Monday, January 4, 2010

Pissing On The Fire



The Salton Sea is one of the strangest places in the United States....in terms of socially, visually, and birdily. Although it lies in an ancient lake bed, it was created (by accident) and is now "maintained" by people. It's the largest lake in California, and is considerably bigger than Lake Tahoe....it enjoyed a lot of popularity some decades ago with the Hollywood crowd, but has since been abandoned from the public consciousness.



Somewhere in the desert, there are Abert's Towhees getting incredible kicks from things you couldn't possibly imagine.



Double-crested Cormorants are one of the commonest birds at the sea.

Because the Salton Sea lies in a naturally very salty area and is primarily fed by agricultural runoff, it actually becomes 1% saltier every year, or some similar figure. It is now considerably saltier than the Pacific Ocean, and now has an extremely simplified ecosystem (aside from its birdlife)....some invertebrates, a bunch of Tilapia (and maybe a few hanger-ons of other species), and a huge diversity of birds. It has been the site of massive die-offs of fish and birds, and it's not well known how much longer it's ecosystem will be able to persist in it's present state. It's an austere place, but it's history of bringing in facemelting megavagrants (I've seen four (4) species of longspur, Rufous-backed Robin, Roseate Spoonbills, Ruff, Sprague's Pipits, Painted Redstart, etc. in the Imperial Valley) will leave many a birder broken-hearted if it deteriorates much more. Granted, some of these rarities weren't found at the sea itself....but when you consider the fact that it's used by millions of birds every year, you tend to forget about the other stuff.....



Burrowing Owls can keep it on the down low when they want to.

Slab City ("The Last Free Place On Earth") and Salvation Mountain were both very popular with some of us on the Burrowing Owl crews when I lived down there, and I was happy to get back to see Leonard Knight and his mountain. Leonard is still well for those of you wondering, and was actually relieved to find out that I'd been there before. "It's that Google Earth", he explained, "because of that thing, I get about 200 people a day now. There's already been over 200 today."

He looked down at his feet, kicked the dust, took a deep breath, and shuffled determinedly toward the nearest tourist. "Hello there! Welcome!".

If you've never eaten at Christine's in Brawley, seen Calipatria's flagpoll, inhaled the fumes at Red Hill, or drnk too much at Slab City's talent show, you must. I'll see you there.



The great ornithologist Felonious Jive contemplates astrophysics in front of Salvation Mountain.

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