Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Another Desert Diversion: Coyote Canyon in Anza Borrego Desert State Park

March 25 and 26, 2013: For many years I've been curious about what lies about 5 miles up Coyote Canyon and beyond, north of Borrego Springs. I had read and heard that there was a stream with water in it, and natural springs, but the descriptions of the road conditions with the big, jagged rocks, and all together too much sand scared me...until we got the new truck. So Gary and I braved the road and drove up 5.6 miles (to the REALLY intimidating steep rocky portion of the road, which still is too much for us, at least at the moment). But our visit to the lower portion of Lower Willows was amazingly rewarding, with Coyote Creek wet and flowing nicely, luxuriously leafed-out and flowering mesquite, and rich willow tree habitat resounding to the sounds of the Least Bell's Vireo, as well as many other bird species. Brittlebush, Chuparosa, Desert Lavender, Indigo Bush, Ocotillo and other desert species were also in bloom, despite the dry conditions overall. At night, the frogs filled the air with their mating calls -- one of my favorite sounds in nature!

This is just the lower end of the green strip, which was much richer to the north (beyond our reach without hiking in until we muster up courage to tackle the rocky road). A few native palm trees were visible in the sea of green willows beyond this point.

End of the line for what looks like a Mule Deer.

White-winged Dove in Ocotillo.

A RACCOON WAS HERE! Bobcat, deer (or Desert Bighorn Sheep) and coyote tracks were also abundant in the dried mud.

What I realized was a Chuckwalla, Sauromalus ater (a small individual) after looking at the photos later at home. Two were lounging on the rocks along the steeper section of rocky road.

Desert Iguana (Dipsosaurus dorsalis), in the dappled sunlight.

American Rubyspot (Hetaerina americana). There were quite a lot of these in the creek bed area.

A Bombyliid (bee fly) visiting Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa).

Indigo Bush (a macro -- these are very small flowers).

Lush mesquite in flower. The other mesquites further from water have not even leafed out yet.

Mystery red blister beetle. To be determined. In Nemognathinae.

Lytta auriculata pair.

Trichodes ornatus (a checkered beetle).

Eurybunus sp., a harvestman. It was out after dark on the sand. 

Looks like Tomarus gibbosus

A small (and unhappy) solifuge which was under the tent when we took it down in the morning.


  1. Oh, thank you for posting your photos! I, too, have wondered what was up there. I can more easily access it from the Anza side, but even that road would REALLY need a 4 wheel drive, and I don't have one thanks for sharing!
    ~~Cheryl Ann~~

  2. My pleasure, Cheryl Ann!

    Yes, I think it's pretty tricky from the north (and I heard the road is closed up further north also).

  3. Great photos, as always! That last thing looks like what I've always called a potato bug. I found one about 4 inches long when I was a kid.

  4. This spot was great!! Had a nice trail going up the creek with a whole bunch of great bird life.

  5. Thanks Kim! I think potato bugs are crickets of sorts, but maybe this is a kind of "Desert Potato Bug" ; )

  6. Great entry, I would love to see it in person. Your camera is working beautifully. Did you black light? Kim, I think potato bug is usually a Jerusalem Cricket, that indeed looks similar but is about as closely related to this arachnid as a whale to a cheeta. Some shapes just seem to make so much 'sense' that they get repeated ..

    1. I did black light, Margarethe. That's when the Tomarus came (with about a dozen others). A few Diplotaxis, and White-lined Sphynx. Pretty typical early spring array of insects. I always hope to see Phobetus, but have only encountered one of them - ever (in the daytime).