SALTON SEA, Riverside and Imperial County, CA

Bird Surveys


February 16-17, 2018 SE and S Salton Sea

November 5, 2016  SE and S Salton Sea

November 4, 2016 E and S Salton Sea, Niland, Calipatria, Brawley

February 14 &15, 2015   NE Salton Sea, SE Salton Sea, Salton City

November 14 & 15, 2014  Sonny Bono Salton Sea NWR; Brawley

November 23 & 26, 2010  Sonny Bono Salton Sea NWR

March 27, 2010 Salton Sea

December 29, 2008 Salton Sea


Gull - billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica) at the Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge, Salton Sea, March 27, 2010    © 2010 Callyn Yorke




                           Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) and Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens) Unit 1 SB NWR Salton Sea CA  4 Nov 2016


                                                                                                           © 2016 Callyn Yorke







February 16-17, 2018  Brawley, Calipatria, Niland, SB NWR Headquarters, Sea Wall, Unit 1, Vendel Rd., Salton Sea (96 Species)


                                        Fields along East Sinclair Rd., Calipatria  Imperial County California  16 February 2018                                    


                                                                                                   © 2018 Callyn Yorke



Weather: Partly cloudy; 40F to 75F; wind WNW 2 - 5 mph.

Time: 0630- 1645 hr.

Areas Covered: Following a recent  birding report by Guy McCaskie on this area (Feb. 13, 2018), I visited a few selected locations, attempting to document with photos, birds noted in his report, which are locally scarce or rare elsewhere in Southern California. However, the process of obtaining photos significantly reduced my total survey time, number of areas visited and vigilance. Even though I am familiar with the avifauna of Southern California, though somewhat less familiar with the shifting agriculture and biogeography of the Salton Sea, I was unable to reach all of the locations mentioned in McCaskie's report during nearly a full day of birding (Feb. 16). Nor was I able to observe the remarkable number of bird species (129) reported by McCaskie on Feb. 13. In an effort to augment my bird survey, I returned to the area the following morning, Feb. 17, for a few more hours of observation at four locations, Unit 1, NWR - north Vendel Road; Calipatria, Niland and the Riverview Cemetery, Brawley (closed on 2/16; open on 2/17).


My second day of birding (2/17: 0700-1240 hrs.), resulted in an additional 15 bird species found, bringing the total of birds I observed in the Salton Sea area to 96 species. Notable misses, in reference to the McCaskie report of Feb. 13, included, Blue-winged Teal, Inca Dove, Ridgway's Rail, Mountain Plover, Laughing Gull, Least Bittern, Gila Woodpecker and Sage Thrasher. I found only three bird species unrecorded by McCaskie (Feb. 13), Peregrine Falcon, Prairie Falcon and Northern Flicker. Another birder claimed to have seen a Bell's Vireo along the fence line in the sw corner of CCP, which I did not observe.



Birding Route, 2/16/18  1) I drove from Brawley via Austin Rd., to the intersection of Carter and Fites Rd. (CFR).   I walked around on the levee overlooking fields and two nearby homesteads with palms and other ornamental vegetation. This area was relatively unproductive for birds (0700-0730)2) Returning to Brawley, I birded Cattle Call Park (CCP), including the adjacent neighborhood (Willard St.), in a futile attempt to find hummingbirds (two residential hummingbird feeders found; both empty); three other birders were met in the southwest corner of the park, using playback recordings of a Bell's Vireo next to the fence line (0800-0907 hrs.). 3) I drove directly from CCP to Wiest Lake (WL), birding the entrance road, drainage ditches, picnic area, swimming area, and southern margin of the lake (0930-1024 hrs.). 4) Calipatria State Prison area (CSP). I drove the paved roads around agricultural fields near CSP, covering several hundred acres of burned, ploughed and planted fields, stopping frequently to observe birds from the roadside.Several other birders were also in this area during my survey (1040-1120 hrs.). 5) Niland (ND): I drove through the neighborhoods of Niland, including International Avenue and Fourth Street, birding from the car. The most productive area for birds was the first 0.1 mile on Fourth Street, in a residential area between HWY 111 and English Rd (2/16: 1230-1245 hrs; 2/17: 0930-1000 hrs.).6) I drove west to English, south on McDonald and east on Schrimpf Rd., eventually ending up on Sinclair Rd. (EMS:1245-1400 hrs.).   7) Sonny Bono NWR Visitor's Center (SBVC): I walked around the visitor's center, observing birds in the garden and from the observation platform (1407- 1425 hrs.). From the SBVC, I drove to the Sea Wall, stopping to walk back and forth on the levee, observing birds along the SE shore of the Salton Sea (SW: 1430- 1530 hrs.). My final stop was at Ramer Lake (RL), where I drove the west, north and northeast perimeter road (quite rough), stopping the car to walk and observe birds on the lake, through small gaps in the peripheral marsh (1600-1700  hrs.).


Birding Route, 2/17/18:  1 ) I drove from Brawley to Bannister Rd., via Westmorland, to Vendel Road. Proceeding northward on Vendel Rd., I stopped on the roadway near the entrance to Unit 1, NWR. Shotgun blasts were frequently heard about 0.1 mi. southeast of these fields, which contained a few foraging Sandhill Crane. Two other birders were also parked along this section of the Vendel Road, evidently watching the cranes. (A college-aged group of about twenty individuals with binoculars and cameras, arrived in this area as I was leaving). I continued driving to the two observation platforms bordering the marsh. I walked around this area, observing large numbers of waterfowl and waders in the shallow ponds. This area is evidently off-limits to hunters; the northern terminus of Vendel Road was posted as " Area Closed." Fortunately, many waterbirds in the closed area could be seen at relatively close range from the bordering roadway (VR: 0730-0900 hrs.).  2) I drove to Niland via Sinclair Rd., stopping at a large cattle pen on Brandt Rd., with hundreds of Ring-billed Gulls and blackbirds (mostly Red-winged). A local cattleman inquired as to my business there, possibly concerned about photos showing the terribly crowded and polluted condition of the pens. In Niland, I retraced my route from the previous day, along quiet residential streets (e.g. International Rd.), ending on Fourth Street and English Rd. (ND: 0930-1000 hrs.). A large cottonwood in a residential yard on Fourth Street, was the most productive birding spot (as seen from the road), producing two unusual birds for this area, Cedar Waxwing and Western Bluebird (found on Feb. 13 in this general area by Guy McCaskie). 3) Calipatria State Prison and vicinity. I drove the paved roads once again, briefly surveying the same agricultural fields surrounding the prison (CSP: 1010-1030 hrs.). 4) Riverview Cemetery, Brawley. I walked around the cemetery, briefly surveying birds on lawns and in mature conifers, which supported significant bird activity (RVC: 1230-1240 hrs.).


Equipment used: Bushnell Elite 8 x 40 binocular; Nikon D850 with 200-500mm VR IF lens; Google Nexus 12 mp cell phone.



                                                                                   Mecca Beach, NE Salton Sea  15 February 2018                                                                    


                                                                                                                                                                                                  © 2018 Callyn Yorke







Snow Goose  120  (ad, imm) cohesive flocks, foraging in marshes and fields in the vicinity of SBVC and VR. One adult with a broken wing, accompanied by two other individuals (one imm.- photo), roadside, VR.


             Snow Goose (Anser caerulescens) immature   North Vendel Road, NWR, Imperial County CA  17 February 2018


                                                                                                                                                                                  © 2018 Callyn Yorke



Ross's Goose  2  swimming together in pond, VR.




                               Ross's Goose (Anser rossii) North Vendel Road, NWR  Imperial County CA  17 February 2018


                                                                                                                                                                                     © 2018 Callyn Yorke






Gadwall  9  (m,f) swimming in shallows, north VR.

Mallard   15  (m,f) ubiquitous though relatively scarce; pairs swimming together in fresh water ponds and lakes.

Cinnamon Teal  500  (m,f)  ubiquitous in ponds, lakes and marshes.

Northern Shoveler  250  (m,f) ubiquitous in ponds, lakes, marshes.

Northern Pintail   150  (m,f) ubiquitous, gregarious; ponds, lakes, marshes.

Green-winged Teal  35   (m,f) gregarious around edges of ponds and marshes, VR.

Ring-necked Duck  1   (f) resting in open water marsh, VR.

Ruddy Duck 400  (m,f) ubiquitous, gregarious; lakes and offshore, SW.

Gambel's Quail  5 (m,f) foraging on seeds on ground beneath feeders, SBVC (photo).



                      Gambel's Quail (Callipepla gambelii) m (top) and female (below) SBVC NWR, Imperial County CA 16 February 2018


                                                                                                                                     © 2018 Callyn Yorke



Anna's Hummingbird  1  (m) perched atop salt cedar, CCP.

Costa's Hummingbird  1 (m) saltbush scrub in a vacant lot, ND.

Pied-billed Grebe   10  individuals swimming around margins of the lake, WL, RL

Eared Grebe  2 swimming offshore, SW.

Western Grebe  4  individuals and pairs swimming around edges of lake, WL.

Clark's Grebe 3  vocal; individuals swimming in open water, WL.

Feral Rock Pigeon   150 gregarious, ubiquitous in towns.

Eurasian Collared Dove  40 gregarious, ubiquitous.

Common Ground Dove  1  foraging on seeds beneath feeder, SBVC (photo); 2  flying across roadway, WL.



           Common Ground Dove (Columbina passerina) SBVC NWR Imperial County CA 16 February 2018


                                                                                                                  © 2018 Callyn Yorke



White-winged Dove  2  vocal, gregarious; a pair in a deciduous tree, CCP (photo).


                       White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica) Cattle Call Park, Brawley Imperial County CA  16 February 2018


                                                                                                                                  © 2018 Callyn Yorke


Mourning Dove  60  ubiquitous, gregarious.

Greater Roadrunner  1  running across roadway, Brandt Rd.

Sora  1    calls, roadside marsh, EMS.

Common Gallinule  1  swimming at edge of marsh, RL.

American Coot   600  ubiquitous, gregarious in freshwater wetlands.

Sandhill Crane  10 (ad, imm)  three or more small family groups of adults and immatures foraging in weedy grain field alongside road; occasionally vocal; one brief courtship display between two adults; wary and jumpy (especially during distant shotgun blasts), but staying within 100 ft. of the roadway, VR (photo).



