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

October 2012
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Bard Valley, Imperial County
Filed under: Arizona
Posted by: Henry @ 6:46 pm

Hi Birders,

Spent Saturday morning (Oct 27) in the Bard Valley (southeast Imperial County) this morning, visiting mesquite bosque along White Road, the Living Waters Ministry, West Pond, and Senator Wash.  Despite the stiff winds there were lots of birds about, and before noon I’d tallied 76 species.

Snowy Egret along White Road

The invasion of the nuthatches continues, and I had a Red-breasted Nuthatch at Living Waters.  Also had my first American Robin and a flock of 16 Cedar Waxwings along White Road.  This has been a good season for House Wrens, too, and this morning I heard five of them.  Dark-eyed Junco and Spotted Towhee rounded out the northern winter visitors that do not make it down to our area on an annual basis.

Cedar Waxwings & Black Phoebe, Bard Valley

An adult Red-shouldered Hawk at Living Waters was expected but nonetheless good to see.  At West Pond were the first Canvasback and Bufflehead I’ve seen this fall.  An American White Pelican on Mittry Lake (Arizona) was unusual.  Not much luck with rails this morning; one distant Virginia and one close Clapper Rail at one of the All American Canal seeps.  Senator Wash was bare save for 22 Western Grebes.

Juvenile Male Vermilion Flycatcher, Hidden Shores

Good birding!

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Alamo River Wetlands Saltcedar Pull
Filed under: California
Posted by: Bob @ 11:21 am

Hi all,

Alamo River Wetlands Project. Click on thumnails for larger images. 35 species of bird and five species of odonates were seen in about four hours. Bird, dragon and damsels seen are listed at bottom of page!

Alamo River Wetlands

Saltcedar (Tamarix spp.) was under siege at the Alamo River Wetlands Projetct, Shank Road site, this past Saturday as about 25 “pullers” attacked the non-native invasive species with their bare… or gloved hands! Pullers in attendance were from all over of the Imperial Valley and all had fun.

First stop of the morning for me was Johnny’s Burritos in Brawley for my machaca with eggs fix. A large raptor silhouetted in top of a big eucalytus tree caught my eye. North 7th and D Street in the middle of Brawley is NOT where you would expect to find a PEREGRINE FALCON but there it was bathed in beautiful smorning sunlight. Peregrine Falcon are one of the fastest birds in the world and they dine on other birds which they catch out of the air while in flight. Apparently it has caught on to the fact that Brawley has an over abundance of Rock Pigeons.

Peregrine FalconPeregrine Falcon

Following are several pictures of the wetlands and pullers hard at play! All were rewarded with a fine selection of fruit and prizes were awarded for “Best Bouquet”, “Most Pulled” and several other silly catagories. Some fine silly bird jokes were told as well.

Alamo River Wetlands

Alamo River Wetlands

alamo River Wetlands

Alamo River Wetlands

Alamo River Wetlands

alamo River Wetlands

The next two pictures are a before and after with phragmites remaining and the saltcedar removed.



Aside from the huge flock of the vegetation eating American Coot that are regulars, there are a large number of Double-crested Cormorant  hanging out at the wetlands because their are a lot of small fish for them to eat. Double-crested Cormorant lack oils in their feathers which allows them to practically fly underwater to catch fish but it means they must frequently come out of the water to dry their feathers. That is why you often see them perched with their wings spread wide to dry. This photo is of an immature bird. Adults are black and the “double-crest” only occurs on adults for a very short time during breeding season. They nest is several places here in Imperial Valley like Ramer Lake and Mullet Islnad on the Salton Sea.

Double-crested Cormorant

Another fish eating bird present was Forster’s Tern. They catch fish by diving headfirst into the water like a kingfisher.

Forster's Tern

Forster's Tern

This Forster’s Tern was diving headfirst and catching minnows at waters edge right in front of us!

Forster's Tern

See ya at the sea…………………………..

Alamo River Wetlands Project–Shank Rd., Imperial, US-CA
Oct 27, 2012 7:18 AM - 11:05 AM
Protocol: Traveling
3.0 mile(s)
Comments:     Submitted from  BirdLog for Android v1.6 Saltcedar Pull event. About 25 people showed up to pull tamarix. Dragonflies - Blue-eyed Darner, Common Green Darner, Variegated Meadowhawk, Rambur’s Forktail, Familiar Bluet.

