Southwest Birders
Read about our adventures and thoughts on birding in Arizona, California, and other locales. Check back weekly for updates!

July 2012
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Iceland Birding
Filed under: General
Posted by: Henry @ 10:26 pm

Far afield from Arizona and California, Suzanne, Gaby, and I arrived in Iceland on Monday the 9th of July, and headed north to the Snaefellsnes peninsula.  On the way we had fine looks at two Red-throated Divers (Loons), numerous Arctic Terns, Greylag Geese, scads of Eider Ducks, and the ever-present Spotted Redshank.  At Arnarstapi we peered over the bird cliffs at thousands of Black-legged Kittiwakes, Fulmars, and a few Great Black-backed Gulls.  Closer to Olafsvik, where we spent two nights, we had Glaucous Gulls, Golden Plover, and Arctic Skua (Parasitic Jaeger). 

Spotted Redshank

Arctic Terns

On Tuesday we took a calm, two-hour boat trip under sunny skies from Sykkisholmur to see Puffins, Shags, and a pair of White-tailed Sea Eagles!  The bird cliffs at the northwest tip of the peninsula were good for all three guillemot species: Black, Common, and Bruennich’s (Short-billed Murre). We hiked around the Snaefell’s Glacier and Suzanne found us an Arctic Fox on the way home!

Golden Plover


On our final day in Iceland we visited some of the more tourist-oriented sights, while still getting a bit of birding in. We saw a pair of beautiful Trumpeter Swans north of Thingvellir (site of the first parliament).  A geyser and the awesome GullFoss Falls rounded out the day.   In all, we saw 42 species of birds in Iceland, 4 of which were lifers.

Trumpeter Swans

Gullfoss Falls

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Flashback: Unit One
Filed under: California
Posted by: Bob @ 6:24 pm

Hi all,


Just a chance to catch up with loads of pictures and stories from adventures past that we never had the chance to share.

January 22, 2011

This little trip into the time machine goes back to a fine day of birding at Unit One of the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge (SBSSNWR) located north of Bannister Road on Vendel Road.

The best season for birding Unit One is in the winter when mass quantities of waterfowl, Snow and Ross’s Geese and several hundred Sandhill Crane are at their “south for the winter.” Parking on Vendel Road, between the first two ponds before sunrise, can produce some breathtaking sights as it did this day following a full moon.

Snow / Ross's GeeseSnow / Ross's Geese

Snow / Ross's Geese and Mount SignalSnow / Ross's Geese

The above pictures are looking west toward the Peninsular Ranges with the third looking due south toward El Centinela or Mount Signal. Just the toe of Mount Signal reaches into the United States from Mexico and it is a good point of reference from anywhere in the valley if you ever get your ups and downs mixed up!

There are typically three areas in the Imperial Valley where the “white” geese gather. Unit One and refuge headquarters of the SBSSNWR at Sinclair and Gentry Roads and the third is the Wister Unit of the Imperial Wildflife Area on Davis Road at Hwy 111 near Niland. Unit One typically has a high percentage of Ross’s with the Snow Geese and for the past few years we have been seeing a few “Blue” Ross’s there which is quite rare. (Not pictured here!)

Snow GooseSnow Goose

This Black Phoebe sitting on one of the Elmore Ranch gates made for a nice photo as we left Unit One to bird other locations. We returned to Unit One for an equally impressive sunset in good company.


An interesting sight worth staying a bit late for at Unit One is the mass quantities of waterfowl that take to the air. What looks like swarms of mosquitoes swarming above this birders cap are mostly Northern Pintail filling the sky! The trick to witnessing this spectacle is to stay till you are just about sure it is too dark to see any more birds!

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Owls and Sunsets
Filed under: California
Posted by: Bob @ 11:33 pm

Hi all,

Brawley Home of the Cattle Call

Last week, while returning home to Brawley from El Centro at dusk, I ran across a Great Horned Owl at Meserve Park along K Street and immediately stopped to take a look. They are resident in Brawley as are Western Screech-Owl, Barn Owl and Burrowing Owl. The sighting of this particular owl turned out to be pretty funny though so I stopped again to capture the experience on film.

As I pulled to a stop I was all proud of myself and thinking “How cool is that!”

As I move to get better light I suddenly see a second individual!!

It was not two seconds after that when I realized what you have probably concluded already but the humor gets even better!


All told there were eleven plastic owls including a few of the devious battery powered swivel headed variety!

Our sunset was pretty spectacular that evening as well.

