Home

Paintings gallery

Video clips

Images

DVD

Contact

Site map

Links

Content

Introduction

San Jacincto

Riverside

Morongo

Palm Springs

Species list

Text only

 

Map and information of trails

I arrived here at 6am, and was surprised and delighted to find that there was a group of hummingbird ringers already here, working a 6 hour shift from 5-11am. This was a larger stroke of luck than I had imagined, since they only have sessions once a fortnight. It is part of the Hummingbird Monitoring Network, and one of the ladies at the processing tables was Barbara Carlson, the California Co-ordinator for the network (P.O. Box 55419, Riverside, CA, 92517, bacrcy@pe.net). I was later told that the most active time for the hummingbirds is the hour or two after dawn. They had set up a couple of nets on the feeders, and were processing the trapped birds at lit tables just around the corner. As I approached them after leaving the car, they were somewhat excited, since they had what turned out to be a Broad-billed Hummingbird, which was quite poorly marked, save for the limited blue on the throat, and barely discernible red base to the bill. This is a very rare bird for these parts – the first caught here in 6 years of ringing. I spent about 1½ hours watching the processing of the ummingbirds, and also the feeders themselves. Most common seemed to be Black-chinned, but there were also occasional Costa’s & Anna’s coming through. I picked up a female Rufous Hummingbird approaching the feeders after about an hour, which was then caught and identified in the hand. A bagged male Rufous was brought to the table about 10 minutes later. There were also nut and seed feeders here. Lesser Goldfinches and House Finches were regulars to these, with a female Hooded Oriole and male Summer Tanager popping in briefly later.

Ringing

Broad-billed Hummingbird

Barbara (right) with helper at processing table

Broad-billed Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird

Summer Tanager

Hand feeding a female Rufous Hummingbird

Summer Tanager at the feeding station

I was about to cover the trails of the preserve, when I had a short chat with one of the wardens, who told me that a Black Bear had been in the vicinity that morning. These are not seen here often, but seem to be starting to come down from the mountains to raid the rubbish bins. While we were talking, a Bobcat crossed the open area adjacent to Covington Park.

The preserve is known as an oasis in the desert, and this seems obvious as soon as it is entered. There are many trails through, which cover a variety of habitats – marsh, open grassland, mesquite thickets, desert scrub, and woodland mainly consisting of Fremont Cottonwoods and red willows. First trail to be covered was the Marsh Boardwalk, and a viewing point after only about 50m displayed the first Brown-crested Flycatchers. These are a bit of a local speciality, since this is one of the few places in the state that they can be found easily. Bewick’s Wrens are numerous here, as they are through the reserve, as well as Western Scrub-jay, and Bushtits. The trail became enclosed very quickly, which resulted in fewer birds to see, but the calls of Brown-crested Flycatchers (and Ash-throated for added confusion) were constant, with additional Summer Tanagers. This was also ideal habitat for Common Yellowthroats – seen but overall elusive. Water was eventually crossed on the Marsh Trail, and this was a favourite with 2-3 Spotted Towhees, feeding in what seems to be a typical Towhee fashion – hopping back and forth to disturb insects. Soon after the boardwalk passed the Mesquite Trail and opened out, an impressive and impassive Banded King Snake was found sunning itself on the recycled boards. It stayed put for some minutes, before moving off into the surrounding marsh.

Marsh Trail

Brown-crested Flycatcher

Marsh Trail

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Spotted Towhee

King Snake

Spotted Towhee

Banded King Snake

Shortly before the Barn Trail, the Marsh Trail opened up into a more open grassland area, with sparse mesquite bush. On the wooded side of this, a California Thrasher was feeding, spending most of the time out of sight in the bushes, but occasionally foraging in the open. One or two Summer Tanagers were in the bushes and trees overhead. In a bare tree nearby were 2 male Western Tanagers, perched in the highest of the branches. The short walk over the Barn Trail and open grassland only disturbed the numerous lizards. This gave way to open bush areas, bordered by enclosed mesquite thickets, with a family of Gambel’s Quail and chicks at the base, as well as a single Common Ground-dove. Within the tree covered part of the trail was a small length of stagnant water, with a more or less predicted Black Phoebe. Next to the water was a conveniently placed bench, which was pleasant for a short rest, and to watch the first definite Nuttall’s Woodpecker of the day in the tree above.

California Towhee

California Thrasher

California Towhee

California Thrasher

Yucca Ridge trail

Yucca Ridge Trail

As its name suggests, the Yucca Ridge Trail does actually follow a ridge for up to half a mile above the preserve. Even thought the temperatures are a lot lower here than in Palm Springs, and the climb up to the ridge not too taxing, it still saps the energy. This is a much more open habitat of desert scrub, but it is particularly good for Sage Sparrow, with at least 3 pairs seen. As soon as I left the thickets of the lower preserve, 2 California Towhees flew into the trees. Another plus for this trail is the view of the whole of the preserve below.

The return along the Marsh Trail was uneventful, and certainly a lot quieter than earlier in the morning, although a Cooper’s Hawk did fly out from one of the overhead trees, aiming towards Covington Park. A California Towhee was looking hot and bothered in the bushes which had earlier been host to the Thrasher, and the first Vermilion Flycatcher of the morning was in the bare tree about 30m in the distance. Above me, in some of the taller trees, and pair of Hooded Orioles were mating – seemed a little late in the season, but they obviously knew what they were doing! Covington Park was just a short walk through a gate from here, and was covered for a short time. This was probably a favourite haunt of the local families, with tennis courts, BBQ’s and plenty of picnic tables, although this morning it was fairly quiet. A couple of the rubbish bins had been turned over, presumably by the visiting Black Bear. This is probably the best place to see both Vermilion Flycatcher and Black Phoebe. Both were almost constantly in view, and reasonably approachable.

Black Phoebe

Vermilion Flycatcher

Black Phoebe

Vermilion Flycatcher

The last half hour of the morning was spent in front of the feeders again – a very enjoyable way to finish off a visit to an excellent site. Hummingbirds were a little quieter at this time of the morning, alhtough a few Black-chinned & Anna’s did stop by, as well as a male Rufous Hummingbird very briefly. The feeders and water tap continuously attracted birds, with a pair of Black-headed Grosbeaks added to the list of attendees. A single male Western Tanager flew directly through from the woods, and landed opposite for a short time.

Home

Paintings gallery

Video clips

Images

DVD

Contact

Site map

Links

Content

Introduction

San Jacincto

Riverside

Morongo

Palm Springs

Species list

Text only