35 species

Mallard  8
Northern Shoveler  1
Ruddy Duck  1
Pied-billed Grebe  1
Eared Grebe  2
Western Grebe  2
Double-crested Cormorant  150
Snowy Egret  14
Cattle Egret  17
Green Heron  2
White-faced Ibis  150
Turkey Vulture  2
Northern Harrier  1
Red-tailed Hawk  2
American Coot  400
Killdeer  10
Spotted Sandpiper  6
Greater Yellowlegs  1
Least Sandpiper  50
Long-billed Dowitcher  9
Ring-billed Gull  30
Forster’s Tern  3
Mourning Dove  2
Northern Flicker  1
Merlin  1
Black Phoebe  5
Say’s Phoebe  2
Tree Swallow  10
Barn Swallow  10
Marsh Wren  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  15
Savannah Sparrow  2
Red-winged Blackbird  35
Western Meadowlark  4
Great-tailed Grackle  3

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (

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Rare Bird Alert!
Filed under: California
Posted by: Bob @ 11:40 am

Hi all,

Al Kalin has reported a RED-SHOULDERED HAWK at the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) Managed Marsh at Hwy 111 and Hazard Roads about a mile south of Niland in the north end of Imperial Valley. We typically only see one every few years here in the Imperial Valley and there was an immature at this location last year. They are failry common on the coastal slope west of us and a pair has taken up residence near Winterhaven to the east of us.

The Managed Marsh has recorded some very special birds since it’s inception a few years ago. There was a LeConte’s Sparrow there last year which is only the second for the Salon Sink. The first record was on the outskirts of Niland several years ago. It appears likely that American Bittern will be nesting there as one or more stayed there over the summer. White-Tailed Kite have been in there as well. It is also becoming a good spot to actually SEE Clapper Rail…or just take a walk in the evening!

See ya at the sea…………………

View IID Managed Marsh in a larger map

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Alamo River Wetlands
Filed under: California
Posted by: Bob @ 11:40 am

Hi all,

Visited the Alamo River Wetlands Shank Road site on Saturday Oct 20. There were lots of little treasures to be discovered with good numbers of birds and dragonflies and such. The list of birds and odonates seen is at the bottom.

The “Saltcedar Pull” will be next weekend on Saturday October 27 from 8:00am till 10:00am if you would care to come out and see what treasures you may discover! Directions and more information about the event may be seen at this link.

So here are pics of some of the treasures I found. Click on the thumbnails for larger images!

Alamo River Wetlands
Alamo River Wetlands entrance

The main purpose of the wetlands is to help clean up water by flowing it through settling ponds and natural vegetation. Eventualy there will be many more of these sites along the Alamo and New Rivers that flow into the Salton Sea. These smaller sites tipically catch water before it enters the river but this one does take in some water from the Alamo River and the larger ones in the future will cleanse even large amounts.

Alamo river Wetlands
Alamo River Wetlands

This is a “drop” on the Alamo River near the head of the wetlands.

Alamo River drop
Alamo River

Alamo River
Alamo River

There were about 400 American Coot on the ponds but there were also another 21 species af birds on or above the ponds too!

Western Grebe and American Coot
Western Grebe

Eared Grebe and American Coot
Eared Grebe

American Wigeon and American Coot
American Wigeon

Do not know what species this fly is. It moves and hovers like a bee and is quite colorful.

Ant Lions had their little burrows in the soft dirt. When they are in this stage they look like miniature creatures from the movie “Tremors”. You may have seen the adults at night around your porch light and not known it. The adult looks like a small brown damslefly except that they have antennae and damselflies do not as you will see in the following pictures. Next time you see one of these little burrows, take a fine blade of grass and lightly tickle the bottom of the burrow and watch what happens!

Ant Lion burrows
Ant Lion burrows

Damselflies and dragonflies are in the Odonate family so folks who like to look for them are affectionately known as “Oders” and they are chasing damsels and dragons……:-) Here are a few of the damsel and dragon treasures I was able to see at the wetlands.

Damselfies hold their wings together on our just above their back and are small with seperated eyes. Rambur’s Forktail have two small dots on top of their eyes and are relative newcomers to our area. Desert Forktail have been here much longer and look similar except that the dots on their eyes are joind like two teardrops touching.

Rambur's Forktail
Rambur’s Forktail

Familiar Bluet are probably the most common damselfly you will find in the valley and there sometimes appears to be swarms of them on the water. The first is a male and the second a female in flight.

Familiar Bluet male

Familiar Bluet female
Familiar Bluets

Here are a few of the dragonflies seen. Dragonflies are larger, hold their wings out to their sides and their eyes are typicaly joined at the top. The first here is a male Western Pondhawk and it prefers being close to the surface of slow moving water on ponds. It looks very similar to Blue Dasher except Blue Dasher have white on their face and Western Pondhawk have green faces as you can see. Blue Dasher prefer higher perches so can be found more commonly all across the valley along the canals and such. October 29 is the latest date that Western Pondhawk have been recorded in California so I will be checking back on these few!!

Western Pondhawk male
Western Pondwawk

The next two pictures are of male Roseate Skimmer and you can see why they are one of the most sought after dragonfly species in our desert southwest!

Roseate Skimmer male

Roseate Skimmer male
Roseate Skimmer

This next one is of a male and female Variegated Meadowhawk ovipositing. They fly in tandem and dip down to the water where the female slaps her eggs into the moss. They are the one dragonfly that can be on the wing all year long here in the valley and the most common one you will see. There is also a Western Pondhawk in the scene.

Variegated Meadowhawk and Western Pondhawk
Variegated Meadowhawk

The colorful dragon below is a male Mexican Amberwing and they are the smallest dragonflies in North America! Click on the thumbnail and in the larger image there is also a Familiar Bluet damselfly so that you can see just how small they are.

