Monday, March 06, 2006

Salton Sea Birding Trip 2/3-4/06

(Don't forget to click on the picture to enlarge them.)

On February 3& 4th Paul & I met Steve down at Salton Sea for a day and half of birding. The first day Steve had arranged a guide to show us around. We met Bob Miller at his house in Brawley at 6:15am. The one problem with birding is the early starts that you need to get!! Something about getting up before dawn to start a vacation day ... well, you know what I mean! What a help having a guide was!! Bob took us places that I would never had gone. Some of the "roads" he took us on I would have thought were just a path through a field that would be private property. Hopefully when we go back there again we can find all the places that we went.

Here are the three guys, Steve, Bob Miller & Paul checking all the birds.

We started out in Cattle Call Park. This was Paul's favorite place on the whole trip. It is where they have the rodeo every year. Paul & I got a life bird right off! A male Vermillion Flycatcher.

After that we took off though fields and over to the Sea where we saw lots and lots of gulls and other birds.
At lunch we went up to the town of Niland to pick up some sandwiches for lunch. Bob told us all about Slab City where lots of snowbirds come down and spend the winter. It was Patton's training ground during World War II and when they left they took everything but the concrete slabs that the buildings were on. I guess it is getting run down and more people are living there year round so it isn't the draw for the Snowbirds that it once was. Another place he told us about but we didn't get back to was Salvation Mountain. Check out the web site for information on that. Looks like something everyone should see once in their life!!
After lunch we headed back to the Sea and lots and lots more birds. By the time the day was over we were compleletly worn out but very, very pleased with the day!!

Here's Steve the Birder with his scope.

One of the areas we hit with Bob had hundreds of great-tail grackles sitting in the bushes. He put the number between 2,000 to 3,000 birds. He said it was the largest amount of grackles he had ever seen in one place before. He couldn't figure out why they would have been there then and not before. It was a pretty amazing sight.

A Peregrin Falcon sitting on a telephone wire looking for breakfast. This is the first one that Paul and I have seen in the wild. We saw a tame one in New Mexico that his trainer brought in. Steve took this picture out the car window.

The next morning we started at dawn again and the three of us headed out to Finney Lake to see what we could find on our own. I didn't know how we would do but we ended up doing very well thank you. There is something about a lake in the early morning with the light hitting the water and reeds just right to put a smile on my face.

As you can see from the picture there was a haze/smog over everything in the distance. LA was real bad that Thursday when we drove through and you could see it just sitting over in the distance all weekend. Not a pretty sight. :(
The birding was a pretty sight though. There were several things that I really liked. One is the Great Blue Herons on their nests. The pictures really don't show it very well but there were a lot of them sitting around on snags in trees in the middle of the lake sitting on these great big nests.

Then there were the Great Egrets sitting around in the tops of the trees. Some of the trees had several of them just sitting up at the top.

One of the common birds you see at the Salton Sea are Burrowing Owls. If I remember correctly Bob said to look for pototoes with legs sitting on the side of the road. There was one stretch of road that he showed us that had about 14 owls along a 1/4 mile of road. They are so cute!!! They move their heads round to the back and it is weird!!

Another Life Bird for Paul & I was thanks to a great spot from Steve. Great Horned Owl. We would never had seen it sitting in the middle of the trees. Steve was able to get this picture of it before it headed off. That was exciting!!

Another nice bird; the American White Pelican

Another Lifer: White-faced Ibis. Look at the bill on that bird!!

One of the birds that I wanted to see was a Yellow-headed Black bird. I had seen them before but I really like that bird so I asked Bob on Friday if there were any around. He told us about the cattle feed lot where there would be some so we headed over there just before we stopped on Saturday. I thought there might be a dozen or so and about double that of Red-winged Black Birds. Boy, was I wrong!! We got there and there must have been several thousand birds all together. Most of them were the Red-wings but there were a lot of the Yellow-headed. What a sight. Thousands of birds flying around the cattle, eating the cattle's food and the bugs that went along with the cattle. The noise from them singing and fighting was loud!!

I don't think the pictures really shows how many there were there. I had one of the Yellow-headed but Blogger doesn't seem to want to post it tonight. I will try and edit this some other time and see if it will go through.

That is some of the story of the Salton Sea Birding Trip of February 2006. I am hoping there will be another story to tell of the 2007 trip if not sooner. I wouldn't mind going down to see the Wood Storks in the summer but the sound of 115degrees and messes of flies might keep Paul away!!
This is the list of the birds we saw on both days.
Peid-billed Grebe
Eared Grebe
Western Grebe
Clark's Grebe
American White Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Cattle Egret*
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night Heron
White-faced Ibis*
Snow Goose
Ross' Goose
Green-winged Teal
Northern Pintail
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
American Wigeon
Ruddy Duck
White-tailed Kite
Northern Harrier
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon*
Prairie Falcon
Ring-neck Pheasant
Gambel's Quail
Common Moorhen
American Coot
Sandhill Crane
Black-bellied Plover
Mountain Plover*
Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
Greather Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Spottoted Sandpiper
Long-billed Curlew
Marbled Godwi
Ruddy Turnstone
Black Turnstone
Western Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Stilt Sandpiper*
Long-billed Dowitcher
Herring Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Yellow-footed Gull*
Caspian Tern
Rock Dove
Mourning Dove
Common Grownd-Dove*
Greater Roadrunner
Great Horned Owl*
Burrowing Owl
Black-cinned Hummingbird
Anna's Hummingbird
Gila Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Gray Flycatcher
Black Phoebe
Say's Phoebe
Vermillion Flycatcher*
Horned Lark
Tree Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
Common Raven
American Crow
Cactus Wren
Bewick's Wren
Marsh Wren*
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
American Pipit
Loggerhead Shrike
European Starling
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Abert's Towhee
Sage Sparrow*
Savannah Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Red-wing Blackbird
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Wester Meadowlark
Brewer's Blackbird
Great-tail Grackle
House Finch
House Sparrow
At my count 104 with 11 life birds. Not bad for a day and half!! Steve, feel free to correct me on any of this!
Thanks Steve and Paul I had a great time!!

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