Monday, October 15, 2012

Joshua Tree National Park Day 1

The infamous Joshua Trees.

Thanks to AP classes at Agoura High School I ended up somewhere quite far from home. I wasn't quite certain if I would see what I would expect. It was October now, so most summer birds were long gone. That meant no Scott's Oriole among other things but luckily most desert birds are resident all year so there was some hope there. There were only 21 people going (17 students + 4 teachers) and the price for all the hospitality and tours came to $160, which is quite a good sum for such a trip.

The direct cost for me was about 40 questions that had to be answered for a trip write-up afterwards. There was also a scavenger hunt which involved a list of animals and whoever found the most won. Yeah, I didn't really need to do anything special to have a (pretty high) chance of winning.

The drive was a little over 3 hours. On the way I thought I saw a Peregrine Falcon (think of a kestrel but much larger and greyer) but I could not confirm it. Looks like I'll still have to wait longer to tick this one.

Since we arrived at about 5pm and we had to set up tents and stuff there wasn't a lot happening today.

Campground view.

Desert Cottontail, though this the same one found around Los Angeles.
Cholla (pronounced Choy-a). Cholla are a type of cactus. I cannot find anywhere to identify the species.

A little walk all over the grounds found a Say's Phoebe, a few Oregon Juncos, House Finches and Bewick's Wren. At dusk, around about 6:30pm, Gambel's Quails started appearing around the back of our campsite. These quails were one of the birds on the main scavenger hunt but did anyone else care? Not really. It didn't seem apparent that anyone else really cared about this hunt.

It was getting quite dark so taking pictures wasn't easy, but I did get some good ones when the birds (surprisingly) stood still for a few moments. Because of the low light all it would take is for them to turn their head and I end up with a blurry picture. Only 3 or 4 of the 60 or so pictures I took were actually focused properly. Here is one of them:

 There were a few birds that flew into the Joshua Trees as it got dark but they made themselves impossible to locate despite the trees only being a few metres (or less) tall.

I spent most of the darkness messing around with the camera and partially fulfilling McCartney's optional objective of "obtaining pictures for the student yearbook". So that is what I did.

As the sun completely faded around about 8pm another interesting creature started showing itself; Kangaroo Rats. These little rodents are usually extremely skittish but they didn't seem bothered by people; infact at one point one of the teachers nearly managed to stroke one. It took me a few hours to get any decent pictures as they darted around all over the place but it was worth it.

Kangaroo Rat sp.

I have no idea what species you get here. I really wish there was some reference for Joshua Tree NP. I haven't been able to identify most reptiles, mammals and flowers I have seen here because there is nothing.


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