We left the motor home this morning with several possible stops on our agenda. We never know if these stops will be worthwhile or not. But that's one of the great things about our lifestyle now--we have plenty of time to find out. We often find we have stumbled onto a gem. That's what we found at this morning's first stop at the Coachella Valley Wetlands Wild Bird Sanctuary.
They're the folks that take in those injured or sick native wild birds, and then do their best to rehabilitate them back into the wild. These first two pictures are some of their more permanent tenants that also have become ambassadors for their educational programs that visit school children in the area.
The bird sanctuary is gearing up for spring, and the on-slot of orphaned birds that show up at their door. The director lovingly called these baby pigeons "pooping machines" that many sanctuaries won't bother with. But as she cradled this one's sibling in her hands, we knew she would do her best to get these guys back into the wild.
Our favorite orphans were the baby hummingbirds. This first picture gives some scale to the little knitted "nests" that were made for the tiny birds.
About a week old, this baby is alert and is starting to form some feathers.
From the other "nest," this orphan was a little younger, and didn't yet open his eyes.
They use a tiny tube to mimic the Mother's beak to feed the orphans. It was fascinating to watch how careful they must be with these tiny birds.
They can tell when the baby is full by examining the crop, the bag around their neck. This just-fed hummingbird has a swollen crop to show they have plenty of food for their body to digest now. They must be careful not to overfeed these tiny birds.
For some bird species, they have surrogate parents that will raise the orphaned babies. This owl raised 35 youngsters last year. This spring, her hormones are telling her to lay eggs. These eggs aren't fertile because she is unable to fly, so she is in a pen with a top to protect her. It was interesting to find that some of the surrogates were males, that patiently taught the youngsters skills to survive in the wild.
Birds aren't the only thing they raise at the sanctuary. They also have a healthy worm breeding area so they can grown their own bird food.
Another stop on our impromptu tour were the large bird pens. This is the last stage in the rehabilitation process. The director was explaining that it allowed them to make sure the bird could fly well, and could catch its own food. The two healthy hawks in this large enclosure were ready to be returned to the area where they were found injured.
We really enjoyed this time with the director. You could tell she loved her work and her birds. But she also had a healthy sense of nature. She knew that after they are released, many of her patients might become a meal for another animal in nature's chain of survival.
Our next stop had been recommended to us by fellow travelers. Shields Date Garden has been around since the 1920's. The Shields Family has been growing and developing new dates since they moved to the Southern California desert.
In an attempt to make their date store unique among many others in the area, Mr. Shields offered an informative talk about growing dates to tourists that stopped in at his store. He used a creative title to his presentation to get the attention of passing motorists--"Romance and Sex Life of the Date." Now that informative presentation is a film that plays on a continuous loop at the theatre attached to the cafe and store.
Since we had already been on a date farm tour, we can't say that we learned anything with this stop. But we enjoyed some great samples, and there was another opportunity to buy a date shake. There is a lovely garden behind the store, but we just peeked over the fence when we found out there was a fee to walk through it.
But the main destination of the day was the southern entrance of the Joshua Tree National Park.
Please forgive a narrative that is filled with single sentence descriptions.
But we took so many pictures of the beautiful flowers that we just couldn't narrow it down to just a few for the blog.
To make it worse, we were even shooting pictures with two cameras.
Denisa's pictures tended to feature close-ups of single blooms.
That's because she loves the simplicity of these beautiful wonders.
On the other hand, Mark's pictures tended to focus on the unbelievable blanket of flowers.
They are calling this a super-bloom, and we are so excited to be here to witness it!
We were a little delayed in getting to the flowers this afternoon.
The Coachella Valley is experiencing unseasonably warm weather, with day-time temperatures 15-20 degrees warmer than usual for this time of year.
The high today was 93 degrees, so we purposefully tried to find indoor activities during the warmest part of the day.
The coolest place seemed to be the casino in Indio, which was offering a very generous free-play option for new players.
The good news is that we exited there with $54 more than we entered with, and we missed out on some of the most brutal heat of the day.
The bad news was that the sunny California poppies were starting to fold by the time we got to this part of the national park.
We got to watch the sun as it was setting behind those beautiful fields of lupines and other wildflowers.
Looking to the east, we watched as the moon was rising over the mountains of Joshua Tree National Park.
When we looked down at our shoes, we had to giggle at all the pollen we had been collecting as we were enjoying the blooms.
These flowers can be seen all along the ten-mile road that leads from Interestate-10 into the visitor center at the national park.
It eventually took a little help from the flash to illuminate the field of flowers we were so blessed to be standing in.
We watched as God painted a beautiful sunset across the sky, and we knew that we had wandered into another of His wonders!
A picture with flowers, a sunset, and Mark--that must be a picture of Denisa's favorite things!
The funniest picture of the day, has to be the photo we snapped of Mark's feet before we got in the car.
We had to take another picture after he cleaned all that pollen off to prove those sandals were really black.
We stayed in the flower fields until it was too dark to see them. Between baby birds, dates, and wildflowers, it's been another great day in the life of two wanderers!