Our first large monsoon event of the year had just swept around Brawley but had been causing flooding across the west side of Imperial Valley and was currently hammering Calipatria and Niland. The distant thunderheads in the following pictures were to our east. They increased in intensity well into the night and dumped over two inches of water across our thirsty desert in just a few hours. Quite a light show too! They caused severe flash flooding on both sides of the Colorado River and the closure of both Hwy 78 and Ogilby Roads in Eastern Imperial County.

See ya at the sea………………

Filed under: California
Posted by: Bob @ 5:12 pm

Hi all,

Friday the 13th can’t be all bad if it brings water to a desert rat!

We had our first significant monsoon event here in the Imperial Valley this afternoon. Finally!! A strong cell swept up out of Mexico near the Mount Signal area and marched north across the west half of the valley and the desert with a direct aim at the center of the north end of the valley. As I type this the strong thunderstorm cell is north of Brawley and dumping on the south shores of the Salton Sea, Calipatria and Niland. I would have been in my Jeep racing to get ahead of it if it had not already outrun me!

Anyone with plans to bird the Salton Sea this weekend should use extra caution on all off pavement areas. Most of the roads should be drying nicely by morning if no more rain comes but all shoulders and lesser dirt roads should be avoided or approached with caution. Keep it in the middle and don’t go there if you can not see a good track of someone going there before you:-) I think the seawall itslef would be fine but getting to the west end of Bowles Road is probably not possible for a few days. Obsidian Butte would be crossable but do not try to make the loop around the north part of the island. Schrimpf Road between Garst and Davis where the Wood Stork are currently hanging out might not be accessible either.

In the immortal words of Craig Childs from his book “The Secret Knowledge of Water”. “There are two ways to die in the desert. Thirst and drowning.” It should be required reading for all who visit, live and play in the desert!

See ya at the sea…………

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Imperial Valley
Filed under: California
Posted by: Bob @ 6:46 am

Imperial Valley
Jun 29, 2012 5:30 AM - 6:30 PM

Birding day w/ Eric Peurell. West residential Brawley and Cattle Call Park. Carter and Fites. Seawall from Bowles Road to Obsidian Butte. SBSSNWR HQ. Garst, Schrimpf, Davis, Pound Roads to IID Manged Marsh. Sandwiches from United in Niland. Calipatria Stae Prison. Ramer, Finney, Wiest Lakes and west side of Alamo River north of Rutherford Road. Dogwood Road north to Carey Road.

Yellow-footed Gull and Brown Pelican

83 species

Mallard  25

Cinnamon Teal  36
(3) - (1) male and (2) female @ Bowles Road. The rest were in one large flock at the north end of Garst Road.

Blue-winged/Cinnamon Teal  2    
male and female together @ Bowles Road. w/ CITE. Male was obvious with face pattern and this female stayed near it and seperate from the 3 CITE while in flight several times in about 30 minutes.

White-winged Scoter  1
along seawall north of Young Road about 11am. Seen again 20 minutes later still swimming north near the large dead tree at the geothermal plant on Lack Road.

Ruddy Duck  6    
(1) along seawall at Young Road. (5) in pond at Calipatria State Prison.

Gambel’s Quail  20

Pied-billed Grebe  25    
Very numerous on Finney and Ramer Lakes and a few in scattered locations.

Western Grebe  20    
Finney and Ramer Lakes

Clark’s Grebe  10    
Finney and Ramer Lakes

Wood Stork  13    
Schrimpf Road between Garst and Davis

Double-crested Cormorant  500

American White Pelican  50

Brown Pelican  300

Great Blue Heron  50

Great Egret  50

Snowy Egret  30

Cattle Egret  2000

Green Heron  8

Black-crowned Night-Heron  20

White-faced Ibis  1000

Turkey Vulture  45

Osprey  2    
Both near Lack and Lindsey

American Kestrel  15

Peregrine Falcon  1    
Along Hwy 86 about two miles north of Westmorland

Common Gallinule  2

American Coot  300

Black-bellied Plover  8    
(5) together @ Bowles Road. (3) in flight over Garst Road. None showing black bellies.

Killdeer  30

Black-necked Stilt  300    
Nests with vissible eggs and numerous juveniles in widely scattered locations.

American Avocet  150

Greater Yellowlegs  5

Willet  20

Whimbrel  1    
In flooded are on north side of Bowles Road

Long-billed Curlew  3    
(2) in flooded area on north side of Bowles Road, (1) between Garst and Davis on Schrimpf Road.

Western Sandpiper  5    
(5) together at west end of Bowles Road

Least Sandpiper  7    
(7) together at west end of Bowles Road

Curlew Sandpiper  1   
With Black-bellied Plover at the west end of Bowles Road. Documentation being sent. No photograph. White rump and back seen well in flight. Not in breeding plumage. Possible immature.

Red-necked Phalarope  5    
West end of Bowles Road.

