California Odes

Big Morongo Preserve is an exceptional desert oasis at the north end of the town of Morongo Valley, San Bernardino County, and just north of the Riverside County line (a bit of the Preserve is in RIV). Cottonwoods dominate along a creek running down through a desert arroyo, with marshes, willow patches, and mesquite scrub nearby. The Preserve is maintained by the Bureau of Land Management; in 1982 it was designated as an Area of Critical Environment Concern in recognition of its special values. It is operated by a non-profit group, the friends of Big Morongo Canyon Preserve. There is often a caretaker on site, with numerous hummingbird feeders around the entrance parking lot.

A wonderful series of well-marked trails and boardwalks wander through the Preserve, making it one of the most easily accessible riparian patches in the world. A fire in summer 2005 burned quite a chunk of the Preserve, but by 2007 much of the vegetation was coming back strong. The photo at the top of the page shows show of the burned cottonwoods with lots of new growth coming in around them.

Big Morongo is a famed birding site, and one of few sites in California with nesting Brown-crested Flycatcher (below right; my photo here 28 May 2004). During an Aug 2007 visit, curious Black-tailed Deer peered down from canyon slopes (below left).

My reason for visiting Morongo in 2007 was in yet another attempt for Neon Skimmer Libellula croceipennis. I had already tried four other 'known' sites (in Shasta, Inyo, and San Diego counties), without luck, and was concerned that the very dry year may have reduced the State's already patchy populations of this species. In late July, Peter Siminski found two male Neons at Morongo, and gave me nice directions. So I decided to give it a try on the long drive back from Ode Blitz III in August. I was lucky. A young male was present on the Marsh Trail on 14 Aug (left) and a full adult was along the Mesquite Trail the next day. In the interim I'd picked up Rita from the Ontario airport, so she got to see one, too. The latter male engaged in vigorous and entertaining aerial combat with a male Flame Skimmer, giving me lots of opportunity for direct comparison of these rather similar species.
all photos © 2007 Don Roberson