Wednesday, May 11, 2011

California/Arizona, Feb 2011 - Day Four

Our third day in California once again started bright and early as we grabbed a quick breakfast, packed all our belongings into the van, and headed off to the famous Salton Sea for what turned out to be a great day of birding. At the north end of the sea, our first stop was at Bombay Beach, a little sketchy town right beside the water. A friendly dog came out to greet us, and we named it Jimmy, our trip mascot. In and along the sea, we found Black-necked Stilts, American White Pelicans, Eared and Western Grebes, and a nice adult Thayer's Gull amongst the hordes of California Gulls.

American White Pelican

 Black-necked Stilts

Josh with Jimmy

Moon over the Sea

After that quick stop, we worked our way down the 'coast' to the Wister wildlife management area, where we were greeted by Verdin, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher and Gambel's Quail among others. We continued on down a fairly muddy road and followed a side road over to the shore of the sea. The number of birds here was pretty incredible! Thousands of ducks, coots, gulls and shorebirds were out wandering around in the shallow water and there was a large flock of Audubon's Warblers working the bushes nearby. Included in the flock were Cinnamon and Green-winged Teal, American Wigeon, Lesser Scaup, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, Marbled Godwit, American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, Western Sandpiper, both Yellowlegs, Willet, Caspian Tern, American Coot, Snowy, Great and Cattle Egrets in nearby fields. Also out with the huge numbers of waterbirds were 3 Lesser Flamingos which was pretty cool. Another highlight at this stop was a Peregrine Falcon hunting the fields nearby. After thoroughly scanning through everything, we moved on into the agricultural fields nearby where we managed to find 2 Burrowing Owls right beside the road which posed for a few pictures at the mouth of their burrow. We also had a Ferruginous Hawk perched on a power pole.
Burrowing Owls

Snowy Egret

After that we headed to the Sonny Bono NWR and walked around the trails, picking up Common Ground-Dove, Greater Roadrunner, Abert's Towhee, many more Gambel's Quail, Verdin, and a Barn Owl which was roosting in a palm tree outside the visitor centre. On the road in we also had a flock of Snow Geese out in a field which was joined by quite a few Ross's Geese, White-faced Ibis and Long-billed Curlews.

2 Snow and 2 Ross's Geese allowing for good comparison!

Barn Owl

We then worked our way south to Brawley which supposedly has wintering passerines in their neighbourhoods and cemeteries. We didn't find much of anything here however, other than a White-winged Dove. Our next stop was at the Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge where we worked through the many flocks of shorebirds and waterfowl, finding Redhead, Stilt Sandpiper, Wilson's Snipe and 'Yuma' Clapper Rails in addition to most of the birds we'd had earlier in the day. In the fields nearby we had our only Sandhill Cranes for the trip, along with more Snow and Canada Geese. In the distance along the shore of the Sea we could see many gulls and shorebirds, so we decided to make the long walk out there to try for one of our targets, Yellow-footed Gull. We ended up walking quite a ways up the shoreline in the baking sun, finding Snowy Plover, Dunlin and Black-bellied Plover in addition to the shorebirds, ducks, pelicans, coots, grebes and such that we'd already seen. We sorted through the flocks of gulls but it was all for naught as we didn't find a Yellow-footed. After what seemed like hours we were all dying of heat and thirst so we decided to give up and headed back to the van. Imagine our surprise when we discovered it was only 16ºC (61F)!!! Guess the Canadian winter was getting to us.

The barren wasteland around the Sea

We then worked our way west along the bottom of the Sea, stopping in at a few points to search for gulls without luck. After a while we decided it was getting a bit late so we high-tailed it up to our last stop in Salton City. This proved to be our lucky day as within a few minutes of arriving at the shoreline we'd picked up both of our targets - Pacific Golden-Plover and 2 Yellow-footed Gulls! We also added Bonaparte's Gull here with a small flock of them.
Pacific Golden-Plover

We ended up making the entire loop around the Salton Sea, following the sun so we always had nice lighting! At the end of the day we headed off to Buckeye, AZ where we camped in a trailer park under the millions of stars.
Palm Tree and stars in Buckeye

Our total for today was 103, not including the flamingos! Third day in a row of 100+!

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