Above the Clouds

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As Wilderness Rangers, we get to explore lots of different areas in the wilderness. Although it's fun to hike along new trails, I suspect many of you have a favorite spot that calls you back again and again.

For me, that favorite spot is Tahquitz Peak. It's a challenge for me hiking up South Ridge with a loaded backpack but it's always worth it. We are up there a lot since we are also Fire Lookout volunteers. We report smokes, fires, illegal campfires, record lightning strikes, take the weather and educate hikers who reach the summit. Since I'm constantly observing, I notice the wildlife that surrounds the tower.

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There are lots of boulders surrounding the tower so it makes an inviting summer home for the Canyon and Rock Wren. This summer, I had to rescue a cute Rock Wren like the one in the photo that flew into the cab and didn't know how to escape. Violet-green Swallows and White-throated Swifts buzzing the tower for insects is a common sight. Playful Ravens can be seen regularly as well. Golden Eagles and Peregrine Falcons are a lucky sighting. This past weekend, we had our first night bird, the Common Poorwills outside the tower as the sun was first rising and setting.

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Limber Pine trees grow at this elevation. They have frequent visits from Mt Chickadees, Pygmy and Red-breasted Nuthatches, various woodpeckers and the high elevation bird, the Clark's Nutcracker.


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Most of you probably wouldn't name Chinquapin as your favorite plant on the trail especially when your legs get scratched up. About a month ago, this is how the shrub looked covered in green, spiky balls. At that time, Painted Lady butterflies were covering it. Now these formidable balls have ripened. As they turn brown, they burst open and reveal nuts.


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The chipmunks are loving it! It's been fun watching nimble footed chipmunks scour the Chinquapin for exposed nuts. Instead of an Easter egg hunt, they are on a nut hunt.


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Clark's Nutcrackers are joining in the feast as well! They are not intimidated by the spiny balls either.


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Finally, every day as the sunrises and disappears beyond the horizon, I get to see the magnificent Salton Sea beyond the distant mountains. It's easy to understand why this large body of water is a magnet for migrating and wintering birds. This is a sea in trouble. I hope it will always be large enough to be seen from Tahquitz peak for the future of millions of birds and wildlife that find sanctuary there.



Happy birding where ever the trail leads you, Robin