           Sandhill Crane (Antigone canadensis) adults and immature  Vendel Rd. NWR Imperial County CA  17 February 2018          


                                                                                                                                  © 2018 Callyn Yorke






American Avocet  30  gregarious; foraging on shore and in shallows, SW.

Black-bellied Plover  1  on outer shore, SW.

Killdeer   80 ubiquitous, gregarious in flooded fields, marsh, edge of ponds.

Long-billed Curlew  80  gregarious; two large flocks (30- 60 birds) flying between and foraging in separate flooded grain fields, CSP (photo).


           Long-billed Curlew (Numenius americanus) Calipatria, Imperial County CA  16 February 2018


                                                                                                                           © 2018 Callyn Yorke




Stilt Sandpiper  7   gregarious; foraging with LBDO in shallows of marsh, n VR (photo).


              Stilt Sandpiper (Calidris himantopus) North Vendel Rd. NWR  Imperial County CA  17 February 2018


                                                                                                                          © 2018 Callyn Yorke




Western Sandpiper  1  edge of marsh, north VR.

Long-billed Dowitcher 120  gregarious; foraging in shallows, north VR.

Spotted Sandpiper  1  edge of lake, WL; 1 shoreline, n end of Garst Rd.

Greater Yellowlegs  40 foraging on outer and inner shore, SW; 8; individuals  foraging with LBDO, n VR (photo).


Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca) left; and Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus) n Vendel Rd. NWR  Imperial Co CA  17 Feb 2018


                                                                                                                               © 2018 Callyn Yorke





Ring-billed Gull   2,500 (conserv. est.) gregarious, ubiquitous; especially in flooded fields and cattle pens.

California Gull  15  with RBG in several locations, including shore, SW.

Herring Gull  20  mostly on outer shore, SW.

Neotropic Cormorant  3 (ad, imm) ID: relatively small overall size; small head and bill, compared with nearby DCCO; loosely gregarious; perched on snags with DCCO, RL (photo).


        Neotropic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax brasilianus) Ramer Lake, Imperial County CA  16 February 2018


                                                                                                                    © 2018 Callyn Yorke



Double-crested Cormorant   35 ubiquitous in lakes, ponds, deep marshes, outer shore.

American White Pelican  10  RL;  4  north end of Garst Rd.

Great Blue Heron   12  ubiquitous; solitary in fields, marsh, shorelines.

Great Egret   60  ubiquitous; solitary and gregarious; flooded fields, marsh, lakes.

Snowy Egret   12  mostly in shallows; widespread but vastly outnumbered everywhere by CAEG.

Cattle Egret  400  gregarious, ubiquitous inland, esp. in flooded fields; large roost at RL.

Black-crowned Night Heron  4 (ad)   hiding in marsh around edge of lake, RL.

White-faced Ibis  200 gregarious; ubiquitous inland in flooded fields, marsh and drainage ditches; often foraging with CAEG and RBGU.

Turkey Vulture  10  ubiquitous; solitary and gregarious (on ground).

Northern Harrier  8 (mostly fem.) ubiquitous; solitary; flying low, back and forth over agricultural fields and marsh.

Cooper's Hawk  1  flushed from roadside shrubs, CFR.

Red-tailed Hawk   14  (ad, imm)  solitary, often on utility poles; ubiquitous, esp. agricultural areas.

Burrowing Owl  2  one standing outside artificial pvc pipe burrow, SBVC;  one standing alert, within two feet of a busy roadway next to its burrow, W Sinclair Rd. (photo).


                   Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) W Sinclair Rd., Imperial County CA  17 February 2018


                                                                                                                                    © 2018 Callyn Yorke




Belted Kingfisher  1(m)  on steel cable over geothermal cooling outlet ditch, SW (photo).


                          Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) male  Sea Wall  NWR Imperial County CA  16 February 2018


                                                                                                                                       © 2018 Callyn Yorke



Northern (RS) Flicker  2  vocal; two individuals flying low over se section of park, CCP.

American Kestrel  30 (m,f)   solitary, ubiquitous on utility lines in agricultural areas; a vocal pair in CCP.

Peregrine Falcon  1 (ad) on roadside utility pole at edge of agricultural field with LBCU, CSP (photo).


           Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) Calipatria, Imperial County CA  16 February 2018


                                                                                                                           © 2018 Callyn Yorke




Prairie Falcon  1 (imm) flying 50 ft. agl over agricultural field, CSP (2/17).

Black Phoebe  10  ubiquitous around edges of wetlands and lakes.

Say's Phoebe   15  ubiquitous in agricultural areas and edges of marsh.

Vermilion Flycatcher 1 (m)  repeatedly sallying to lawn from low perch in conifers, RVC (photo).


   Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus) male  Riverview Cemetery, Brawley, Imperial County CA  17 Feb 2018


                                                                                                                    © 2018 Callyn Yorke




Loggerhead Shrike 2   on utility wire, CSP; agricultural fields along Brandt Rd.

Common Raven  4   solitary; edge of agricultural field and suburbs of Calipatria.

Horned Lark 14  flying low over fallow agricultural field, CSP.

Tree Swallow  400 ubiquitous over wetlands suburbs (CCP); gregarious; flying 50- 200 ft. agl in large flocks.

Northern Rough-winged Swallow  2  flying low over fields and drainage canal, CFR.

Barn Swallow  4  flying low around the lake and adjacent fields, RL.

Verdin  1  vocal; active in mesquite and salt cedar hedgerow along fence line, se CCP.

House Wren  1  in salt cedar hedgerow on fence line, CCP.

Marsh Wren  10  vocal (unseen) in wetlands with extensive acreage of marsh.

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher  1  snatch and hover-gleaning from mesquite and salt cedar on hedgerow at fence line, se CCP (photo).


            Black-tailed Gnatcatcher (Polioptila melanura) Cattle Call Park, Brawley  Imperial County CA  16 February 2018


                                                                                                                                 © 2018 Callyn Yorke




Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1  vocal; foraging in a variety of ornamental trees, CCP.

Western Bluebird  2 (m,f) in tall cottonwood with CEWA and YRWA, inside fenced residential yard on west Fourth St., ND (photo).


  Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana) left; and Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) Niland, Imperial County CA  17 February 2018


                                                                                                                                    © 2018 Callyn Yorke



Mountain Bluebird  8   on ground and on utility wire, near intersection of Sinclair and Blair Rd., CSP.

Hermit Thrush  1  on shady lawn near the fence line, CCP.

Northern Mockingbird  10  vocal, loosely gregarious (CCP); Brawley suburbs and parks.

European Starling  500 (conserv. est.) gregarious, ubiquitous; often with RWBL and BRBL.

Cedar Waxwing  4  active in tall cottonwood with WEBL and YRWA, ND (photo).

House Sparrow   70  abundant, ubiquitous in Brawley; less common in smaller towns.

American Pipit   calls (unseen) flying over levee, SW.

House Finch    20  feeding on roadside gravel with WCSP, WL.

Yellow-rumped (A) Warbler   50  (m,f) ubiquitous, gregarious, vocal; in areas with trees; esp. Brawley suburbs and RVC.

Common Yellowthroat  2  calls; edge of lake, WL;  4  vocal in marsh, n VR.

Abert's Towhee  10  vocal; individuals and pairs; most common in CCP and SBVC.

Chipping Sparrow  8  gregarious foraging on ground and lawn beneath mulberry trees, CCP.

Brewer's Sparrow  2  foraging in salt cedar along drainage ditch with large rocks, WL (photo).



             Brewer's Sparrow (Spizella breweri) Wiest Lake entrance, Imperial County CA  16 February 2018


                                                                                                                              © 2018 Callyn Yorke




Savannah Sparrow  30  ubiquitous; often flushed from roadside shrubs.

Song Sparrow   5  vocal;  CCP; marsh, EMS.

Lincoln's Sparrow  1  flushed from roadside shrubs, SBVC.

White-crowned Sparrow  120  (ad, imm) gregarious, vocal, ubiquitous in shrubby areas.

Dark-eyed (Oregon) Junco  2  foraging with CHSP and WCSP on lawns, CCP.

Red-winged Blackbird   3,000 (conserv. est.) gregarious, ubiquitous.

Western Meadowlark   20 ubiquitous in open areas; several individuals flushed from roadsides in agricultural fields, CSP.

Yellow-headed Blackbird  1 (f or imm m) with large flock of RWBL, BRBL and EUST in cattle pen, Brandt Rd.

Great-tailed Grackle  300 (conserv. est.) ubiquitous; abundant in Brawley; gregarious, vocal.

Brewer's Blackbird  500 (m,f) gregarious, ubiquitous; usually in msf with RWBL and BRBL.

Brown-headed Cowbird  10 (m,f) vocal; ubiquitous though relatively uncommon; often  with RWBL and BRBL; cattle pens and agricultural fields.

















































November 5, 2016  Sonny Bono NWR Headquarters, SESS; Obsidian Butte, Sea Wall; Unit 1 Vendel Rd., Salton Sea (70 Species)



  a) Viewing west from Obsidian Butte SESS  5 Nov. 2016 C. Yorke     b) Shoreline barnacles at Obsidian Butte  5 Nov. 2016 Teresa Palos






Weather: Fair; 56F to 90F; wind nnw 0 - 2mph.

Time: 0715-1230 hrs.

Observers: UCLA Extension Autumn Birds of Southern California class (11 students) and I.

Areas Covered: 1) Sonny Bono NWR Headquarters and Visitor Center at nwc of W. Sinclair and Gentry Roads, SESS (SBVC): We walked around the visitor center grounds and onto the elevated observation platform. Habitats surveyed included: fallow agricultural fields, palo verde - saltbush scrub, ruderal roadways and drainage ditches (0730-0840 hrs.). 2) We drove south on Gentry Rd. and west on McKendry Rd. to the outer levee road at Obsidian Butte (OB). Along this route, we stopped adjacent to a flooded agricultural field to observe flocks of gulls and herons. At OB, we walked about 100 yards to the shoreline, passing through a dense stand of woody pickleweed scrub and volcanic rocks (e.g. pumice and obsidian). The advancing shoreline was composed largely of barnacle fragments mixed with clay sediments (photos). Numerous dead trees had abandoned cormorant and heron nests. Most of the birdlife was on the outermost shore and in the adjacent shallows. Continuing by car caravan along the north-south levee, we arrived at the Sea Wall (SW) adjacent to an active geothermal plant and marshy drainage ditch. From the levee, we observed numerous waterbirds near shore; many concentrated around the freshwater outlet from the adjacent geothermal power plant  with active cooling towers (0901-1035 hrs.). We continued driving south on the levee road, then east and south again to Gentry Rd, passing through a mosaic of agricultural fields. 3) Our class concluded about 10 miles south of SBVC, near the north end of Vendel Rd., Unit 1 of the Sonny Bono NWR, at the south end of Salton Sea (VR). Habitats surveyed in this area included fallow, flooded fields, freshwater and brackish marsh, roadside ruderal patches, levees and clay pan playas (1100-1230 hrs.). Binoculars, spotting scopes and digital cameras were used for surveying each of the three locations. Distant shotgun blasts were heard all morning throughout the region.