Laughing Gull  1    
West end of Bowles Road.

Ring-billed Gull  50

Western Gull  3    
(3) together with small group of YFGU for comparison along sea between Young and Lindsey. Immature was first year with dark front.

Yellow-footed Gull  50

California Gull  20

Least Tern  1    
Flyover headed west along Schrimp between Garst and Davis.

Caspian Tern  100

Forster’s Tern  1    
West end of Bowles Road.

Black Skimmer  1    
Sitting on bank of pond at Calipatria State Prison. Back feathers very disheveled and bird did not look well.

Rock Pigeon  100

Eurasian Collared-Dove  100

White-winged Dove  300    
Numerous pairs still in breeding type locations and several large flocks in countryside as if gathering to move on.

Mourning Dove  200    
Numerous pairs still in breeding type loacations and several large flocks in countryside as if gathering to move on.

Inca Dove  5     (2) at found nest and (3) more in another location in residential sw Brawley.

Common Ground-Dove  30

Greater Roadrunner  3

Barn Owl  1    

Burrowing Owl  20

Lesser Nighthawk  4

Black-chinned Hummingbird  5    
residential sw Brawley

Anna’s Hummingbird  5    
residential sw Brawley

Costa’s Hummingbird  2    
residential sw Brawley

Gila Woodpecker  8

Black Phoebe  5

Say’s Phoebe  1    
Pound Road west of Davis Road near known previous nesting location.

Vermilion Flycatcher  1    
Webster Road between Brandt and Kalin. Probale nesting pair.

Ash-throated Flycatcher  1    
Carter and Fites Road.

Western Kingbird  40

Common Raven  3    
Blair Road north of Pound Road

Cliff Swallow  200

Verdin  10

Cactus Wren  3    
Two at seperate locations in sw Brawley and one at Carter and Fites

Northern Mockingbird  30

Crissal Thrasher  1    
Carter and Fites

European Starling  200

Abert’s Towhee  20

Song Sparrow  5

Summer Tanager  1    
In willows on west side of the Alamo River north of Rutherford Road

Red-winged Blackbird  1000

Western Meadowlark  1    

Brewer’s Blackbird  6    
Residential sw Brawley.

Great-tailed Grackle  200

Brown-headed Cowbird  30

Bullock’s Oriole  1    
Webster Road between Brandt and Kalin.

House Finch  15

House Sparrow  10

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Salton Sea & Imperial Valley
Filed under: California
Posted by: Henry @ 11:44 am

Bob Miller found a Curlew Sandpiper on Friday (6/29/12), so on Sunday morning I went chasing.  No luck with that rarity, but did have a very nice morning and saw a great variety of birds (82 species), especially considering I spent just 4 1/2 hours in the Imperial Valley.


I added to my “year” list of photographed birds–am now up to 328 species photographed this year.  My target is 350.  Best photo was of a Lesser Nighthawk perched on a limb like a dove–instead of lying down along the branch–which is how you usually find them.  Also counted the Burrowing Owls for fun. Without slowing down to look for babies, I had 31 before 9:00 a.m.  Black-crowned Night Herons were everywhere yesterday morning, and a nice surprise was a Blue Grosbeak signing from the top of a salt cedar along the levee road.  The best area by far was at the end of Bowles Road, where the turn-over of shorebirds, gulls, and terns during the course of an hours was most impressive.  A quick stop at the refuge headquarters turned up the roosting Barn Owl in front of the visitor center.  Good Birding!


(Click on the thumbnail images for full-size pics)

  Bird list for 1 July 2012 at the Salton Sea & Imperial Valley

Pied-billed Grebe
Eared Grebe
Western Grebe
Clark’s Grebe
American White Pelican
Brown Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Cattle Egret
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night Heron
Wood Stork
White-faced Ibis
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
Ruddy Duck
American Kestrel
Gambel’s Quail
Virginia Rail
Common Moorhen
American Coot
Black-bellied Plover
Snowy Plover
Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Long-billed Curlew
Western Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Long-billed Dowitcher
Wilson’s Phalarope
Turkey Vulture
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Yellow-footed Gull
Western Gull
Gull-billed Tern
Caspian Tern
Forster’s Tern
Black Skimmer
Rock Pigeon
White-winged Dove
Mourning Dove
Inca Dove
Common Ground-Dove
Eurasian Collared Dove
Greater Roadrunner
Barn Owl
Burrowing Owl
Lesser Nighthawk
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Black Phoebe
Western Kingbird
Loggerhead Shrike
Common Raven
Horned Lark
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Marsh Wren
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Common Yellowthroat
Abert’s Towhee
Song Sparrow
Blue Grosbeak
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Great-tailed Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Sparrow
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