Monday, July 30, 2012

Secret Boobies...The Gull Jedi Speaks...The Reluctant Bank Swallow

The view from the end of McDonald Rd., along the southeastern shore of the Salton Sea. Millet Island hides secret boobies in the distance. Not too long ago you could drive to the end of practically any road west of Davis Rd. and find crippling flocks like everything seems overgrown with tamarisk and the sea has retreated. Life is pain. SoCal birders, do you know if the west ends of any of those roads (i.e. Pound, Hazard, Noffsinger, etc) are still good birding?

The end of July...time to take stock, and to prepare for the onslaught of fall. Now is the time to start reserving your spots for fall in California, it has been a poor year for rarities, unless you were lucky enough to be on one of the increasingly popular "repositioning cruises", which are becoming en vogue with the region's power-birders. I just reserved a spot on a Monterey Bay boat in September....fingers are crossed for facemelt...

Speaking of least in a roundabout sure to check out Steve Howell's post over at the ABA Blog, where he talks a lot of shit about you and me and then somehow changes the subject to just showcasing his crippling photographs of flying fish. I don't know how he managed to combine these 2 disparate subjects...clearly he possesses some kind of blogger magic. If you don't know who Steve is, he ranks high on the Global Birding Ranking Scale, is really good at birding in Mexico, and is a Gull Jedi. He also is one of the few people who thinks Kumlien's Gull is its own species, which many others find embarrassing.

Aside from a few photos, most of my last few birding outings have been pretty lame in terms of photographic spoils or straight up rarities, with the exception of getting my 2012 Black-vented Shearwaters from a seawatch in La Jolla. People have been going nuts out there lately over a Pigeon Guillemot or two out there, which I find amusing for some reason. Anyways, I will continue to hammer you with Salton Sea pictures because that's what I think is best.

Black Skimmers were abundant and easy to see around Morton Bay. Whenever I see them recently I find myself looking at their strange overall shape and flight style, not just the humungo and freakishly disproportional bill.

Great Egrets are hot. Photographed west of Young Road.

I found a couple massive flocks of migrant swallows while I was there. I chose the perfect spot to look for Bank Swallow, a bird I hadn't seen yet in 2012. This one, along the Alamo River near Red Hill, did not look like it was enjoying its stay in the Imperial Valley.

See? It's about to keel over and die. These filthy young Cliff Swallows don't seem to be helping the situation at all.

Wood Stork is one of the Salton Sea's top tier specialty birds. The only way to see this bird west of Texas (north of Mexico, that is) is to come the Salton Sea in summer and sweat yourself to death. These birds, part of a bigger flock, has been dependable at Morton Bay for the last month.

Loggerhead Shrike. Crap lighting, but I like the picture. Look how haggard it is! Who knows how many songbirds it has slayed in its lifespan?

Laughing and California Gulls. So common on the Atlantic Coast that they make birders sick, Laughing Gulls are rare birds out west...except at the Sea of Salton. Did you notice that hideous, small headed mutant on the left?

Small gull. Big mouth.

Unlike the summer-only Laughing Gulls and Wood Storks, thousands of Burrowing Owls inhabit the Imperial Valley year-round. Photographed on Garst Road.


  1. Right-on! But you're a cruuuuel man Seagull. I'm super bummed to miss the summer-side birding at Salton. Wood Storks might be my spirit bird, but I'm never seen them to confirm this hunch.

    In the first photo, that gull clearly heard you call him a small headed mutant, and in the second photo he has a very downcast look to him.

    As a point of contention, I submit that even in their breeding plumage, Great Egrets are not hot. They may be the least pretty/interesting/awesome of the heron/egret group. Thoughts?

  2. The storks should be there for at least another month or so Laurence...youre not too late!

    Well, I meant that they were physically hot (they are both panting in the picture), but I have never heard anyone say such a thing about GREG. GREG rules by size alone, and with breeding plumes they can seduce anything.

    The worst North American wader award goes to basic plumaged Cattle Egret. They are like dwarf GREGS who are mildly afraid of the water.

  3. I can never see enough of any of these birds ... including the skimmers. I love the sounds they make on approach, the languid movement of the wings, and how enormous they seem next to the Forster's with whom they sometimes congregate down at Bolsa Chica. Beautiful post and photos.

  4. I would LOVE to see Burrowing Owls by the thousands, send a few to Utah to increase our popluation please??

    I've never been to the Salton Sea but you are making me antsy to get there one day.

    1. You would love it Mia. It is slowly degrading won't be around forever, at least not in its current form.

  5. The Burrowing Owl looks shocked, SHOCKED, by your comments.

  6. If you ever make it to Salt Lake City, I'd be happy to show you some hotspots for nutcrackers. They're very common in the mountains.