Compariing my bird list from the previous day, eleven additional species were noted, including: Blue-winged x Cinnamon Teal (1), Green Heron (1), Sora (1), Dowitcher sp. (66), Western Gull (1), Yellow-footed Gull (2), Belted Kingfisher (1), Rock Wren (2), Marsh Wren (1), Ruby-crowned Kinglet (2), and Yellow-headed Blackbird (20).



Birds of seasonal and/or distributional interest found today included, White-tailed Kite (2), Western Gull (1 ), Yellow-footed Gull (2), and Yellow-headed Blackbird (20).






Snow Goose  80  (90% ad.)  foraging in very crowded flocks in flooded field with other waterbirds, including Sandhill Crane, sw marsh, VR.

Ross's Goose  20  with SNGO, VR.

Cinnamon x Blue-winged Teal 1 (f, imm m) a relatively small bill; blue speculum; brownish-cinnamon upperparts, nw marsh, VR.

Northern Shoveler  200  (m,f) foraging in crowded flocks in shallow ponds and marsh throughout, VR.

Northern Pintail  120  (m,f) in a crowded flock, ponds and marsh, sw and nw VR.

Green-winged Teal 6 (m,f)   swimming and resting on shore, nw VR.

Ruddy Duck  60 (m,f) swimming near and far from shore, OB, SW; in ponds, VR.

Pied-billed Grebe  1 diving in irrigation ditch, VR.

Eared Grebe  3  diving off shore, SW.

Western Grebe  10  OB, SW;  several lingering at mouth of freshwater canal outlet, SW.

Double-crested Cormorant  35 (ad, imm)    flying east from adjacent shore, SBVC; resting on shore with BRPE, WHPE, OB, SW.

American White Pelican  6  flying over, SBVC; 30  on and offshore, OB, SW;  5  n VR.

Brown Pelican  5  flying over w levee;  30  on and offshore, OB, SW; two or moref carcasses on shore, OB.

Great Blue Heron  3  flying over; 2  drainage ditches and flooded fields throughout; 4  edge of ponds and marsh; dry fields, VR.

Great Egret  5  flying; edge of adjacent fields; 8 on shore and in shallows, OB;  6 in marsh and edge of ponds; flooded fields, VR.

Snowy Egret  2  flying over, SBVR;  2  edge of marsh, n VR.

Cattle Egret  50  a loose flock foraging with RBGU in a flooded irrigation field on W McKendry Rd.

Green Heron  1  flying low over marsh, n VR.

Black-crowned Night Heron  1  edge of marsh, n VR.©

White-faced Ibis  3  edge of marsh, n VR.

Turkey Vulture  1  soaring over fields, VR.

Osprey  1 perched in tall dead tree, south of SW.

White-tailed Kite  2   one foraging over fallow field; hovering at 60-80 ft agl; swooping down low but not seen catching anything; another bird flying east, SBVC (photo).


                  White-tailed Kite (Elanus leucurus) note forward facing eye sockets, providing stereoscopic binocular vision


                     Sony Bono NWR Headquarters, SESS                                             ©  5 November 2016  Callyn Yorke 




Northern Harrier  5  (4 f; 1 m)  ubiquitous in flooded fields and marshes; one flying low and going down into field at SBVR; not seen capturing anthing.

Cooper's Hawk  1 (ad) flushed from brushy side of irrigation ditch on the east side of the visitor center, SBVC.

Red-tailed Hawk   5 on utility poles throughout the region.

American Kestrel  20  ubiquitous on utility poles and lines adjacent to agricultural fields.

Virginia Rail   1  calls (unseen) nw marsh, n VR.

Sora  1 calls (unseen) nw marsh, n VR.

American Coot  5  swimming near freshwater outlet, SW;  35  in sw marsh, VR.

Sandhill Crane  40  highly vocal, gregarious; several pairs; a few flying in from east, sw VR (photo).



Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) Vendel Road Unit 1 SBNWR, Salton Sea CA  5 November 2016


                                                                                       © 2016 Callyn Yorke






Black-bellied Plover  4  foraging on outer shore, OB.

Killdeer  2   calls; edge of marsh, n VR.

Black-necked Stilt  25 a cohesive flock; most resting at edge of sw marsh, VR.

American Avocet  5  on outer shore, OB;  2 n VR.

Greater Yellowlegs  3  on outer shore, OB.

Marbled Godwit  4  on outer shore, OB; foraging in shallows, nw marsh, VR.

Willet  4  on outer shore, OB;  3  on small peninsula in nw marsh, n VR.

Least Sandpiper  10 gregarious; on outer shore, OB.

Dowitcher sp.  6  on outer shore in shallows, OB;  60  gregarious; resting at edge of marsh, nw VR.

Ring-billed Gull   140  (90% ad) gregarious; ubiquitous; flying over; in flooded ag. fields; on outer shores.


Western Gull  1 (ad) ID: dark mantle; pink tarsi; on shore alone then moving to outer shore with HEGU (appearing larger than WEGU) OB (photos).


              Western Gull (Larus occidentalis) adult, same individual in both images;  (a) in flight    (b) left foreground with HEGU


                       (a)                                            © 5 November  2016 Callyn Yorke                                (b)                                                                        







Yellow-footed Gull  2 (ad)  one resting on shore - flushed to nearby shore; another individual swimming near shore, SW (photos). A rare but regular visitant at the Salton Sea; resident in the Gulf of California, Mexico


         Yellow-footed Gull (Larus livens) (a &b): Two different individual adults, Sea Wall, SESS  Imperial Co CA  5 Nov. 2016


       (a)                                                                  © 2016 Callyn Yorke                                    (b)




California Gull  8 (ad; C1, C2) on outer shore with other gulls, OB; a few flying over, SBVC.

Herring Gull  (90% ad)  on outer shore, OB.

Feral Rock Pigeon  6  flying over fields with adjacent buildings, SBVC.

Eurasian Collared Dove  30  on utility line and poles, SBVC.

Mourning Dove  10  areas with palo verde trees, SBVC; utility lines elsewhere.

Common Ground Dove  4   two pair; in palo verde trees and on ground, SBVC.

Burrowing Owl  2  on earthen embankment of irrigation ditch, W Sinclair Rd (photo); two in artificial pipe nest, SBVC (photos).


Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) three individuals; a) W Sinclair Rd.   b) artificial nest pipe SBVC SESS  5 Nov. 2016


  (a)                                        © 2016 Callyn Yorke                                                                  (b)





Belted Kingfisher  1  roadside marshy canal, SW.

Black Phoebe  13 solitary; occasionally pairs interacting; ubiquitous, esp. edges of irrigation canals.

Say's Phoebe  2  edge of fields, SBVC; McKendry Rd.

Common Raven  10  ubiquitous; flying over fields and buildings.

Verdin  2  repeated vocalizations in and around Palo Verde trees, SBVC.

Rock Wren  2  vocal; a pair active in volcanic rock outcrops  OB.

Marsh Wren  1  repeated song, calls (unseen) marsh at edge of irrigation canal, n VR.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet  2  vocal; active in Palo Verdes, SBVC.

Northern Mockingbird  1  in subcanopy of a Palo Verde, SBVC.

European Starling  12 vocal, gregarious; utility lines over adjacent field, SBVC.

Yellow-rumped Warbler  18  vocal, gregarious, ubiquitous in trees, shrubs and marsh.

Abert's Towhee  4 scratching ground beneath Palo Verdes and saltbush, SBVC.

Savannah Sparrow  2  in Palo Verde tree, SBVC.

Song Sparrow  2 vocal (unseen) at edge of marsh, n VR.

White-crowned Sparrow  10  vocal, gregarious, ubiquitous in brushy and wooded areas.

Red-winged Blackbird  200 (m,f; imm) a cohesive flock with YHBL, in a fallow field; rising together in a dense swarming flock and returning to same field several times, SBVC (photo).



            (a &b)    Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) with a few Yellow-headed Blackbird (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus)


    (a)                       Sonny Bono NWR Headquarters, SESS     © 5 November 2016 Callyn Yorke                                     (b)






Yellow-headed Blackbird  20 (m,f; imm)   with RWBL  in cohesive, active flock in fallow field, SBVC (above photos).

Great-tailed Grackle  2 (m) vocal; marshy irrigation-outlet channel adjacent to geothermal plant, SW.

House Finch  4 (m,f) in Palo Verde trees, SBVC.

House Sparrow  2  vocal; around buildings, bird feeders and trees, SBVC.

































November 4, 2016  Niland, Calipatria, Sonny Bono NWR Headquarters, SE Salton Sea,  Vendel Road Unit 1 SBNWR, Brawley (83 Species)



Weather: Fair; 53F to 89F; wind nnw  0-1 mph.

Time: 0745 - 1641 hrs.

Areas Covered:  1) Niland (NLD): I drove around the suburbs of Niland, surveying a watered playing field, yards and fields to the south along HWY 111 (0745-0825  hrs.). 2) Blair and Sinclair Rd (BLS): From HWY 111, I drove east on Sinclair Rd, to Blair Rd, then northward, looping back to the west. Areas surveyed included mostly active, mowed and fallow agricultural fields (e.g. alfalfa and citrus orchards). Roadside drainage ditches with water and some marsh vegetation attracted numerous birds, especially blackbirds and sparrows. I ended the loop at the pond bordering the south side of Calipatria State Prison (CSP) (0835- 0950 hrs.). 3) Sonny Bono NWR Headquarters (Visitor Center) at the nw corner of West Sinclair Rd and Gentry Rd (SBVC). I walked around the grounds and had a snack at the picnic table in the parking area (1007- 1030 hrs.). 4) Vendel Road Unit 1 NWR (VR). I drove north on Vendel Road to the northern most ponds and marsh bordering the shoreline. This area includes mostly fallow fields, marsh and ponds. Large concentrations of waterfowl were found in the northern most ponds (1054-1135 hrs.). 5) Red Hill Marina (RHM): I drove out to the now completely dry, nonfunctional boat landing. The lakeshore has receeded about 200 yards from the marina. Some waterbird activity occurred in the marshy area along the east edge of Garst Rd.  (1200-1215 hrs.).  Obsidian Butte (OB) and southward along the main levee - Sea Wall (SW). I walked out from the western most parking area of OB, to the shoreline. Waterbirds were on the shore and in the shallows of the sea, but rather too distant for all to be reliably identified (1230- 1310 hrs.). Ramer and Finney Lakes (RFL) east of HWY 111: I drove around the lakes on a dusty road where the waterbirds could be viewed between breaks in a dense tamarisk-mesquite border (1330-1300 hrs. Cattle Call Park, Brawley (CCP): I walked the length of the western edge of the park, through the picnic area of trees and lawns (1550-1641 hrs.).



