Salton Sea
20-21 Feb 2010
by Henry Detwiler

A weekend of excellent birding in the Imperial Valley with Megan & Sam on Saturday and with Ken on Sunday.

134 species seen  Click here for bird checklist
Click on thumbnail pictures for full-sized photos. border  


On Saturday morning I met Megan and Sam at the Comfort Inn, and we headed north to Cattle Call Park for the Gray Flycatcher. On Sunday morning I picked up Ken from Yuma and headed straight to Fig Lagoon, where we heard our target Least Bitterns and up on bluff found a tree full of Lawrence's & Lesser Goldfinches..


Ken at Castle Dome

Cattle Call Park was very productive, and before long we had nabbed the wintering Gray Flycatcher, a White-winged Dove, Gila Woodpeckers, Verdins, a Sage Thrasher, a Cactus Wren, Abert's Towhees, and American Robins.

Gray Flycatcher

Gray Flycatcher

As we traveled along the levee of the Salton Sea we watched Eared, Clark's, and Western Grebes, egrets & herons, and an assortment of waterfowl--on Saturday. On Sunday the wind was blowing so hard all we watched on the Sea were green, frothy, whitecaps.

Eeard Grebes and Great Egret

Western Gull & Pelicans

At Obsidian Butte on Saturday we thought we had a couple of Yellow-footed Gulls, until they stood up and displayed their pink legs--Western Gulls to a tee. On that windy Sunday we were happy to spot a Laughing Gull close to Lack & Lindsey, along with a Western Gull.

Ring-billed Gulls, Cattle Egrets, Red-winged Blackbirds

On course, on Sunday we went back to Obsidian Butte to try our luck again, and found that the Western Gull had been replaced by the Yellow-footed Gull! Fortunately, Megan and Sam had the Sunday morning free for birding, too, so they'd returned to Obsidian Butte, and were on the target even as Ken and I drove up!

Brown Pelican


Brown Pelicans at Obsidian Butte

Yellow-footed Gull

Ruff along Garst Road

Burrowing Owls are tougher to see in the winter than in spring, so we were happy to get excellent looks at several of these charismatic birds. The one pictured on the right actually stayed put even as we drove past it--within six feet.

On Saturday, as Megan, Sam, and I were driving along Garst Road on the way to Red Hill Marina, a different-looking shorebird caught my eye. A closer look revealed it to be a fine-looking Ruff, feeding along with two Greater Yellowlegs. One or two of these rare Eurasian shorebirds usually show up in the fall, and ocassionally winter. Moving on, we found the Lesser Black-backed Gull at Red Hill Marina, and a couple of Dunlin were nice shorebird additions. At Morton Bay we got excellent and close looks at Long-billed Dowitcher, American Avocet, and Black-necked Stilts. On Sunday, close to the corner of Davis & Shrimpf Roads, I heard a call that is much more common back around Yuma--a Black Rail!

Burrowing Owl

As Ken and I meandered south back towards Yuma, we kept a close eye on the fields, looking for little brown jobs scampering about the dirt clods. On one of huge hay bales we were surprised to find a Rock Wren trilling from the edge.

Rock Wren

Mountain Plover

Then, as the sun was getting close to the horizon, Ken spotted a bunch of birds in the fields off to his left. He'd found them, a couple hundred Mountain Plover!

Brown Pelicans at Obsidian Butte


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