Snipe, and Pied-billed Grebe.  In a nearby palm observed a Red-breasted Nuthatch.   Robins were busy on the school Lawn.   For more information on Shoshone and the desert wetlands - http://mojaveproject.org/dispatches-item/reimagining-the-amargosa/

Salt Creek: An important riparian and wetland area; a short walk took us to the wetland where we saw Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and heard Common Yellowthroat, and Marsh Wren. (photo - getting ready to head out on the trail)
China Ranch: A date farm, deep in a canyon near the southern end of Death Valley; we downed delicious date shakes and birdied among the date palms (cloth sleeves protect the ripening fruit from birds).
Desert oases offer migratory birds a place to rest, refuel and ready themselves for the next leg of their journey.   Great sightings of Gambel's Quail. (female Gambel's Quail by Judy West)
The weekend of intense bird studies was fun and informative, and I will have lasting memories of the beautiful and remote oases that give food and shelter to migratory birds, and perhaps to birds that are headed to the Central Coast.

1 comment:

  1. 6 hr drive is long but it sure looks like it was fun and worth it.Lovely pics of scenes and of birds.
    Glad you enjoyed dates , we love them here.
    what is the difference betweena lake and a pond ? Is a lake bigger ? and what is wetland area ?