Birds of seasonal and/or distributional interest found today included, White-tailed Kite (1),Peregrine Falcon (1), Prairie Falcon (1), Common Gallinule (1), Sandhill Crane (200), Bonaparte's Gull (13), Herring Gull (6), Greater Roadrunner (1), Burrowing Owl (3), Red-naped Sapsucker (1), American Robin (1), Chipping Sparrow (12), and Brewer's Blackbird (3).






Snow Goose  160  in flooded field, VR.

Ross's Goose  20  with SNGO, VR.

Cackling Goose  4  with CAGO and SNGO, VR.

Canada Goose  10  with CKGO and SNGO, VR.

American Wigeon  2 (m)   in marsh with other dabbling ducks, VR.

Northern Shoveler  200  (m,f)  ubiquitous, often crowded in ponds and marsh, VR.

Northern Pintail  100 (m,f) VR.

Green-winged Teal  5  in marsh, n pond, VR.

Red-breasted Merganser  1 (f) in pond, CSP.

Ruddy Duck  40 (m,f)   OB, SW, VR.

Gambel's Quail  2 (m,f)   a pair foraging at edge of picnic area, SBVC (photo).



Gambel's Quail (Callipepla gambelii) male  SBNWR Visitor Center, SESS, Imperial Co CA  4 Nov 2016


                                                                                                            © 2016 Callyn Yorke 





Pied-billed Grebe   1  swimming near shore, RFL.

Eared Grebe  2   diving about 50 yards offshore, OB, SW.

Western Grebe   4   swimming near shore, OB, SW;  2  RFL.

Double-crested Cormorant    6  flying around over fields and shore; ubiquitous; esp. RFL.

American White Pelican  20  resting on shore with BRPE; OB, SW, n pond VR.

Brown Pelican 15 resting on shore; flying offshore  OB, SW.

Great Blue Heron  15  solitary; ubiquitous at edge of drainage ditches; on shore, flooded fields

Great Egret   30 usually with other wading birds; ubiquitous.

Snowy Egret  4   in flooded fields and ponds throughout.

Cattle Egret  6  flying over fields, SBVC.

Black-crowned Night Heron   1 (ad) edge of pond, CSP;  2  flying, RFL.

White-faced Ibis  50   ubiquitous;  flocks in flooded fields and roadside marshes, with other wading birds.

Turkey Vulture  3 flying low over fields next to geothermal plant, SBVC.

Osprey  1  perched on utility pole, RHM;  1 with fish in dead tree, SW.

White-tailed Kite  1  flying over field, SBVC.

Northern Harrier  6  (f) flying low over fields and marshes throughout.

Cooper's Hawk   1 flying over park, CCP.

Red-tailed Hawk   15  ubiquitous; on utility roadside utility poles.

American Kestrel  25  ubiquitous on utility poles and lines.

Peregrine Falcon  1  perched on low snag in dry basin near n pond and levee, VL.

Prairie Falcon  1 flying over field, CSP.

Virginia Rail  calls (unseen) marsh adjacent to viewing platform, VL.

Common Moorhen  1  swimming near shore, RFL.

American Coot   80  ubiquitous in marshes, ponds, lakes.

Sandhill Crane  200  pairs and individuals;  a loose, vocal flock in flooded field and adjacent shallows of pond; VR (photos).



Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) Vendel Road, SBNWR Unit 1, Salton Sea  Imperial County CA  4 Nov. 2016

                                                                                                                                            © 2016 Callyn Yorke




Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) Vendel Road, Unit 1 SBNWR Salton Sea, Imperial County CA  4 Nov. 2016

                                                                                                                    © 2016 Callyn Yorke





Black-bellied Plover  3  foraging on outer shore, OB.

Killdeer  calls from marsh,  VL.

Black-necked Stilt   40  cohesive flocks resting in marshy shallows, VL.

American Avocet  2  on shore, SW, 4  VL.

Spotted Sandpiper  1  resting on embankment of catchment pond in citrus grove e of CSP.

Greater Yellowlegs   2  on shore,  OB.

Willet   3  on shore, OB.

Marbled Godwit  5   foraging in shallows, OB.

Least Sandpiper  20  foraging on outer shore, OB, SW, edge of pond, VR..

Bonaparte's Gull  13   a cohesive flock flying n above n pond, VL.

Franklin's Gull ? 1 (imm)  seen briefly flying away from pond, CSP.

Ring-billed Gull  200  ubiquitous, many flying over fields; esp, outer shore OB, SW, CSP.

California Gull  10 (C1, C2),  on shore, OB.

Herring Gull  12 (ad; 1 C1) on shore, OB.

Forster's Tern  2  flying around andrepeatedly diving in pond, CSP.

Feral Rock Pigeon  50  small flocks scattered around buildings and towns throughout.

Eurasian Collared Dove  100 gregarious, ubiquitous around towns and buildings.

White-winged Dove  2  on utility line,  NLD.

Mourning Dove   30  ubiquitous around towns and buildings.

Common Ground Dove 4  around visitor center, SBVC;  2 flying  RFL;  2  CCP.

Greater Roadrunner  1  on fence at edge of abandoned cattle pen, BLS.

Burrowing Owl   3  individuals near their burrows on roadside embankment at edge of agricultural field about to be sprayed with insecticide, W Sinclair Rd (photo).



Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) W Sinclair Rd. SESS  Imperial County CA 4 Nov. 2016

                                                                                                       © 2016 Callyn Yorke






Red-naped Sapsucker  1  visiting several severely pruned deciduous trees in park, CCP (photo).



Red-naped Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus nuchalis) Cattle Call Park, Brawley, CA  4 Nov. 2016


                                                                                 © 2016 Callyn Yorke





Northern Flicker  2   vocal; flying; foraging on ground in park, CCP.

Black Phoebe  20  vocal, ubiquitous, esp. in and around towns.

Say's Phoebe  5   edge of agricultural fields and towns throughout.

Loggerhead Shrike  1  on utility wire, BLS.

Common Raven   10  flying around buildings and edge of fields throughout.

Verdin  2  repeated calls, palo verdes around visitor center, SBVC; 2 NLD.

Gnatcatcher sp.  calls (unseen) , brushy ditch, SBVC.

American Robin  1 on park lawn, CCP.

Northern Mockingbird  4  NLD; 1 SBVC; 2  CCP.

European Starling   100  ubiquitous in and around towns.

Yellow-rumped Warbler   40  vocal, gregarious, ubiquitous in and around towns and areas with planted trees; also marshes and saltbush scrub.

Common Yellowthroat  calls, marsh, VL.

Abert's Towhee  2   foraging on ground SBVC;  8  scratching vigorously in patches of mowed grass and organic litter  CCP (photo).



Abert's Towhee (Melozone aberti)  Cattle Call Park, Brawley CA  4 November 2016

                                                                                                                      © 2016 Callyn Yorke





Chipping Sparrow  12  a cohesive flock foraging at edge of uncut lawn and fence line next to deciduous trees, CCP.

Savannah Sparrow   40  in loose flocks, saltbush scrub in roadside ditches throughout.

Song Sparrow  calls (unseen) marsh, VR.

White-crowned Sparrow   80  vocal, gregarious, ubiquitous in brushy areas.

Red-winged Blackbird   2,000  gregarious; abundant around cattle pens and open fields, BLS.

Western Meadowlark    40  vocal, ubiquitous in agricultural fields.

Brewer's Blackbird  3  (m,f) foraging on well-watered playing filed, NLD.

Great-tailed Grackle    12  foraging on playing field, NLD;   50  around cattle pens and in adjacent roadside irrigation ditches, BLS.

Brown-headed Cowbird  calls, flying, BLS.

House Finch 10   suburban gardens and brushy areas, NLD.

House Sparrow   15  ubiquitous, though nowhere abundant, in and around towns.










































FEBRUARY 14 & 15, 2015: NE Salton Sea, Sonny Bono NWR Headquarters (SE Salton Sea), Salton City (W Salton Sea) (70 Species)

Weather: Fair; 60F to 88F; wind WNW, ENE  2 - 5 mph.

Time: 1500-1600 hrs (2/14); 0900 - 1630 hrs. (2/15).

Observers: Terry Latasa, Merissa Mendez and I.

Areas Covered:  1) Northeast Salton Sea: We surveyed the shoreline and open water at the second (north) HWY 111 turnout to a parking/recreational area (NESS 2/14: 1500-1530 hrs.).  2) We walked around the Sonny Bono NWR headquarters and Rock Hill Trail (SB) overlooking the SS shoreline, ponds, tamarisk-mesquite saltbush ditches and adjacent paddifields. Several other birders were met in this area.  3) We drove to the north end of Garst Rd. and scanned the adjacent marsh, pond and brushy borders. Three other birders were finishing up their survey; they set up their spotting scope, showing us a distant immature Roseate Spoonbill, a continuing rarity in the area (GR). 4) Returning to HWY 111, we drove west on the CA-76/86 bypass which goes northward along the west side of the Salton Sea. We took the Salton City exit at Marina Drive (SC), continuing east to two locations, about 0.25 miles apart on the shoreline. The second location to the north, was designated as a bird preserve by a variety of signs next to a RV park and trailhead (photo). Among the numerous waterbirds at the Salton City bird preserve was a flock of about a dozen Sanderling. Several people were racing around the area on ATVs during our visit.




                                                  Trail head for West Salton Sea Bird Preserve 15 Feb 2015


                                                                                 © 2015 Merissa Mendez





Birds of seasonal and/or distributional interest found during our surveys included, Roseate Spoonbill (1), Sanderling (14), Glaucous-winged Gull (1) and Yellow-footed Gull (1).


