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Early Announcement Morongo Valley & Black Rock Field Trip: Sat. & Sun, 9-10 May, 2020

February 19, 2020

If you’re interested in this trip, we suggest you get your motel reservation (or Joshua Tree National Park campsite) as soon as possible. Rooms do fill up due to people attending the music festivals in nearby Coachella.

Last year most people, including the leaders, stayed at the Best Western motel in Yucca Valley (56525 Twenty Nine Palms Hwy, Yucca Valley, Ca 92284, 760-365-3555 or national Best Western number 800-637-5958 (or possible 800-780-7234) because we reserved late and all the other, more inexpensive, motels were full.  The leader(s) will probably be staying in Yucca Valley on Friday & Saturday nights.

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)

We usually eat dinner at La Casita (Mexican food) at 57154 Twentynine Palms Hwy in Yucca Valley, just east of the Super 8 motel. Yelp reviews aside, we like it. But I don’t trust Yelp reviews anyway, whether good or bad.

Map of motels in Yucca Valley, the nearest town to Morongo Valley:  America’s Best Value Inn, Best Western, Desert View, Hat Rack Motel, Sands Motel, Super 8, TraveLodge Inn.

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.

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, Verdin, Scott’s Oriole and whatever else is around. If you’re late, just drive around until you spot some birders. The campground is nearly always 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.  Please call Jean if you are going.
Google Map to Black Rock Campground

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

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

 Sunday, 7:30 am – 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. Special birds of the area are Brown-crested Flycatcher, Vermilion Flycatcher and Summer Tanager, plus Yellow-breasted Chat, MacGillivray’s Warbler and most of the local desert birds, plus whatever migrant passerines happen to be arriving or stayed overnight. It can be very birdy, but it’s the luck of the draw and the local winds.

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.

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.  [Chuck Almdale]

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