2014 Late June At Garner Valley

Pinyon Jay

I recall a lot of MacGyvering to my Samurai before this trip. I wanted to provide a sleeping quarters, suspended from the side of the vehicle, and a tent on a portable platform. I put a lot of effort into the project, but later scrapped the whole thing when I realized that travel in the Samurai over long periods of time had dangerous consequences to my health.

Garner Valley sits in southern Riverside County between the 8,700 foot Santa Rosa Mountain and San Jacinto Mountain, an even taller sky island to the north. Most of the valley is grassland with pockets of scattered trees and bordered by dense chaparral. I’d camped here in the past with the science teams from the San Diego Natural History Museum. The project was a restudy of the region, first conducted by Joseph Grinnell and Harry Swarth in the early 1900s. During these camp-outs I spent my time chasing bird images for the team, but I knew there were subjects out there I’d not captured well.

Pinyon Jays were one of the subject birds I wanted to get better acquainted with. During this visit the jays were raising babies not yet fledged. The young birds stayed at ground level while their parents and other family members watched over them from the low branches of the surrounding trees.

I had another memorable encounter I had during this visit when I found a baby Western Kingbird who had fallen from its nest and could not fly or climb well enough to regain its place in the nest cavity above. The parents still brought food to their prematurely terrestrial offspring. I stayed in the car and took pictures, not wanting to interfere with the birds. They seemed to be handling the situation on their own.

Birds I met on this expedition were Pinyon Jay, Western Kingbird, and White-Breasted Nuthatch.

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