Californian Weekend: Joshua Tree and Environs

I spent the Easter long weekend in California with a couple of nights at Joshua Tree NP and Anzo Borrego State Park in the south east of the state. My main targets were rodents – Kangaroo Rats in particular.

A 3 hour night drive through Joshua Tree was unproductive. Maybe the full moon, or maybe the temperature – still down in the mid 50s – was to blame as Fiona Reid and Vladimir Dinets were bombarded with Kangaroo Rats when they were there last October. I only saw one rodent cross the road: an unidentifiable Kangaroo Rat. A Bobcat did dash across the road at about 10pm though, not far from the Cottonwood Campground and I saw plenty of Black-tailed Jackrabbits and Desert Cottontails. I camped on Bureau of Land Management land, just south of the park. The habitat didn’t look great but the next morning I had 3 different rodents in my traps.

A Pocket Mouse sp. that refused to leave the trap willingly and then escaped.

A gorgeously fluffy Desert Kangaroo Rat, my main target for the night before. This species is meant to weight 70 – 140 grams but this was a small one, only 40g. I imagine it must have been a youngster.

Dipodomys desertus 2

Dipodomys desertus
Desert Kangaroo Rat

And a Desert Woodrat, a second lifer for me, and extremely placid in the hand.

Neotoma lepida
Desert Woodrat

I spent Saturday exploring bridges in the Cibola National Wildlife Refuge. California Leafnosed Bats Macrotus waterhousi used to roost under at least one bridge. No longer… though the east end of the bridge across the Colorado River, on Hart Mine Road, appeared to have an active night roost of a species, possibly Macrotus. I did see some Mexican Freetails in the cracks of the bridge a few miles to the north, just above where the Colorado River no longer forms the Arizona/California border (i.e Arizona is on both sides of the river).

Tadarida brasiliensis
Mexican Freetail

Anzo Borrego
Anzo Borrego State Park

The next night I stayed at Borrego Springs, where I was looking for Dulzura Kangaroo Rats in Anzo Borrego State Park. Vladimir Dinets told me that they were common in the campsite and I saw 3 or 4 in the evening and another 4 just before dawn the next morning. I satisfied myself that at least one of these was a Dulzura Kangaroo Rat. The rest I am not sure about… I only got a brief glimpse at each animal and they might possibly have been Merriam’s Kangaroo Rats. I usually have considerable difficulty getting a prolonged look at any Kangaroo Rat species: they generally bolt as soon as I shine a light on them – does anyone have a better technique for observing this species? But Vladimir has seen only Dulzura Kangaroo Rats in the campground, which is reassuring.

Other mammals included a Kit Fox at dusk, and more Black-tailed Jackrabbits and Desert Cottontails.


Explore posts in the same categories: North American

6 Comments on “Californian Weekend: Joshua Tree and Environs”

  1. vdinets Says:

    In September there was one stretch of trans-Joshua Tree road that had new pavement and zero k-rats. Perhaps they now covered the whole road with the same stuff, whatever it is?
    Desert k-rats are smaller in JT than elsewhere; we noticed it too.
    The color seems really strange for a Mexican freetail. Or is it just the photo?

  2. Jon Hall Says:

    I wasn’t paying much attention to the road surface… I don’t remember it seeming all that new but maybe…. I brightened the bat picture up considerably so it was a little darker. If its not a brasiliensis then I don’t know what it could be … they were definitely a freetail species and that sort of white stripe up onto the cheeks said Tadarida to me… but happy to be corrected

  3. John Fox Says:

    It has just been random, as far as I can tell, when K-rats have been super cooperative. I’ve put out a pile of black oil sunflower seeds and had deermice tolerate light and stay for many minutes, it’s worth a try I’d think.

    • John Fox Says:

      Forgot to ask, was that at Borrego Palm Canyon campground?


      • Jon Hall Says:

        Thanks John for the tips. Yes the Dulzura K Rats were in the Palm Canyon campground (paticularly the stretch between the trailer sites and the camping area)

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: