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


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