TWENTYNINE PALMS — Close to ten bird enthusiasts gathered at the Indian Cove Ranger Station early Friday morning, Jan. 3, to help organizer Tom Haworth conduct the Twentynine Palms and northern Joshua Tree National Park portions of this year’s Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count.
More volunteers were expected to meet retired park ranger Joe Zarki at the western entrance to the park to take part in the count in that area.
Indian Cover volunteers were sent to areas in the park, including Indian Cove and the 49 Palms Oasis, and areas of Twentynine Palms, including the Oasis of Mara and the 29 Palms Inn, to count birds.
Volunteers gathering in Indian Cove included R.T. Elmore, who left the snows of Wrightwood to travel to Twentynine Palms for the count. Elmore is returning to bird counts after several years away.
“I haven’t done this in ever and then this year this is my fourth one. I don’t know why, they are quite fun,” he said, adding that he has taken part in counts in San Bernardino Valley, San Jacinto and Mill Creek.
Nancy Rader traveled from Palm Springs to take part in the count. she said she previously took part in a bird count in Newport Harbor Bay.
“I thought I would help out a bit in my neighborhood,” she said.
She learned about the count through emails from the Audubon Society, of which she is a member.
Kylie Caesar and Simone Steger came to the count with no previous bird counting experience.
Caesar, who now lives in Joshua Tree, recently took part in the butterfly count in Yosemite.
“We got to go up in the high country in Yosemite,” she said.
Steger said she was hoping the day would be a learning experience for her.
Bernard and Bernie Rochet are snowbirds, from British Columbia, who came up from Palm Springs for the bird count.
They are both experienced birders who have taken part in counts in British Columbia and, more locally, in Borrego Springs.
They also take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count held every February.
“We are also hike leaders for a couple of hiking clubs in Palm Springs,” Bernard said.
Most of the volunteers planned to meet at Sam’s Restaurant at the end of the day to turn in their numbers and compare notes.
Before the day arrived, volunteers were updated on possible weather conditions in and around the park by Zarki.
“There is still a fair amount of snow on the ground above 4000 feet throughout the central part of the park. While the snow is patchy, in many places there is from 1-6 inches of wet snow. Even on bare ground the soil is damp to muddy.
“I would suggest bringing an extra pair of socks in case your feet get wet. It was quite cold and windy today everywhere from the West Entrance all the way to Pinto Wye– basically everywhere above 3000 feet in elevation. People planning to meet at the West Entrance should dress warmly and perhaps bring some sun glasses to protect from the snow glare where necessary.
“The West Entrance groups should also plan to do a lot of walking tomorrow. Nearly all of the dirt roads in Queen Valley, Lost Horse Valley, and the Geo Tour Road are closed and will remain so for some time as they are still snow covered or with a lot of standing water.
“Some of the areas we typically count will only be accessible by walking. The winds were blowing strongly all day today from 10-20 mph creating a significant wind chill effect. Hopefully the winds will lessen tomorrow.
“The picture is somewhat better for the Indian Cove groups. You won’t encounter much if any snow, although the ground may be wet in some places. Indian Cove may have running water in the Rattlesnake Canyon area. Temperature were fairly mild, though cool, today, and winds were not as strong as at the higher elevations. That should help the birding as well.
“Anyway, it will be sunny so you can leave your umbrellas at home. Have a great time tomorrow, fill out your field data sheets completely, and be safe. Good luck and good birding.”