Snow Goose    80 (95% ad)   a cohesive, vocal flock flying low and alighting in paddifields and an adjacent marsh, SB (photo).

Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens) Sonny Bono NWR SE Salton Sea IMCO CA  15 Feb 2015

                                                                                        © 2015 Callyn Yorke

American Wigeon  2  (m,f) swimming in marsh, SB.

Cinnamon Teal  5  (m,f) swimming in marsh, SB.

Northern Shoveler   450  (m,f) ubiquitous, SB,GR;

Northern Pintail  12,  resting on and near islands in marsh, SB.

Green-winged Teal  10  (m,f)  swimming in marsh; in shallows at sea wall, SB.

Ruddy Duck  300  (m,f) ubiquitous; most resting together offshore and in marsh, SB, GR.

Gambel's Quail  10  gregarious, vocal; around NWR headquarters, SB.

Eared Grebe  2  swimming in marsh, SB;  3 GR.

Western Grebe  2  swimming in marsh, SB.

Double-crested Cormorant  450  ubiquitous, SB, GR.

American White Pelican   250  ubiquitous, gregarious; often in cohesive flocks on shore, NESS, SB, GR, SC (photo).


American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) Salton City, W Salton Sea, IMCO CA  15 February 2015

                                                                                                                                                © 2015 Callyn Yorke


Brown Pelican   25  gregarious, ubiquitous,  often resting on shore;  NESS, SB, SC.

Great Blue Heron  6  ubiquitous; marsh and shore,  NESS, SB, GR, SC.

Great Egret  5   edges of marsh, SB, GR, SC.

Snowy Egret  12  marsh and shore, SB, GR, SC.

Cattle Egret  60  gregarious in adjacent fields, SB.

White-faced Ibis  12  gregarious; foraging in flooded ditch along HWY 111, SB;  1 flying, GR.

Roseate Spoonbill  1 (imm) continuing; foraging at the distant (about 0.75 mi) west edge of a large marsh; seen through a 60x scope from the northern terminus of Garst Rd.

Turkey Vulture   5   flying low over marsh and fields, SB.

Northern Harrier   2   (f) flying low over paddifields and marsh, SB.

Red-tailed Hawk  1 circling high over marsh, SB.

American Kestrel   8  ubiquitous; often on utility lines along roadways, SB.

American Coot  120  gregarious; marsh and ponds, SB, GR.

Black-bellied Plover  10 (bsc. plmg.)   individuals on shore, NESS, SB, SC.

Snowy Plover  8 (none banded)   gregarious; on shore, SC (photo).

Snowy Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) Salton City, IMCO CA  15 February 2015

                                                                                     © 2015 Callyn Yorke


Killdeer   25  gregarious, vocal, ubiquitous, NESS, SB, SC.

Black-necked Stilt   35  ubiquitous, gregarious; in shallows, NESS, SB, SC.

American Avocet   25  gregarious; swimming in marsh, SB.

Spotted Sandpiper  1  edge of marsh on wooden platform, GR.

Greater Yellowlegs  2  on shore and in flooded paddifield, SB.

Willet   3  on shore, SB, SC.

Long-billed Curlew  1  in flooded paddifield, SB.

Marbled Godwit    40  ubiquitous, gregarious; on shore and in shallows of marsh,  NESS, SB, GR, SC.

Sanderling  14  gregarious on shore and in shallows, SC.

Western Sandpiper  4  gregarious, in shallows with LESA, SC.

Least Sandpiper    60  ubiquitous, gregarious; on shore, NESS, SB, SC.

Dunlin  2  foraging in shallows, SC.

Dowitcher sp.   16  foraging together in shallows, SB;   5 (showing relatively short bills) foraging together in shallows, SC.

Ring-billed Gull   150  (95% ad) ubiquitous, gregarious.

Yellow-footed Gull  1 (ad) with injured left wing; resting on shore, SB.

California Gull    120  (95% ad)  ubiquitous, gregarious.

Herring Gull   35  (80% ad)  ubiquitous, sometimes gregarious; often amongst CAGU.

Glaucous-winged Gull  1 (C1) flying low over the shore, SB.

Feral Rock Pigeon  5  flying over fields near buildings, HWY 111.

Mourning Dove  6  around feeders, SB.

Common Ground Dove  2 around feeders, SB.

Greater Roadrunner  1  in paddifields, SB; 1 on levee, SB.

Costa's Hummingbird  1 (f) in salt cedar with nearby feeder, SC.                                                                     

Black Phoebe   2   vocal; low perches near water, SB.

Say's Phoebe    1  calls; sallying over levee, SB.

Raven  2  flying together, SC.

Northern Rough-winged Swallow   2  flying low, back and forth over fields, SB.

Verdin  14  vocal, ubiquitous; nests in mesquites along levee, SB.

Marsh Wren   3  repeated song, marshy ditches along levee, SB.

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher   1  foraging in saltbush along levee, SB (photo).

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher (Polioptila melanura)  Sonny Bono NWR IMCO CA 15 February 2015

                                                                                              © 2015 Callyn Yorke


Ruby-crowned Kinglet  2  vocal; moving quickly through mesquite and saltbush, SB.

European Starling   80   gregarious in fields, HWY 111.

American Pipit   5  on shore and levees, SB.

Yellow-rumped (A) Warbler    40  ubiquitous; gregarious; frequent calls when foraging in flocks.

Abert's Towhee    5   in and around mesquite, SB.

Savannah sparrow  2  calls, edge of levee, SB.

Song Sparrow   4  repeated song from edge of marsh, GR.

White-crowned Sparrow    8   on ground under feeder, SB.

Red-winged Blackbird    2  calls, SB;  25  wet fields, HWY 111.

Western Meadowlark    10  vocal; in paddifields and adjacent open areas, SB.

Brewer's Blackbird    30  with EUST in fields, HWY 111.

Great-tailed Grackle    10   vocal, gregarious, SB, GR.

House Finch    10  vocal, gregarious, SB.

House Sparrow   8  around feeder, SB.














NOVEMBER 14 & 15, 2014  SESS: Sonny Bono Salton Sea NWR; Brawley (73 Species)

Weather: Partly cloudy to fair; 65F to 76F; wind WNW 0 - 1 mph.

Time: 1433-1630 hrs. (11/14); 0635-0723 hrs. (CCP: 11/15); 0900-1225 hrs. (11/15).

Observers: UCLA Autumn Birds of Southern California class and I (11/15: 0900-1225 hrs).

Areas Covered: 1) Southeast Salton Sea Wall, west of the intersection of Lindsey Rd. and Lack Rd (SESSW, 11/14: 1433-1630 hrs ): I walked on the levee about 200 yards south and back to my vehicle, surveying a narrow freshwater marsh drainage, shoreline and open sea. Continuing by car to the north end of Lack Rd., I surveyed the shoreline and nearshore with partially submerged snags.2) Cattle Call Park, Brawley (CCP, 11/15: 0635-0723 hrs. ). I walked along the west fence line through the playground, well-watered lawns, ornamental trees and adjacent saltbush scrub; numerous joggers and other visitors were mostly on the paved tracks around the park.  3) The UCLA students and I surveyed the Sonny Bono NWR Salton Sea park headquarters, including acacia - saltbush scrub,  a narrow freshwater marsh drainage, agricultural fields and weedy areas along the E-W levee about 0.3 mi and back (SBPH, 11/15: 0900-1100 hrs.). Our survey included views of about 20 acres of agricultural fields with a large flock of snow geese, from an elevated wooden platform near the headquarters. Another group of ornithology students (UCR) was present during our survey. Conditions were good for finding and identifying birds by their vocalizations   4) Southeast Salton Sea Wall, west and south of the intersection of Lindsey Rd. and Lack Rd. (SESSW, 11/15: 1107-1225 hrs.). Our class walked the levee roadway (with abundant pieces of obsidian) about 0.25 mi southward overlooking the shoreline (littered with old tires and other debris) and open sea to the west and a marshy drainage ditch on the east side. We returned to our vehicles along the same route. The birds on and near shore were generally wary and readily flushed. Spent shotgun shells on the levee indicated recent shooting activity in this area. Distant blasts from shotguns were also frequently heard during our visit to SBPH.

Birds of seasonal and/or distributional interest that were found on one or both survey days, included, Neotropic Cormorant (2: 11/14), Yellow-footed Gull (2: 11/14),Glaucous-winged Gull (1: 11/14), Gull-billed Tern (1: 11/15), Cedar Waxwing (13: 11/14), and Tree Swallow (1: 11/15).

BIRDS NOTED (Birds found at SESSW on only one of the two surveys (11/14; 11/15) and the maximum count number for either survey is indicated).

Snow Goose  1,100  a vocal, gregarious flock in the agricultural field; many first-year white-morphs; one immature blue morph, SBPH; several Ross's Goose identified with them; many birds suddenly took flight and re-landed in the same area (photos)..

                        A large flock of predominantly Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens), Sonny Bono NWR headquarters, SESS  15 November 2014


                                                                                                                                              © 2014 Callyn Yorke



                                                 Adult and immature white-morphs with an immature blue-morph Snow Goose (center)


                                                                                                                               © 2014 Callyn Yorke


Ross's Goose  4-6 (ad) identified within a large flock of SNGO, SBPH.

Northern Shoveler  16  (m,f) foraging near shore in shallows, SESSW.

Ruddy Duck  60 (m,f)  resting near and offshore, SESSW.

Gambel's Quail   10   vocal, gregarious in saltbush scrub, CCP;  12  SBPH.

Eared Grebe  20  near and offshore, SESSW.

Western Grebe  1  offshore, SESSW.

Double-crested Cormorant  800  on and near shore; readily flushed as we walked to the edge of the levee, SESSW.

Neotropic Cormorant  2 (ad, imm)  ID by comparatively smaller body size and bill; white margin to orange throat; perched on snags near shore with nearby DCCO (11/14); reported at this location earlier this week by Guy McCaskie (photo).

Neotropic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax brasilianus) far left; Salton Sea Wall, SESS, Imperial County CA  14 November 2014


                                                                                                                              © 2014 Callyn Yorke


American White Pelican  80  in a cohesive flock well offshore; a few onshore, SESSW.

Brown Pelican  120 (ad, imm) scattered small flocks onshore and flying offshore, SESSW.

Great Blue Heron  7  foraging and flying over adjacent agricultural fields, SBPH; onshore, SESSW.

