Sunday, February 1, 2015

Our Annual Diversion to the Salton Sea: Birding and Good Times with Friends!

Right at the beginning of the fresh new year, we made our usual trip to the Salton Sea, about an hour-and-a-half east of Cuyamaca Woods. This time our neighbors and friends, Bill and Susan Carter joined us. Bill generously shared his long camera lenses which fit on my Canon Rebel. This allowed getting some better bird shots than usual (as I STILL have not invested in my own long lenses yet, with all that macro photography distracting me most of the time).

As we drove in from Westmorland, we saw many American Kestrels perching on the wires, and the one below perched on the ground briefly.

American Kestrel, just south of the Salton Sea, California.
We were also lucky to see a cooperative Burrowing Owl on the drive in, as we saw no more the rest of the day (which is a bit unusual).

Keeping an eye on things in the morning sun.

The owl did some strange movements while we watched it - like this head bob-maneuver.
When we arrived at the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge headquarters, the usual suspects were around visiting the feeders and water sources put out for their benefit. That would be Gambel's Quail, Common Ground Doves, Abert's Towhees, and the ubiquitous White-crowned Sparrows. I didn't get good images of much, except this well-fed-looking Mourning Dove perched in a Palo Verde!

Mourning Dove, Sonny Bono SSNWR.
The walk out to the edge of the Sea was worthwhile as there was a Yellow-footed Gull hanging around with the Ring-billed Gulls and ducks. A good year bird, and a seldom-seen bird any time. It was so far away I could only get a rather blurry record image of it.

Yellow-footed Gull, Salton Sea, California.
We then headed over to Unit One, which had much less in the way of water-filled areas close to the viewing platforms than usual. The Sea is shrinking yearly, but this seemed like more than just the expected water level reduction.

Raccoon tracks in the mud, with salt at top of photo (as expected). Unit One, Salton Sea NWR, California.
All in all, we saw many good birds and had a great time with friends this day! Looking forward to next year's trip!

Susan and Bill, with Sandhill Cranes in background. Salton Sea, California.

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