Monday, November 24, 2014

Bird of the Day: Sagebrush Sparrow in the Mojave National Preserve

Today's bird is a totally new one for me, and given the circumstances I'm not surprised that I've never seen it before. It's a Sagebrush Sparrow (Artemisiospiza nevadensis). They are apparently quite common, but hard to see, as they spend much of their time in the shrubs, and as you can see in these photographs, they blend in well with their surroundings. I wouldn't have even seen them except for the movement.
We were on our way home from a short trip in Arizona and stopped to stretch our legs at the Essex Road offramp on Interstate 40. This is one of the entrances to the Mojave National Preserve, one of the gems of our national park system. The park preserves a wide swath of the best parts of the Mojave Desert, with high mountains with relict fir forests, pediments with thick forests of Joshua Trees, and valley floors covered by some of the highest sand dunes in North America. The mountain range in the picture above is part of the Providence Mountains, which is famous for a number of cavern systems, including Mitchell Caverns. During the recent depression, the park was shut down, and vandals did their terrible work on the facilities. An effort is being made to reopen the caverns as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, the Sagebrush Sparrows were quietly moving along the shrubs near the freeway offramp. It was a while before I even noticed them. Although it won't surprise my birder friends, I have been astounded by the diversity of bird life in California that I've always overlooked in the past. There are a great many new birds out there to be discovered, some gaudy with bright colors, and others well-camouflaged in their drabness.

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