Great Egret    5  in marshy ditch; flying over, SBPH; SESSW.

Snowy Egret   20  in fields; flying over, SBPH, SEESW.

Cattle Egret  13  one landed in field with SNGO; a flock flew over the levee, SBPH.

White-faced Ibis  50  flocks of up to about 35 birds flying over fields; one small flock alighted in marshy drainage, SBPH (photo).

White-faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi) SBPH SESS, IMCO CA  15 Nov 2014

                                                                             © 2014 Callyn Yorke


Turkey Vulture   2  flying low over agricultural fields, SBPH.

Osprey  1 (ad) perched in dead tree with SNEG, SESSW (11/14).

Northern Harrier  1 (f) flying low over adjacent agricultural field, SBPH.

Cooper's Hawk  1  soaring about 200 ft. agl  over adjacent agricultural field, SBPH.

Red-tailed Hawk   1  on utility pole at edge of levee, SBPH.

American Kestrel  2  on utility poles and lines along Sinclair Rd.

American Coot   5  in marshy drainage, SBPH (11/14).

Black-bellied Plover   15   foraging on shore with gulls, SESSW.

Killdeer  4  vocal; on shore, SESSW.

Black-necked Stilt   30  on shore, SESSW.

Greater Yellowlegs  2  vocal; flying over agricultural field and shore, SBPH.

Willet  2  on shore, SESSW (11/14).

Marbled Godwit  34  foraging in shallows near shore, SESSW.

Long-billed Curlew  6  foraging in shallows near shore, SESSW (11/15).

Western Sandpiper  20  foraging with LESA on shore, SESSW.

Least Sandpiper   40  foraging with WESA on shore, SESSW.

Short-billed Dowitcher   120  ID by calls; foraging in loose flocks in marsh and shallows near shore, SBPH; SESSW.

Dowitcher sp. ID: relatively long bills; not heard vocalizing   foraging with SBDO in marsh, SBPH.

Ring-billed Gull  300 (95% ad)  on shore, SESSW.

California Gull  20 (mostly imm and adults in bsc. plmg.) on shore with RBGU and HEGU, SESSW.

Herring Gull   45 ( about equal numbers of ad, and imm) on shore with other gulls, SESSW (photo).


Left to right:  Adult Ring-billed Gull, adult Herring Gull and first cycle California Gull, SESSW, Imperial County CA  14 Nov 2014


                                                                                                                                                                    © 2014 Callyn Yorke


Glaucous-winged Gull  1  C2  on shore with other gulls, SESSW (11/14).

Yellow-footed Gull  2 (ad, C1) on shore, SESSW (11/14: photo).

Yellow-footed Gull (Larus livens) adult  Salton Sea Wall, SESS, Imperial County CA  14 November 2014

                                                                                             © 2014 Callyn Yorke


Caspian Tern   1  calls, flying; on shore, SESSW.

Gull-billed Tern  1   ID; relatively heavy black bill; partial black cap. flying back and forth over shoreline, SESSW (11/15).

Eurasian Collared Dove  3  on utility line, CCP.

Domestic Rock Pigeon   10  flying around, CCP.

Mourning Dove  2  on ground, CCP;  2 near feeders,SBPH.

Common Ground Dove  6    in pairs on ground around feeders and elsewher at park headquarters, SBPH (photo)


Common Ground Dove (Columbina passerina) SBPH SESS IMCO, CA  15 Nov 2014

                                                                                     © 2014 Callyn Yorke


Great Horned Owl  1  perched in the subcanopy of a mature acacia tree overhanging a marshy drainage, SBPH (photo).

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) SBPH, IMCO CA  15 Nov 2014


                                                     © 2014 Callyn Yorke


Anna's Hummingbird  5  vocal; active in flowering ornamental shrubs, CCP;; 1 acacia woodland, SBPH.

Belted Kingfisher  3  fly, call; marshy drainage areas, SESSW.

Sapsucker sp.  1  flying over park, CCP.

Northern (RS) Flicker  2  flyiing; landing in tall trees, CCP.

Black Phoebe  1  calls; CCP; 1 vocal, marshy drainage, SBPH.

Loggerhead Shrike  1  edge of acacia woods and agricultural field, JH.

Tree Swallow  1  flying back and forth over adjacent marsh and agricultural field, SBPH.

Verdin  5  vocal, gregarious; immatures (siblings) moving along north fence line, CCP (photo). 1  highly vocal adult repeatedly bringing insect food to its nest in a mature acacia tree;  apparently agitated by our presence, SBPH.

Verdin (Auriparus flaviceps) adult  Cattle Call Park, Brawley, IMCO CA  15 Nov 2014

                                                                              © 2014 Callyn Yorke


Rock Wren  1  found and photographed by RM  shortly after our class field trip adjourned, SESSW.

Marsh Wren  2-3  repeated vocalizations from marshy drainage ditch, SESSW.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet  2  vocal; foraging in ornamental trees, CCP.

Northern Mockingbird  7  vocal, ubiquitous, CCP.

European Starling  10  vocal in trees and on utility lines, CCP.

American Pipit  2   vocal; flying; perched briefly on rocks and shore debris, SESSW (11/15 - photo).

      American Pipit (Anthus rubescens) SESSW IMCO CA  15 November 2014


                                                                           2014 Callyn Yorke


Cedar Waxwing  13  flying over the adjacent suburb, CCP.

Orange-crowned Warbler  2  foraging in shrubs and trees, CCP.

Yellow-rumped (A) Warbler  10 calls; foraging in a variety of vegetation, CCP; 6  calls; foraging in acacia woods, SBPH.

Abert's Towhee   4   two pair foraging in moist soil along fence line, CCP (photo); 2  on ground around park headquarters, SBPH.


Abert's Towhee (Melozone aberti) Cattle Call Park, Brawley IMCO CA 15 November 2014

                                                                                             © 2014 Callyn Yorke


Savannah Sparrow  2   in trees and brushy areas alongside the levee, SBPH.

Song Sparrow  3  vocal, in marshy drainage, SESSW.

Lincoln's Sparrow  1  foraging along fence line with ABTO, CCP.

White-crowned Sparrow   12 (ad, imm)   vocal, gregarious; saltbush scrub, CCP;   8 acacia woods and feeder area, SBPH.

Western Meadowlark   5  vocal; flying between agricultural fields, SBPH.

Great-tailed Grackle  10 (m,f) vocal, gregarious; park lawns, CCP.

Brown-headed Cowbird  1  flyiing over park, CCP.

House Finch  5  vocal, gregarious, CCP.

House Sparrow    2  on north fence line, CCP.


























NOVEMBER 23 & 26, 2010   SESS: Sonny Bono Salton Sea NWR (90 Species)

Weather: Fair, 45 to 55F; winds WNW 2-5 mph (11/23); Fair, 55 to 65F, winds 0-2mph (11/26).

Time: 0750 - 1330 hrs.(11/23); 0850- 1430 hrs (11/26).

Observers: Merissa Mendez and I; other birders at Vendel Rd., Raymond 'Jay' Bogiatto and Shelly Kirn (Chico State University Biology Dept.), Erin, a USGS/ USFWS representative and several other birders (11/23); Tom, Hal, Kimball Garrett, Kathy Molina and other birders (Vendel Road, 11/26).

Area Covered. 1) (11/23) We arrived at the north end of Vendel Road (VR), where a few birders (RYB and SK had been there since 0630 hrs this morning) had set up scopes anticipating the appearance of a Taiga Bean Goose (Anser fabalis) , an extremely rare species from Siberia, reported in this area about two weeks ago by a hunter and subsequently identified by a local naturalist, Al Kalin, according to a USGS biologist who was soliciting the names and addresses of birders at Vendel Road this morning. Vendel Rd. bisects a rye grass field to the east and a large freshwater pond to the west. Thousands of Snow and Ross' geese were in the field (up to 15,000 have been found on the SESS refuge in winter), later flying to the adjacent pond. We stayed at this location until shortly after 1110 hrs. when a Taiga Bean Goose (TBGO) and three Greater White-fronted Geese (GWFG) flew into the rye-grass field and landed for a few minutes, allowing us to quickly identify them (see notes below). 

1) 11/26: After stopping briefly off HWY 111, along the east shoreline of the NESS (south of Mecca Beach) to observe hundreds of gulls and White Pelicans concentrated on and off shore for at least 10 miles along the eastern shoreline, we drove into SESS via Rutherford Rd. then west on Bannister Road to observe hundreds of REBL at a cattle lot. We soon arrived at Vendel Road, stopping at the north observation tower for a few minutes  (where an adult Laughing Gull  flew by us), returning south on Vendel Rd. to the location noted above until 10:50 hrs. At around 0915 hrs. I found what appeared to be the same group of three GWFG and a Taiga Bean Goose together on the west pond adjacent to the levee and irrigation ditch, near the bend in Vendel Road. I signalled to the birders still at the north observation tower (Tom and Hal) who failed to respond; Merissa subsequently drove to the observation platform and notified them in person of the TBGO.  Meanwhile, the TBGO and GWFG soon flew a short distance into the adjacent (southwest) field, where they foraged together for about an hour before flying back to the same pond where about 2,000 SNGO and ROGO arrived shortly thereafter. By this time several other birders had arrived (KLG and KM) and were observing the TBGO, when it flew off with its three GWFG companions to the southeast, circled back and landed in a more southerly location in the southwest field. This location allowed for a much closer approach than I had earlier, and I was finally able to obtain identifiable photos of the TBGO and observe its morphology and behavior in greater detail (see notes below).

2) 11/ 23: Merissa and I left the birder group and drove north then west to a dead-end on Foulds Road (FR) , and back Lack Rd. then to Bowles Rd (BR), spending about 30 minutes in the latter location observing hundreds of shorebirds (adding to our daylist: White Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Black-bellied Plover, Killdeer, Semipalmated Plover, Dunlin, European Starling and Orange-crowned Warbler ) on the adjacent mudflats north of the levee. 3) We continued north along an unsigned levee road (ULR) paralleling the SESS for about 1 mile, then turned east to intersect Gentry Road, and headed north to the NWR headquarters. This route produced several new species for our day-list: Western Grebe, Clark's Grebe, Eared Grebe, Snowy Egret, Double-crested Cormorant, Brown Pelican, Herring Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull, Yellow-footed Gull, Greater Yellowlegs and Marbled Godwit.   4) We continued to our last stop, the Sonny Bono NWR Headquarters (SBH) at the west end of Sinclair Rd, spending about 40 minutes walking around the gardens and going up on the raised observation platform overlooking the NWR. Here we collected two pamplets with maps and wildlife species lists. The parking area was nearly empty when we arrived; a few vehicles appeared as we were leaving. This location provided additional species for our day-list: Gambel's Quail, Common  Ground Dove, White-crowned Sparrow and House Sparrow. 11/26: We covered essentially the same route aa done previously, this time omitting Foulds Road and including the Red Hill Marina (RHM). Twelve additional species were found during our second survey (11/26); these species are included with the bird list from our first survey (11/23) with new photos.


