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).
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!
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.
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.
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!)
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!
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………………
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…………
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.
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
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.
Black-necked Stilt 300
Nests with vissible eggs and numerous juveniles in widely scattered locations.
American Avocet 150
Greater Yellowlegs 5
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
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
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!