Backroads Visits Indian Canyons - 28 Feb 2022


As we enjoyed breakfast on the balcony of our room the first rays of the morning Sun was breaking through the palms. At 7 am the temperatures were warm enough to discard the jackets, so today was going to be a warm one (forecasts call for mid 80's). We'd be heading to Indian Canyons in the foothills of the San Jacinto Mountains.

We piled into the vans at 8:15 am and drove 20 minutes into Joshua Tree National Park toward Indian Canyons, which is run by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahulia Indians. We parked the vans in an oasis surrounded by palm trees that was otherwise exposed to open skies and the desert Sun. The plan for the group was to hike Murray Canyon with its 3.6 mi / 544 ft. gain or continue on to the Coffman Trail for another 0.6 mi / 111 ft. gain. Robin and I wished to take it a bit easier today, so we chose the Andreas Canyon route with its 1.0 mi / 300 ft. gain; it would give us more time to sketch, bird and rest.

As the group prepared for disembarking I ran to the nearby horse parking area and chased a half-dozen Phainopepla that were singing from the tips of the scrub bushes. Vegetation was dense, so my best luck came from gaps in the green that exposed the birds 50' away.



I lucked out when one bird popped up into the open and perched in the morning Sun. I was then able to get some shots of it taking off; the white primaries in its black wings flash as they take flight.





I then spotted this (presumed) California Thrasher. What is odd about this bird is that it has characteristics of California Thrasher (pale gray w/ white eyestripe) but the bill is short. Eyes are brown and the vent is white (not red).  So there are hints of Northern Mockingbird, Bendire's Thrasher, and Curve-billed Thrasher (?), as well. I put the pic on Facebook's Advanced ID page for opinions.


Robin and I headed to Andreas Canyon. It is picturesque with running stream to the left and massive boulders on the right. The trail is narrow and heads upward amongst palm trees and jutting stone. 








The stream to our left was nestled in shade so lighting was harsh. I had to settle for macro shots of the running water.





To our right the massive boulders jutted out from the mountainside and was home to numerous brittlebush, cacti, palms and flowering plants.


Brittlebush




Cholla (pronounced "choy-ya")



Phacelia sp.

Canterbury Bells?
















Overhead a Red-tailed Hawk was kiting (hovering) and looking for prey. 


This Chuckwalla kept a wary eye.


This Side-blotched Lizard is much more handsome than its name implies...


I could hear the buzzing of Anna's Hummingbirds nearby. House Finches were numerous, active, and more visible.



As I made my way back along the top ridge of the canyon I spotted a large California Carpenter Bee sampling nectar from fresh blooms of the Phacelia. The poor flowers tended to collapse under the weight of the bee. 





Just a short distance later I heard a singing bird atop the palm trees along the ridge. I stood in front of one palm for 15 minutes trying to locate the singer, and finally suspected a Cactus Wren. Sure enough, playback of a recording matched the unknown bird and finally it appeared among the swaying fronds.



Out on the scrub a pair of Phainopepla were singing their familiar "Whoit?" call.






Walking past the horse-staging area I caught sight of a Black-tailed Gnatcatcher foraging in the dense willow scrub. After several minutes of frantic focusing/tracking I finally grabbed a few pics of the frenetic bird.




Returning to the vans I found Robin sitting under the cool shade of the palm trees and sketching the nearby surroundings. Paige was putting together a wonderful lunch spread for hikers who'd be returning very shortly. 




A brief moment of excitement ensued when a Greater Road-runner was spotted running along the edge of the picnic area. I saw it duck behind a brush pile, but it disappeared into the creek before I could get the camera on it. As I searched for it among the palms and waterway I came upon more-cooperative Great Basin Fence Lizards




Some of our group chose the afternoon hike to the North Lykken Trail while the rest of us headed back to the Ritz. Robin had hoped to visit the Palm Springs Museum of Art but it was closed today (Monday). Upon returning to our room we were pleasantly surprised to find that Hannah, Paige and Brandon had ordered a bottle of Champagne to celebrate Robin's and My 30th Wedding Anniversary! God Love Them!



Happy Anniversary, Beloved!

Tomorrow, we head to Mission Creek and Whitewater Preserve.

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