Greater White-fronted Goose  3 (ad) flew in from the east and landed in a furrowed rye-grass field, along with a Taiga Bean Goose. Good comparisons of size, bill shape and plumage. The geese stayed in the field for a few minutes (1105-1110 hrs.) then flew east out of view, apparently frightened by a low-flying aircraft in the area. These were the only GWFG we found today at SESS.

Taiga Bean Goose (Anser fabalis)  1(ad) VR (11/23 (Tuesday):  flew in with three GWFG as noted above. Once landed, the long, sloping forehead and large, dark, orange-tipped bill was seen by all four observers(RYB, SK, E and CY) through a scope. The wing-strokes of the slightly larger TBGO appeared slower and deeper than GWFG. I took several photos, none of which produced more than unidentifiable blurry images. This bird is evidently the first of its kind documented in California.

11/26 (Friday) : An adult Taiga Bean Goose (TBGO) was found with three Greater White-fronted Geese (2 ad, 1 imm) in the southwest pond at 0915 hrs. and observed in this general area until 1050 hrs. Behavior: TBGO stayed within 10 feet of the GWFG at all times as it foraged in rye-grass fields by walking slowly through furrows, occasionally pausing to look up. When TBGO was left behind by the foraging GWFG, it would hasten its pace to catch up with them. Several shotgun blasts were heard in the distance (hunting is allowed only Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday within the Salton Sea USFWS refuges), but these disturbances appeared to have no affect on TBGO and its GWFG companions. I observed that even distant small aircraft, or the sound made by them, evidently causes these geese to take flight, along with thousands of Snow and Ross' geese. No vocalizations were heard from TBGO.

Morphology: Photos (below) show a number of distinctive features of the TBGO when comparing it with nearby GWFG. 1) TBGO has a slightly more robust build, including a deeper breast, thicker hind limbs -- the latter showing a relatively large tibia-tarsometatarsal joint (ankle), reminiscent of some domestic Grey-lag Geese. TBGO also showed a large, sloping bill with a conspicuous orange sub-terminal spot. The wings of TBGO show white edgings to wing coverts, a white flank line and a folded wing pattern similar to the adult Taiga subspecies of the GWFG (Sibley, D.A. 2000. p.77).

Discussion: A review of photos here and by others (e.g. Martin Garner: ), along with behavioral observations at SS, seems to open the question of subspecific identification. To my eye, the photos of the Californian Bean Goose at SS resemble A.f. middendorffi more closely than A.f.serrirostris. However, I have not seen photos of the more western Taiga Bean Goose (A.f. johanseni), which is perhaps more likely to show up in California than the other subspecies. Behaviorally, the Calif. Bean Goose definitely showed a preference for the shallow pond bordering Vendel Rd, SS. It was twice seen there, first when I found it on the morning of November 26, and later that same morning as it flew back into the pond, subsequently surrounded by its companion GWFG and many hundreds of Snow and Ross' geese. The majority of the time I observed this goose foraging in a furrowed field of rye-grass, at distances ranging from 50-120  yards, and rather too far away to see fine details of its foraging behavior, e.g. how it used its bill and what it was actually consuming.

 Immature GWFG (Anser albifrons) (left) and TBGO (Anser fabalis) (right) foraging in southwest field, Vendel Road, SESS  Nov. 26, 2010.


                                                                                                                                                                                  © 2010 Callyn Yorke


GWFG ( imm. left and  adult right) with TBGO (center) in southwestern field, Vendel Road, SESS  Nov. 26, 2010.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  © 2010 Callyn Yorke


Snow Goose  2,000 est. (98% ad) feeding in a rye grass field; on the roadway (with Ross' Goose) and flying to the adjacent pond. One 'blue goose' form found VR (photo - far right   11/23/2010.).

                                                                                                                                                                                             © 2010 Callyn Yorke


Ross' Goose  2,000 est. (98% ad) feeding in mixed species flock with SNGO (photo) ; two collar-banded. One white on blue band reading: J6P / Z6D. Birds on the leading edge of the field allowed close approach by pedestrians and vehicles; some feeding on gravel on the roadway VR,(photo: west pond, Vendel Road, SESS  11/23/2010).


                                                                                                                                                                                                 © 2010 Callyn Yorke

Ross' Goose  Vendel Road, SESS   November 23, 2010

                                                                                                                                                                                               © 2010 Callyn Yorke


Cackling Goose  7  flying in from east over rye grass field, VR.

Mallard   4 at edge of pond, VR.

Northern Shoveler   2,000 (m,f0   VR, BR, ULR; dabbling near shore.

Northern Pintail   20 (m,f)   open water with NOSH and other waterbirds, BR (11/26).

Green-winged Teal  18  edge of pond, VR.

Cinnamon Teal   4 (m) in tree-lined pond north of SBHQ (11/26).

Ruddy Duck  2  pond, VR;  1  BR.

Ring-necked Pheasant  1 (m,f) w edge of field, VR.

Gambel's Quail   12 (m,f) foraging beneath mesquite trees, SBH (photo).

                                                                                                                             © 2010 Callyn Yorke

Pied-billed Grebe   1 edge of lake, BR.

Eared Grebe  20  near shore  waters, ULR.

Western Grebe    8  near shore, ULR

Clark's Grebe  1  near shore, ULR.

American White Pelican  10  edge of water, BR.

Brown Pelican  2  shallow peninsula, flying, ULR.

Double-crested Cormorant   10  near shore, ULR.

Great Blue Heron    12  BR, ULR.

Great Egret  1  VR;  3  BR;  2  ULR.

Snowy Egret  1  flying, ULR

Cattle Egret  6  edge of pond, VR.

White-faced Ibis   30  edge of pond; flying, VR.

Roseate Spoonbill  1 (?) flying high over HWY 111 NESS. Seen in profile from moving vehicle.

Turkey Vulture   2  flying over fields, VR.

Osprey  1  on utility pole, then flying away with 6 inch fish in talons, FR. Perched on snag, ULR (photos: 11/26/2010).


                                                                                                 © 2010 Callyn Yorke


White-tailed Kite  1  flying over fields to the north east, VR.

Northern Harrier  2 (m,f)  female alone over fields, then seen chasing a male nw, VR.

Red-tailed Hawk  1 (ad) perched in tall trees, w of VR.

American Kestrel   15  on utility poles and line along roadways through farms.

American Coot  12  in pond, VR;  30  BR.

Sandhill Crane  120  flying, calling, fields around VR.

Black-bellied Plover   5  BR;  4  ULR.

Semipalmated Plover   5  mudflats, ULR.

Snowy Plover  1  on mudflats, BR (11/26).

Killdeer    3  BR; ULR.

Black-necked Stilt     70  pond, VR.  30  BR.

American Avocet  13  pond VR;  20  BR; 10 ULR.

Greater Yellowlegs  2  mudflats and shallows, ULR (photo 11/26).

                                                                                                                                                                                                   © 2010 Callyn Yorke

Long-billed Curlew  6  flying over fields, e VR;  20  BR;  20 ULR.

Marbled Godwit   8  mudflats, ULR.

Least Sandpiper   1,200  ubiquitous on shorelines and mudflats.

Western Sandpiper  20  mudflats, ULR (11/26).

Dunlin  8  shallows BR.

Short-billed Dowitcher  4  shallows of pond, VR.

Long-billed Dowitcher   30  mudflats and shallow, BR.

Stilt Sandpiper  3  foraging in shallows near LBDO (11/26: photo).

                                                                                                                                                                                                  © 2010 Callyn Yorke


Willet  3  shoreline  ULR (11/26).

Ring-billed Gull    3  flying and in water, ULR;  1,000 (low est.)(90% ad) ubiquitous, esp. NESS (11/26).

Yellow-footed Gull  1 (C1) edge of mudflats with RBGU and CAGU, ULR.

California Gull    30  on mudflats and flying (ad, C1-2) BR, ULR; 400 (low est.) (80% ad)  on shoreline, NESS (11/26)

Herring Gull 2  (ad, C3) mudflats and shoreline, ULR; 300 (low est.) (80% ad) on shoreline, NESS (11/26).

Glaucous-winged Gull  1 (C2)  near shore, ULR.

Bonaparte's Gull   50  nearshore, NESS (11/26).

Laughing Gull  1 (ad, non-breeding plmg..) flying w at nearly eye-level from 12 ft. high observation platform, VR. Clearly seen: moderately slow, bouyant wingbeats, long wings, dark gray mantle, black bill and legs; smudges on nape. 

Caspian Tern   2  calls; flying over open water, BR (11/26).

Mourning Dove  2  w edge of field, VR;  20  SBH.

Common Ground Dove  2  beneath mesquite trees, SBH. 8 individuals beneath tree with feeder in parking area; one banded (photos: 11/26).


                                                                                                                                                                                                 © 2010 Callyn Yorke

Rock Pigeon   2  on utility line in Calipatria (11/26).

Eurasian Collared Dove  20   in feed lot on Bannister Rd. east of Vendel Rd. (11/26).

Roadrunner  1  w edge of field, VR; 1 SBH (11/26).

Vaux's Swift  2  flying around beneath and between WHTS, 50-150 ft. w VR.

White-throated Swift   25  flying 100 - 500 ft,  w VR.

Anna's Hummingbird  1  calls near a feeder, SBH.

Belted Kingfisher   2  perched on snag above pond; flying over pond near SBH; URL (11/26).

Black Phoebe   2  edge of pond, VR.

Say's Phoebe  1  edge of marsh and field, VR.

Loggerhead Shrike   2  fields; one on an SUV trunk lid;  4  utility lines, shrubs at edges of farms.

Common Raven   3  flying over field, VR.

Horned Lark   30  roadways and farms, VR.

Tree Swallow   10  flying low over pond, VR.

Verdin   1  calls from dense mesquite thicket, SBH.

