Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Diversion to Indian Gorge, Anza Borrego State Park

We took a little trip to the local desert for an overnight stay in Indian Gorge, one of the more remote little canyons in the southern region of the park. It was around 97 degrees F when we arrived in the late afternoon on Friday, and quickly reached that temperature again on Saturday, after a pleasant morning.

This locale has canyons and side canyons, and a great deal of pale, whitish granite scattered all around.

An Ocotillo (with its cholla friend) clinging to the rocky canyon wall.

Last light in Torote Canyon, just off Indian Gorge.

Many desert bird species were seen and/or heard, including Sage Thrasher, Cactus Wren, Rock Wren, Black-throated Sparrow, Verdin, White-winged Dove, Bullock's Oriole, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher...and a special view of a Great Horned Owl near dusk in Torote Canyon, just off Indian Gorge. It flew low several hundred yards, and then perched for a few minutes on a rock on the boulder-strewn hillside. It was barely photographable, but I tried anyway.

Not my best owl photo, but ALMOST recognizable, even down to the "ears".

Phainopeplas were also very common, in pairs. At least one nest was observed. Many Desert Mistletoe berries were present in the gorge, and masses of berries that looked either regurgitated (or passed through the bird's GI tract) were sticking to branches here and there. Apparently this is the typical mode of dispersal of Desert Mistletoe seeds, as Phainopeplas eat great quantities of them.

Desert Mistletoe (Phoradendron californicum) berries.

Torote Canyon does have a lot of Elephant Trees (AKA Torotes) scattered on its slopes, some just "babies".

Elephant Tree at dusk (Torote Canyon) .

An Elephant Tree with its barrel cactus companion.

Overall, flowering was fairly minimal compared to wet springs, but Desert Lavender, Chuparosa, Ocotillo, several cactus species and a variety of tiny flowering species were putting on a modest show. Cooler temps should make their lives easier in the next few days.

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