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Morongo Valley & Black Rock Field Trip Reminder: Sat. & Sun, 6-7 May

May 4, 2017
Aerial view of Big Morongo Canyon Preserve (taken before the June, 2005 fire)

Aerial view of Big Morongo Canyon Preserve
(taken before the June, 2005 fire)

Big Morongo Canyon Preserve is one of the finest birding spots in southern California, known as a springtime migrant trap, frequently catching rare eastern migrants, hummers and orioles at the feeders, regular but local specialties such as Vermilion Flycatcher,  Brown-crested Flycatcher, Summer Tanager and Yellow-breasted Chat. On a busy day, the trees are fulled with migrating birds, especially warblers. Many local desert species are also seen such as Gambel’s Quail, Costa’s Hummingbird and Verdin. Reserve hours are 8:00 a.m.-sunset.

Nearby Yucca Valley has several motels and Joshua Tree National Monument has several campgrounds. Campsites at Mission Creek Preserve, several miles south of Morongo Valley, must be reserved at least a week in advance. (60550 Mission Creek Road, Desert Hot Springs, CA. 760.369.7105 Manager: April Sall)

Gambel's Quail (L. Johnson 5/3/08)

Gambel’s Quail (L. Johnson 5/3/08)

 Saturday, 3pm – Black Rock Campground near Yucca Valley: For those staying overnight Saturday, we meet at the Campground Visitor Center and bird in and near the campground, looking for Gambel’s Quail, White-winged Dove, Roadrunner, Ladderbacked Woodpecker, Pinyon Jay, Scott’s Oriole and whatever else is around. If you’re late, just drive around until you spot some birders. The campground is fully occupied Saturday night. Know how to get there as local signs are not well marked. Allow at least 2.5 hours – better yet, three hours, for the 140 mile trip from Santa Monica.
Brief Directions: I-10 or I-10/I-60/I-10 for about 2 hours to Exit 117, Hwy 62 North. [Do NOT go south to Palm Springs on Hwy 111.] North on #62 (Twenty-Nine Palms Hwy) about 30 minutes through Yucca Valley business area to intersection with Old Woman Springs Rd (#247) to left / Joshua Lane to right, and turn RIGHT (south) onto Joshua Lane. Follow signs about 5 miles to Black Rock Campground (unit of Joshua Tree Nat. Park). Meet at campground HQ. If you’re late, drive around the campground and South Park Rd. (to NW past the ranger buildings – see map closeup) until you find us.
Leaders: Jean Garrett (310)472-7209  Email: jeangarrett2001 [AT] aol [DOT] com
Google Map to Black Rock Campground

Vermilion Flycatcher male (L. Johnson 5/3/08)

Vermilion Flycatcher male
(L. Johnson 5/3/08)

 Sunday, 8am – Big Morongo Canyon Preserve: We officially start at 8am in the reserve parking lot, but feel free to arrive early. Birding is great in next-door Covington Park and some of the neighbors put out feeders and water, especially the corner house across from Covington Park. We’ll walk around the large reserve until we’re too hot, tired, thirsty,  hungry or all of the above to continue, then lunch, probably in the reserve. Allow a minimum of 2 1/4 hours for the 125-mile trip from Santa Monica.
Brief Directions: I-10 or I-10/I-60/I-10 for about 2 hours to Exit 117, Hwy 62 North. [Do NOT go south to Palm Springs on Hwy 111.] North on #62 (Twenty-Nine Palms Hwy) about 11.5 miles into Morongo Valley. Turn right on East Drive and go a short distance to the preserve entrance on your left. Meet in parking lot. Early arrivers can reach Covington Park, immediately south of the preserve, by continuing on East Dr. to Vale Dr., then left to parking area or along the road under the shady trees.
Leaders:  Jean Garrett(310-472-7209)  Email: jeangarrett2001 [AT] aol [DOT] com

Google Map to Morongo Reserve

Family Guide: Can get quite hot; not for younger children. 1-2 miles of boardwalk, cinder and hard dirt paths. Dress in layers & hat. Bring water. Lunch near the cars.

Map of motels in Yucca Valley, the nearest town to Morongo Valley: Super 8, Best Western, TraveLodge, Sands Motel, Desert View.

Summer Tanager (L. Johnson 5/3/08)

Summer Tanager (L. Johnson 5/3/08)

Directions to Preserve: Allow a minimum of 2 1/4 hours. Santa Monica #10 Fwy East about 115 miles to Highway 62. North on #62 about 11.5 miles, passing partway through small Morongo Valley town.  Angle right on Park Ave. to Covington Park. Turn left on Vale St., then bear right through several turns until you reach Covington Dr., the entrance to the preserve.  If the preserve is not yet open (7:30am), retrace your path back to Covington Park where the birding is great.  [Jean Garrett]

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