Big Morongo - Hard to Find Desert Riparian Birding

I noticed recently that on my birding bookshelf I had a couple of copies of some old Birdwatcher's Digest (BWD) from the 1980s. The January/February issue contains a good article by Chuck Bernstein on a little known, but very cool, birding spot - Southern California's Big Morongo Reserve. The article inspired a visit to the place while on my spring break as a graduate student at Washington State University. It was the possibility of seeing a strikingly beautiful bird - the Vermilion Flycatcher - that lured me down there. Indeed Bernstein talks about making a pilgrimage there every year, if possible, to "get my symbolic blood transfusion" that keeps him going for another year.

Bernstein quotes the curator of natural history for the San Bernadino County museum, and conductor of a breeding bird survey for the area, as saying that "the desert riparian ecosystem has the highest density of breeding land birds in North America". Cardiff's survey records show an incredible 1400+ singing males per square kilometer. Unfortunately, very little of this habitat remains in the American West. Cardiff talks about how 95 percent of this habitat has already been wiped out.

Besides the spectacular Vermilion Flycatcher, other birds of note include:

I enjoyed my visit to this reserve and I was fortunate enough to see a male Vermilion Flycatcher - right after I entered the reserve, as I recall. I also remember seeing my life lister Lucy's Warbler and having to work to see and figure that one out (which I loved doing of course). I also saw the very handsome Gambel's Quail, also a life lister for me.
Big Morongo is a great place to bird - if you get the chance, by all means, check it out. Hopefully you will get to see the Vermilion Flycatcher and it will remind you, as it did for me, why you love to bird so much.






Amargosa River and its Riparian Habitat and Erosion Pattern, Mojave Desert, California, USA












A Vermillion Flycatcher Perches on a Tree Branch on Santa Cruz Island







Male Summer Tanager









Gambel's Quail, Callipepla Gambelii, Vocalizing









Gambel's Quail (Callipepla Gambelii) Female








Male Gambel's Quail Scratching for Food, Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve








Anna's Hummingbird

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