Birding, Wildlife Watching and Animal Photography
by L. Bremner

lizardOne of the most challenging pastimes is viewing wildlife in a natural desert habitat.  Desert animals tend to hide out during the daytime hours making it difficult to view or photograph them.  Occasionally we will see a lone coyote cross the road, only to scurry away before we can get our cameras out to snap a shot of it.  Hikers may encounter some bighorn sheep in the Coachella Valley or Anza-Borrego areas, but most are too far away to really get a good look at them.  It is easy to view the quick, tarting lizards, numerous bugs and the random jackrabbit as they seek a safe spot to hang out during the day. Birding is a little easier.  There are areas where birds tend to spend their daytime hours, so you can predict when and where to watch them.

Finding the bighorn sheep is a little more difficult.  The Visitor’s Center at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park normally keeps of log of where they’ve been spotted recently with dates and times.  They have radio collars on some of the sheep and they are tracked by the park rangers to monitor their health and activity.  If you check in at any park visitor center they should be able to help you find the best spots in their park to view wildlife.

A few of my favorite spots . . .

The Salton Sea is a great birding area.  In Joshua Tree National Park I noticed a lot of birds in the palm trees at Cottonwood Springs.  In Anza-Borrego Desert State Park,  Coyote Canyon has a year-round stream where wildlife is often encountered in the early morning hours or late afternoons and evenings.

IMG_tarantulaThis past year I went on about two road trips a month in Joshua Tree National Park and out towards the Wiley Well District from Nov. through March.  On almost every trip I saw at least one or two tarantulas crossing the road around 3 or 4 pm. We were able to stop the car, take photos and record video of the spiders in their natural habitat.

It helps if you have the right equipment to view or photograph wildlife.  I use a Canon Mark II digital camera and a 500 fixed lens.  This is a great set-up for shooting birds or larger, hard to find animals such as the bighorn sheep.  It is hard to carry, so taking it on the trail is a bit challenging.  I find that if you find a good spot and just hang out the wildlife will come to you!  Any digital camera will work.  You may want to have the settings ready for an action shot, as the wildlife you will encounter will most likely be on the move. Take some binoculars and always have your camera handy so you can pull it out quickly if you encounter some interesting wildlife while wandering the desert trails.

Following is a list of links to various articles and guides on wildlife viewing and birding from our DesertUSA site.  We also have some great articles about photography.

Desert Wildlife Viewing – A list of destinations.

Bird Watching At The Salton Sea
Bird Watching Tips and Interesting Facts About Birds
How To Create A Bird Watching Journal

Bird Watching Basics
Bird Photography
Wildlife viewing At Coyote Canyon
Animal Photography
Photographing Desert Animals
Lara On Photography – all types of photography articles.
Desert Wildlife At Night

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Gull at the Salton Sea.
Gull at the Salton Sea.

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Lynn Bremner is the author of, a blog about desert road trips and tips. She started the blog after moving to Indio, CA where she now resides. Now a true desert dweller, Lynn has added in some of her own views on desert living. The heat does not keep her indoors in the summertime. She is out running, golfing or taking short day trips to some of the local points of interest. After years of traveling along the dusty, desert trails with her father, she has come to appreciate the beauty and solitude of the desert landscape. Her father’s passion for prospecting, desert lore and exploring the desert parks took their family to many interesting places, mostly in California, Nevada and Arizona. Lynn now writes about her desert road trips and intertwines a little bit of desert living into the mix.


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