Plants and Birds and Rocks and Things

It was an interesting time to be in a National Park because of the partial government shut down (which at the time of this writing is in it’s third week). Joshua Tree National Park was still open but all the park rangers and maintenance staff where on furlough leave. The advice I received from locals was, “Bring your own toilet paper and trash bags and don’t climb in the Joshua Trees.”

This didn’t stop me from heading into JT (with toilet paper and trash bags) to see and sketch some of the beautiful sights in this high (and sometimes low) desert wonderland.


Located in the southern part of the park where the high Mojave Desert drops down to the lower Sonoran Desert is a grove of interesting desert plants know as the ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens). These tall plants may look like a type of cactus but they are the sole genus of a Mexican species found the United States, in the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts. After passing through the incredible Cholla Cactus Garden I stopped at the Ocotillo Patch, pulled out my camp chair and started sketching this amazing desert plant.

The Cholla Cactus Garden, Joshua Tree National Park


I sketched a few birds that I encountered in JT. When hiking in the desert you do not encounter very much avian life but when you do, it’s really something special. At first glance a desert seems a harsh and dry habitat, seemingly lifeless, but only after spending some time in the desert to you see the life that is perfectly adapted to this extreme environment.

I sketched three birds that I encountered on the Maze Loop hike (~4.6 miles), located in the northern part of the park. The black-throated sparrow, Gambel’s quail, and phainopepla are all common desert species that are relatively easy to see on a desert hike in the high Mojave Desert.

Black-Throated Sparrow

Gambel’s Quail


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