Tuesday, 3 March 2015

California 5th February 2015

So we spent the whole day around the Salton Sea area today. Some fantastic wetland birding again with colossal numbers of ducks, waders and gulls which are probably my favourite groups of birds. Salton Sea is well known for being the only regular spot in the whole US for Yellow-footed Gull. The best numbers are found during the summer months and I assumed that we would be extremely luck to even come across a single bird at this time of year. By midday we had managed to find a first-winter, a second-winter and up to four adult-types! Most of these were found on the saline pond at the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge or nearby on the lakeshore.
We also had nice views of Ross's Geese in amongst the Snow Geese but there didn't seem to be any young Ross's present. We also had a single White-fronted Goose here which may have been Pacific White-front Anser albifrons sponsa which seems to be the best fit. It was the only one that we saw at Salton Sea. At the Sonny Bono visitor centre we had some close views of Gambel's Quail which seemed to be feeding on grain laid out especially for them.

Afterwards we had a walk around some of the fodder fields for Sprague's Pipit. As we zig-zagged our way through the fields we gradually got closer and closer to large complex of buildings. As we eventually ended up right beside the border fence to this complex it became obvious that it was Brawley State Penitentiary! Right on cue a 4x4 came out to investigate us from inside the complex. At this point one of group members decided to take some shots of a Savannah Sparrow sitting up on the perimeter fence. Not exactly the wisest thing to do. Myself and others "gently encouraged" him to desist in his actions. I was fully expecting law enforcement to waiting for us on our arrival back to the minivans but thankfully they must be used to moronic birders like us at this stage. After all that effort and hassle we failed to connect with the pipit but there was always tomorrow...

To finish up the day we headed to Unit 1 of the Salto Sea NWR. We had more Ross's and Snow Geese along with Sandhill Cranes in the adjacent fields. The marsh beside the lake was full of duck, Pintail in particular but we also saw good numbers of Black-crowned Night Herons, a single American Bittern in the near darkness and heard more Ridgway's Rails.

American Bittern, last bird of the day.

Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron
Mostly Double-crested Cormorants

Brown Pelicans

Cattle Egret


Sandhill Cranes

Greater Sandhill Cranes with a single Lesser Sandhill Crane?


Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane
Mostly Pintails

Mostly Pintails

Ross's Goose

Ross's Geese with a juvenile Sow Goose on the left in the background.

Ross's Geese with a juvenile Snow Goose on the right.


Ross's Geese in amongst Ring-billed Gulls, not a huge size difference! Single Snow Goose in the top right corner.

Mostly Snow Geese with a dark morph bird in the centre. Nearly all the Snow Geese seen were white morphs.

Mostly Snow Geese.

Mostly Snow Geese.

Mostly Snow Geese.

White-fronted Goose with juvenile Snow Goose.
 
Female Shovelers
Female Northern Harrier

Male Northern Harrier

American Avocets and Black-necked Stilts

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs
 

Lesser Yellowlegs
 
Long-billed Curlew
First-winter Yellow-footed Gull, the white underparts really made it stand out from the other young large Nearctic gulls.

Adult Yellow-footed Gull

Adult Yellow-footed Gull on the left with a first-winter Thayer's Gull on the right.

Yellow-footed Gull on the right with a California Gull on the left to compare upperpart tones.

Phone-scoped pic of a different Yellow-footed Gull.
Common Ground Dove



Male Gambel's Quail

Male Gambel's Quail

Male Gambel's Quail


Male Gambel's Quail
Female Gambel's Quail

 

Monday, 2 March 2015

California 4th February 2015

We took a trip up to Tijuana River Estuary first thing in the morning. It was extremely foggy here to start with but it gradually burned off. The main target was the recently split Ridgway's Rail. This species has been split from Clapper Rail. We managed to see a few of the rails in the saltmarsh and even had two swimming across a large tidal creek. The photos are up to much due to the distant and the fog. It was a great spot for other wetland birds such as Long-billed Curlews, Hudsonian Whimbrels, Marbled Godwits, Willets, Reddish Egret and Little Blue Heron. Off the sand dune we also had a nice male White-winged Scoter in amongst the many Surf Scoters and divers.

"Beldings" Savannah Sparrow

Ridgway's Rails

Ridgway's Rail

Ridgway's Rail

Western Meadowlark
We then moved onto Tecolote Canyon to try to get a few of the remaining California specialities that we were still missing. The one obvious omission so far was California Thrasher. We got some good views of several of these along with Allen's Hummingbird, Cedar Waxwing, California Towhee and Lincoln's Sparrow amongst others.
 

Allen's Hummingbird

Audubon's Warbler

Audubon's Warbler

Black Phoebe

California Thrasher

California Thrasher

California Thrasher

California Towhee

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing

Northern Mockingbird with damaged upper mandible.

Song Sparrow

We were now had come to an end of our time along the Pacific Ocean and after Tecolote we started to head back East over to Salton Sea. On route we had a rest stops and at one of these - Jacumba we had good views of Roadrunner and Cactus Wren in the immediate environ of a petrol station along with the US - Mexican border fence only a short distance away.


Cactus Wren

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

US - Mexico border-fence

In the last one or two hour of daylight we arrived at the amazing Salton Sea. This inland saline "sea" is an extremely productive site for waterbirds. Ruddy Ducks, Black-necked Grebes and Ring-billed Gulls were probably the most numerous species. We would spent the next two nights in Brawley town.


Black-necked Stilts

Black-necked Stilt

Burrowing Owl beside it's burrow.

Burrowing Owl

Brown Pelican


American White Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested and Neotropic Cormorant
Double-crested and Neotropic Cormorant
 
Least and Western Sandpipers

Least and Western Sandpipers