Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Mojave National Preserve Part 3: Ivanpah Road, Quality Snake Time, Sunbonnets

Finally, we have arrived at the final installment of the Mojave National Preserve trip. I've already prattled on about the preserve and most of the specialty birds, so let's kick it off with this sick native bee. It was a good year to be a sick native bee in the desert.

And while I've got you bug nerds worked up, here's a nice butter I'm not familiar with.

On this particular morning, I had taken the Ivanpah Road to explore another section of the preserve, with the goal of finding Juniper Titmouse, which we had missed at Mid Hills Campground. Eventually I stopped at a random area with junipers and managed to find some after a bit of walking around.

I've only seen Juniper Titmice a handful of times before, so it was very mellowing to have a bunch of confiding birds to follow around and hear vocalize - definitely not the same sounds I hear from my neighborhood Oak Titmice. I even saw one pulling fur off a dead squirrel for nesting material, but unfortunately I was too slow to crush. And yes, I am seriously contemplating putting a pile of dead squirrels in my backyard next spring to see what comes looking for nesting material. If you have any lying around, please send them my way next March.

Juniper Titmouse with juniper berries. I dig this image. How bucolic. How appropriate. In case you are wondering, about ~90 miles of desert separate these birds from the nearest Oak Titmouse populations, which are in the Twentynine Palms area.

I took too many Black-throated Sparrow pictures that look like's ok, but more of a habitat shot than anything. I didn't have the best of luck with bird photography on this trip - I didn't even see a Scott's Oriole, though I heard a bunch - but with 4 thrashers (not counting mockingbird), 2 state birds, Juniper Titmice and a number of species I didn't see at all last year, birding was Great Success.

Luckily, almost any herp you run across is bound to be crush-worthy. You will invariably run into some cool lizards out here. Zebra-tailed is an old favorite of mine - this one actually let me get pretty close without easy feat.

This is one of my speedier buddies. Check out the gradual transitioning in patterning from the top of the head to the tail, its pretty brilliant.

Some interesting pink tones on this moth-skipper-probably-moth thing.

I found hella Amsonia tomentosa growing in a verdant wash I poked around in. Some of the plants had white blossoms like this.

Others had blue blossoms.

On the way back to Primm, a ranger flagged me down and asked me to not run over the Mojave Green Rattlesnake crossing the road up ahead of me. Unfortunately for the snake I did end up crushing it flat...with my camera.

Not a monster, but a very cooperative snake that took its time meandering across the road.

Definitely the best looks I've ever had of a Mojave Green. I am guessing this is the most abundant rattlesnake species in the area, but I don't get into their range much very often.

On the way back to San Jose I convinced Billy to take a random road off the highway somewhere west of Baker to check for wildflowers. We found a really good patch that featured a lot of this little facemelter, lilac sunbonnet (Langlosia setosissima).

It was a total brainflower for me, I'd never even heard of it, but it was all over the place. Great wildflower, highly recommended.

I think this is Mojave golden poppy (Eschscholzia glyptosperma). Not a far cry from the familiar California poppy, but different enough, even to me.

We said goodbye to the desert lily, put on a weird (but enthralling) Henry Rollins interview, and headed back to the bay.

I would love to go back to Mojave National Preserve, specifically to camp and explore some more. Though there are only a couple of campgrounds, there are a lot of dispersed roadside sites scattered throughout the area, allowing you ease of access (especially if you have 4x4), privacy and some isolation...a winning combo. I'd be stoked to go back and take Annabelle again, but I think for the next couple years she will be a major cholla magnet like this poor wanker, and that is the last thing in the world I want to deal with. I got hit by a cholla bomb while I was there and that was bad enough.

At any rate, if you haven't gone, there are a whole lot of great birds/reptiles/plants waiting to meet you. I reckon March and April are probably best for wildflowers and tolerable temperatures, though the typical suite of target birds are all resident. Don't wait as long as I did to visit, check it out!


  1. Aye. I somehow missed this series of posts. Will have to go back and look for Parts 1 and 2. Mojave Preserve is one of my favorite places around. Sadly I did not make it this year, but I am not making the same mistake next year.

    I am sure the study has been done by someone, but in my anecdotal experience for most of the preserve sidewinder is much more common than mojave green. Night driving usually gives us a ratio somewhere around 5:1. Finding the sidewinder during the day for crushable non-flash photos is a rare occasion where as that is fairly likely for a green. Speckled can be found but are probably the rarest of the rattlesnakes there.

    Yeah, you gotta get to one of the "off road" campsites. Many don't require 4x4, although some do. Hit me up if you want some good spots next year but I ain't about to post that shit for the whole world and have my favorite spot ruined when a damn rave moves in on one's second night again.

    March/April for flowers but herps are going to be pretty sparse then. Depending on the year early May to early June is the best time when daytimes aren't unbearable, but the nights stay above 80°F for at least a few hours after sunset. Maybe one year you should come tag along with the herp/flower/camera trap crew for our trip and teach us some more birds.

    1. 5 to 1! Do you think that is a real reflection of relative abundance, or are sidewinders just more likely to be found by night driving? In any case, I've still never seen a sidewinder, so that is good news.

      We probably won't go next year but hopefully I'll remember to hit you up when we do. We did randomly come across several sites I'd be stoked to use. Definitely interested in joining forces at some point...I hope some of you drink whisky.

      If you're on a desktop or laptop, the links to the other posts are on the sidebar.

    2. 5 to 1 may be a mixture of both abundance and likeliness of finding on a road at night. We once had an 18 sidewinder night, where it got boring stopping for them . I can imagine that sidewinders could be more abundant because they are eating smaller prey which are more abundant than the larger prey the Mojave Greens are eating. Maybe I should see if someone has done the Science on this though.

      We should definitely join forces sometime. Whiskey, bourbon, and sunrise beers are all appropriate desert beverages.

  2. Helpful site for bug ID:

  3. impressed/inspired that you did a Mojave trip with a bambina!

  4. My street is a dead squirrel highway, so consider a package in the mail. The fur should still be fine by spring.

  5. Such a nice sampling of the Mojave. I'd say your butterfly is probably a Crescent of some kind and your moth a flower moth, perhaps of the genus Schinia, as they're pretty widespread. Nice desert poppy, E. glyptosperma. A key character for separating it from Cal poppy - notice how it only has basal leaves. Cal poppy also gets leaves up the stems.