One amazing thing about the desert is the amount of wildlife. Most people think of the desert as a dry and lifeless, sandy and remote area of land but it is really an incredible wellspring of life. There were very few days that I did not encounter some type of animal and often the creatures I did come across were the highlight of my adventure. Here are a few of the birds and reptiles I saw on my outings.
I saw a lot of hawks this past year but couldn't get any real good pictures of them. They fly high and fast and I wasn't able to get the camera on them but they are a pleasure to watch.
Roadrunners are a different matter. I could probably take a hundred pictures of them. In fact, I have a pair that live on my street that I see almost every day. They are fun to watch and when you see one you know you're in the desert.
Hummingbirds are another desert bird that are difficult to photograph for an amateur like me although they are plentiful. These guys move FAST and when you think you've got a good picture they're gone. I was lucky to find this one actually perched for a second while I got my camera ready.
Hummingbirds are usually seen around flowers as this one hovers near this Palo Verde.
One of the best bird sightings of this year for me was this juvenile Great Horned Owl that Carl Garczynski and I saw on a hike in Joshua Tree National Park. He showed very little fear of us and Carl suggested that we were probably the only humans that he had ever seen and didn't know what to make of us.
Here he is just a bit closer.
Probably my favorite bird sighting this year was this Falcon that I saw near the start of the Art Smith Trail. He had a freshly killed Chuckwalla in his talon and had must have had a nest nearby because he hung around for a while even after leaving this spot.
Lizards were the most frequently spotted animal during my year of hiking. I probably spotted lizards on at least 75% of my outings. Most of the time I just let them be but Nikolas wanted to catch one so I let him. He also wanted to take him home but I insisted we let him go.
This Desert Iguana was lucky to get away from being caught. He was spotted on a hike when I had three boys along but he managed to escape.
Banded lizards, like this one, were the most plentiful and easily recognized.
Other than running under rocks the most frequent thing I saw lizards do were push-ups.
I saw a couple of Horned Toads (or Horny Toads as we called them when we were kids) and of the lizards I spotted, I most wanted to take on of these home.
I know frogs aren't really Reptiles but I didn't have enough amphibians to up them in their own category so this one goes here.
One of the most frequent questions I got about hiking every day was, "Have you seen any rattlesnakes?". Hiking hundreds of miles over three hundred and sixty-five days I saw one. Amazingly, I saw it on an evening in August when I thought it would be WAY too hot for a rattler. It was way too hot for me and I had Gatorade.