Marsh Wren  2  in marshy ditch, calls, VR.

European Starling   3  fly, call,  ULR.

American Pipit   5  fly/calls  over fields, VR.

Orange-crowned Warbler  1  calls from witnin saltbush and Tamarisk, BR.

Yellow-rumped Warbler  1  calls, VR;  2  foraging in mesquite, SBH.

Common Yellowthroat   1  calls, edge of marsh, VR.

Savannah Sparrow   1  in roadside marshy ditch; calls; 10 irrigation ditch, ULR (11/26).

Song Sparrow   1  in roadside marshy ditch; calls.

White-crowned Sparrow   4  mesquite thickets, SBH.

Brewer's Blackbird  20  HWY 111 roadside NESS (11/26).

Red-winged Blackbird  500  large flocks over fields, VR; SBH.

Great-tailed Grackle  1   flying, calls, VR. 10 RHM, including one leucistic bird, gleaning insects from low alkaline shrubs and associating with typical GTGR; flushing in response to nearby gunfire (photos: 11/26).


                                                                                                          ©  2010 Callyn Yorke    


Brown-headed Cowbird    50  in fields,  a msf with RWBL, SBH.

Western Meadowlark  2  singing in field; song sounded markedly different (short in overall duration; lower-pitched) compared with typical WEML.

House Finch   10  fly, call, SBH.

House Sparrow  20  foraging on ground with GAQU.














MARCH 27, 2010 Salton Sea  (82 Species)

Weather:  Fair, 67F to 75F; winds 2 - 15 mph.

Time: 0744 - 1450 hrs.

Observers: Merissa Mendez and I.

Area Covered:  1) We drove S from Indio on HWY 111 to Johnson Street (JS), a rough, rutted road about 1 mile W where it becomes impassable due to a water drainage. Tall cattails along a drainage ditch prevented us from seeing much of the area. A few birds were active and vocalizing along the roadway. This was the only location today where we found Yellow-headed Blackbird.   2)  Returning to HWY 111 S, we turned W onto Hayes Street (HS), continuing to the shoreline of the northeastern section of the Salton Sea. This location afforded excellent views (using a binocular and scope) of shorebirds and waterbirds using adjacent open water. Spectacular views of hundreds of White Pelican, Clark's Grebe, and Eared Grebe were obtained from the shoreline. 3) Driving S on Highway 111, our next stop was at the Northeast Salton Sea State Recreation Area (NESS). A park caretaker allowed us free entry when we mentioned that we were birding. A small group of birders were beginning a walk at the visitor center when we arrived. We walked S of the visitor center, surveying a lagoon and shoreline overlooking the vast windwept waters of the Salton Sea. This location was excellent for close-up views and photos of waders and other waterbirds. We then returned to HWY 111, leaving Riverside County and entering Imperial County. We turned on Davis Street and drove S, then W on Ruddy Road (RR), for a brief tour of the duck ponds, where the only new bird for our list was an Osprey. Heading S, we turned W onto Sinclair Rd., passed two geothermal plants, and entered the Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). After birding the visitor center grounds, we walked W and N along the levees leading to the ponds holding hundreds of waterbirds. Using only a binocular and DSLR camera, we were able to identify most of the birds in this area. The surrounding weedy fields to the E of the levee were largely vacant, in sharp contrast with our previous visit on December, 29, 2008, when hundreds of Snow and Ross' geese were found here. The visitor center was quite busy today; several groups of students, hikers (but apparently no other birders) passed us during the survey.

After an unsuccessful attempt to locate a nearby pig farm with Ruddy and Inca Dove (described in Brad Schram's 2007 Birder's Guide), we drove to Brawley for lunch. Cattle Call Park was nearby, but was being prepared for a big entertainment event, so we skipped it, and drove around the suburbs of  Brawley (B) . We added Rock Pigeon and Cattle Egret to our day list; the latter species was found at the water treatment plant opposite Cattle Call Park. We did not find Bronzed Cowbird at the Hospital on Legion St., mentioned in Schram's book, only European Starling. We drove N on HWY 111 to Finney Lake (FL), but found no new birds for our trip list. Our final stop for the day was along Garst Road leading to the Red Hill Marina (RHM). We drove to the end of the road and scoped the shoreline, ponds and offshore waters, where thousands of   Northern Shoveler, California Gull, American Avocet, and three Flamingos were found, in what could be one of the highest concentrations of waterbirds found anywhere in the world. This was a delightful conclusion to our one-day birding tour of the Salton Sea.


1) Gadwall  4  (m,f) NWR

2) American Wigeon  2 (m,f)   NWR 

3) Mallard   2 (m,f)   FL

4) Blue-winged Teal  3 (m,f) on shore,   NESS.

5) Cinnamon Teal  4  roadside flooded fields, RHM.

6) Northern Shoveler  (m,f)   2  HS;  600  NWR;  3,000  RHM.

7) Green-winged Teal  2 (m,f)  NWR.

8) Lesser Scaup  2 (m)  RHM.

9) Ruddy Duck  300  HS; 20 NWR;  100 RHM.

10) Flamingo sp.  3  swimming? foraging in deep water offshore, RHM.

11) Gambel's Quail  4 shrubby mesquite area along levee, NWR.

12) Pied-billed Grebe  2  NESS.

13) Eared Grebe  (many in alt. plumage)   200  HS;  100 NWR; 300 RHM

14) Clark's Grebe  500  HS;  100  NESS;  20  RHM.

15) Western Grebe  50  NESS.

16) American White Pelican   (ad, imm)   500  HS;  200 NESS (photo).  

      American White Pelican (Pelicanus erythrorhynchos) NESS, March 27, 2010   ©   2010 Callyn Yorke                                                                              


17) Double-crested Cormorant  (ad, imm)    200  HS;  50 NESS;   100  RHM.

18) Great Blue Heron   2  HS;  4  NESS;  1 NWR;   8  RHM (2-3 nesting on snags).

19) Great Egret    40  HS;   4 NESS;  10  NWR;   10   RHM.

20) Snowy Egret   1  JS;  10 NWR.

21) Cattle Egret  7 (alt. plumage)   waste water treatment facility, B.

22) Green Heron   1  HS;  1 NESS (photo).

                                                                                    Green Heron (Butorides virescens)  NESS,  © 2010 Callyn Yorke



23) White-faced Ibis   74  flying into flooded field, N  HS.

24) Turkey Vulture   2     flying low over fields NWR (photo).

25) Osprey   1   flying over duck ponds, Ruddy Road (near Davis Road).

26) Northern Harrier  (f)   1 NRW;  1 RHM; low over fields.

27) Red-tailed Hawk   1  ultility pole,  NWR.

28) American Kestrel  1  NWR.

29) Sora  2  calls  JS.

30) American Coot   2  JS;  200  HS;  20  NESS;  150 NWR;  100  RHM.

31) Black-bellied Plover   20  on shore, NESS.

32) American Golden Plover  1   on shore with BBP, NESS.

33) Snowy Plover   1   on shore with BBP, NESS.

34) Killdeer   2  on shore , NESS (photo).

35) Black-necked Stilt  70  NESS;  30 NWR;   10 RHM.

36) American Avocet  10 HS;   200  RHM.

37) Lesser Yellowlegs  1  flying, calls, JS.

38) Willet   1  on shore,  HS.

39) Marbled Godwit   3    foraging in shallow water off shore, NWR.

40) Western Sandpiper   4  roadside mudflats,  RHM.

41) Least Sandpiper   20  NESS;   60  RHM.

42) Short-billed Dowitcher   25  resting in shallow backwater, NESS.

43) Long-billed Dowitcher   2   with SBDW,  NESS.

44) Bonaparte's Gull (ad, imm; basic and alt. plumages)  20  NWR.

45) Ring-billed Gull   20  HS;  10  NWR;  10  RHM.

46) California Gull   100  HS;  150 NESS;  200 NWR;  1,000 RHM.

47) Herring Gull   4  HS;   2  NWR.

48) Yellow-footed Gull   2 (ad)   NESS;  4  NWR;  3 RHM. .

49) Gull-billed Tern  7 (alt. plumage)   on levee, NWR (see above photo).

50) Caspian Tern  5  HS;  10 NESS;   20 NWR.

51) Rock Pigeon   30  waste-water treatment plant, B.

52) Mourning Dove  4  NWR;  2  B;  2 FL.

53) White-winged Dove  2  NWR.

54) Eurasian Collared Dove   2   parking lot,  NESS.

55) Ringed Turtle Dove  2  parking lot, NESS.

56) Common Ground Dove   6  around visitor center , NWR  (photo).

                                                                                             Common Ground Dove (Columbina passerina) SESS NWR, March 27, 2010


                                                                                                                                                                                        © 2010 Callyn Yorke


57) Black Phoebe  1  roadside ditch, JS.

58) Western Kingbird   1   calls, roadside field,  JS.

59) Raven   20   ubiquitous along HWY 111 and elsewhere.

60) Horned Lark  3   fields, call, fly, NWR..

61) Tree Swallow  2  flying over fields and ditch, JS.

62) Rough-winged Swallow  2  flying over ditch, JS;  4  NWR.

63) Barn Swallow  4  low over field, NWR.

64) Verdin   2   singing in mesquite, NWR.

65) Cactus Wren  1  parkinglot area, NESS.

66) Marsh Wren   2  Singing, JS.

67) Northern Mockingbird  1 singing, JS.

68) European Starling   3  NESS;  10  B.

69) Yellow-rumped Warbler   4  JS;  2 NESS;  2 NWR;  3  FL.

70) Common Yellowthroat  1  NESS.

71) Abert's Towhee   1  near visitor center, NWR.

72) Savannah Sparrow  6  HS  agricultural fields.

73) Song Sparrow    4  JS;  2  FL.

74) White-crowned Sparrow    5  HS  shrubs near shore.

75) Red-winged Blackbird   6   singing distinctively abbreviated dialect, NWR.

76) Yellow-headed Blackbird   1 (m)  JS   flushed from roadside ditch.

77) Brewer's Blackbird   2 near visitor center   NESS.

78) Great-tailed Grackle   10  around visitor center, NWR.

79) Brown-headed Cowbird  8  (m,f)  flying, calls, NWR.

80) Western Meadowlark   3  fields adjacent to NWR.

81) House Finch   4  NESS;  4  NWR.

82) House Sparrow   10  around visitor center, NWR.



                                                December 29, 2008 Salton Sea  (65 Species)




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