Thursday, July 14, 2022

Big Morongo Canyon Preserve - California

Big Morongo Canyon Preserve in Morongo Valley, California consists of 48 square miles of land located in the Little San Bernardino Mountains in a transition zone between the higher Mojave Desert (where the entrance and most of the trails are) and the lower Colorado Desert, which is part of the Sonoran Desert (where the 4.17 mile one-way Canyon Trail emerges). It is high in natural diversity and one of the ten largest cottonwood and willow riparian habitats in California. The Audubon Society has called it one of the most important avian habitat areas in California. It is designated an Important Birding Area and over 247 species of birds have been recorded there, with at least 72 resident breeding species. It is part of the dispersed Sand to Snow National Monument managed by the BLM with assistance from Friends of Morongo Canyon Preserve. 

I did not really appreciate Big Morongo until recently. I'd been there several times before this year and never been terribly impressed. But as I've become more of a birder I've realized that I'm seeing the big birds, not the small ones. Learning to see and photograph the small birds is a real art and Big Morongo has an amazing variety of small birds. 

Following are some of my photos from Big Morongo:
Bewick's wren, nesting in this dead tree. 

Wilson's warbler

Lucy's warbler

Costa's hummingbird

Black-chinned hummingbird

Anna's hummingbird

Western tanager

Summer tanager

Vermillion flycatcher

Vermilion flycatcher female

Nuttall's woodpecker - male

Nuttall's woodpecker - female

Black-headed grosbeak

White-winged dove

California thrasher

Hooded oriole

Bullock's oriole

Hose finch

Lesser goldfinch

Oak titmouse

White-crowned sparrow

Ash-throated flycatcher

California scrub-jay

California towhee

Brown-headed cowbird

Cassin's kingbird

Common sideblotched lizard

Western fence lizard

Western whiptail

Red coachwhip

Mule deer

Mule deer

A barn owl nesting inside the dead fronds of a palm tree.

A spotted towhee. 

A female rose-breasted grosbeak. 

Barn Owl

Northern Flicker

Hermit Thrush

Fox Sparrow

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

Botta's Pocket Gopher

Cedar waxwing

Western bluebird

White-throated sparrow


  1. This is an amazing variety of birds (and other animals) for such a small area. It's hard to see small birds, but even harder to photograph them.

  2. Sounds like a nice day trip place.