The Big Morongo Canyon Preserve lies some 110 miles from Los Angeles. A good two hours drive. And a heck of a birding place - at least it was as I remember it from past visits.
I was able to convince my son, Kurt, to drive Cynthia and myself to Big Morongo with promises of stopping at Morongo Casino for lunch and then shopping at the Cabazon Outlet stores later in the day.
Birders go to Morongo Canyon because of the Vermillion Flycatcher. This is the only other place, aside from Prado Dam, where this gorgeous bright red bird can be found in the state of Calfornia. However, the very first bird that we saw was one that is rather uncommon and has an intriguing name - the Phainopepla. It had been quite a while since I last had good looks at this species and so it was a delight to watch the all black male perch conspicuously in the morning sun.
Somehow it wasn't that birdy that morning. The normally seen Gambel's Quails, the colorful Western and Summer Tanagers were a no-show.
Thankfully, the Vermillion Flycatchers did not disappoint. Nearby Covington park was where these gaudy birds make their home.
The rest of the local avifauna were the usual birds found in almost every forested park in California. At around noon we packed up. Time to fulfill my promises.
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