SALTON SEA !!
Such a misnomer. Salton Sea is certainly the most birdy place within several hours’ drive of San Diego. Most common people (unlike Birders who are uncommon) know where Salton Sea is, so this is the unjustified moniker used to identify the tremendous birding location in and around Brawley’s ponds, lakes and farmers’ fields.
A limit of 30 birders was advertised for the trip. This red-hot location was quickly filled with 31 eager participants. Now imagine 16 vehicles driving almost bumper to bumper driving the backroads like a lost funeral procession. “How to make this work safely and in some sort of semi-relaxed fashion”, Dianne Benham, being the chief organizer for the trip, said to herself? Dianne had envisioned a limit no more than 20! For starters then, let’s cram at least three birders per car. That cuts the procession down to 10 cars. Nope, still too many. Then let’s create two lead cars and divide the group in two. Ah, that’s better, with only 5 cars for each lead car to manage. Phew!
We raced from spot to spot! Quickly the binoculars, spotting scopes and cameras tumbled out of the cars with extremely enthusiastic owners behind them. Many of our group were newbies. As such, there were lots and lots of lifers to be found. Consequently, there were lots and lots of excited and happy faces. To me this was as gratifying as the birds we saw.
So, what did we see of particular interest? We saw two, not just one, Great-horned Owls in the rock crevices of Red Hill located just before Red Hill Marina. By the way, Salton Sea has receded half a mile from the marina, so you have to be particularly good in backing up your boat trailer. We also saw the cousins to the Great-horned. In fact, most saw over half-a-dozen Burrowing Owls mainly poking their heads out the burrows. On day-two our first stop was Alamo Lake and as we approached it looked like the trees around it was covered with snow, but no, a couple hundred snowy egrets endowed their branches. Our second stop was sort of a throw-in since it was an unnatural worn-out county park where only fishers put in their boats: Weist Lake. Low and behold there was several Vermillion Flycatchers, a White-breasted Sparrows, a lost Yellow Warbler… and I could go on. But, so what, most importantly it was a bathroom stop! In the reservoir, the flock of sixty or so White-fronted Geese was fun. I could go on about these exciting finds, but look at the list with professional syle photos instead.
In closing, I should mention at our final stop before lunch and goodbyes, we went looking for the infamous Jailbird. While we did not see any of these peeking through their narrow ten-foot-high slotted windows that each were provided in Calipatria State (Park) Prison, we did see other species in the pond below such as the Red-breasted Merganser and Canvasback Duck.
If you want to see our complete list of 116 SPECIES, meticulously documented and recorded by Steve Ellis, then click here: Palomar Audubon Bird Salton Sea Birding trip – eBird Trip Report
Until next time…