Mexican Amberwing male
Mexican Amberwing

Alamo River Wetlands

Those are the treasures I turned up at the wetlands in just a little over an hour. As the weather cools off there will be many more bird species and much fewer dragons and damsels on the ponds. If you would like to see a real special treat, be out at the wetlands just before sunset as there are MASS quantities of Cattle Egrets and White-faced Ibis roosting at the ponds at night and the evening fly-in can be pretty spectacular!!

See ya at the sea……………………………..


Alamo River Wetlands Project–Shank Rd., Imperial, US-CA
Oct 20, 2012 10:21 AM - 11:40 AM
Protocol: Traveling
4.0 mile(s)
Comments:     Submitted from  BirdLog for Android v1.6 About 90 degrees light breeze. Dragonflies seen were Roseate Skimmer, Mexican Amberwings, Variegated Meadowhawk, Black Saddlebags, Western Pondhawk, Blue-eyed Darner, Familiar Bluet, Rambur’s Forktail.
22 species

American Wigeon  2
Mallard  12
Northern Pintail  8
Ruddy Duck  1
Eared Grebe  1
Western Grebe  2
Double-crested Cormorant  18
Great Blue Heron  1
Great Egret  1
Green Heron  1
Turkey Vulture  1
Northern Harrier  1
American Coot  400
Spotted Sandpiper  2
Common Ground-Dove  1
Belted Kingfisher  1
American Kestrel  1
Black Phoebe  4
Say’s Phoebe  2
Loggerhead Shrike  1
Red-winged Blackbird  10
Western Meadowlark  3

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (

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Yuma County to Maricopa County, 19-20 Oct 2012
Filed under: Arizona
Posted by: Henry @ 9:06 pm

Hi Birders!

Jon Isacoff and I birded a number of Yuma County sites on Friday (19 Oct) and then Saturday (20 Oct) morning, and then made a beeline for the Sunflower/Mt. Ord area, northeast of Phoenix. Our best birds on Friday were:

- Greater White-fronted Goose - Palo Verde Point at the Imperial NWR
- A pair of Clark’s Grebes doing their mating dance on Martinez Lake Western Grebes in scattered locations where they aren’t normally, such as Fortuna Pond and an irrigation canal
- A flock of 30+ American Avocets swimming in a tight circle in the shallows of Martinez Lake
- Black Rail growling at West Pond (CA)
- Black Rail calling in the swamp east of Hidden Shores RV Park Clapper & Virginia Rails & Sora at various stops along the Colorado River
- Red-breasted Nuthatch at the Hidden Shores RV golf course
- 1 White-winged Dove, 1 Cactus Wren, and 1 Bewick’s Wren at the Yuma West Wetlands

Red-breasted Nuthatch, Hidden Shores RV Park      Vermilion Flycatcher, Hidden Shores

On Saturday morning we had a singing Le Conte’s Thrasher northeast of Tacna–normally it takes half an hour to find the bird–this morning we did it in five minutes! Jon’s 499th bird was a Black-chinned Sparrow close to Sunflower, and then his 500th life bird was Canyon Towhee! Probably the best bird on Saturday was a Clay-colored Sparrow.

Sage Sparrow, Imperial NWR                                     Junniper Titmouse, Sycamore Creek

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Rare Bird Alert!
Filed under: California
Posted by: Bob @ 9:50 pm

Hi all,


I got a call from Guy McCaskie this afternoon, Saturday 20 Oct. He was at Fig Lagoon near Seeley and he had just found an immature Red-necked Grebe.

The only other record for this species in Imperial County was a bird found near the Colorado River by Henry Detwiler so this is the first time it has ever been recorded here in the Imperial Valley! It was in the middle of Fig Lagoon and I was able to get a few blurry documentation pictures by placing a digital camera on my spotting scope (digiscoping).

The first image is an extreme crop from the second image. The second image shows a pair of Western Grebes with it for size comparison. The third image shows it with a Canvasback for size comparison.

There are seven species of grebe that occur in North America. Western, Clark’s, Eared, Horned, Pied-billed, Red-necked and Least. Five of them, Western, Clark’s, Eared, Pied-billed and Red-necked are on Fig Lagoon right now! Horned Grebe is found in Imperial County only occasionaly. There is only one record of Least Grebe here in Imperial County and only two records for the entire state of California so now all seven species have been seen right here in our own backyard!!

The Google Map below is interactive. Click inside it to move around or click on the link below it to open it in Googl Maps where you can see the legend.


View Fig Lagoon in a larger map

See ya at the sea……………….

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Birding with Jonathon
Filed under: California
Posted by: Bob @ 8:32 pm

Hi all,

Spent Thursday, October 18 birding the Imperial Valley and the Salton Sea with Jonathon from Washington and had a great day. It was on the warm side of 95 and the hummidity was through the roof but light breezes and a bit of AC in our air conditioned self propeled bird blind made up for that. We had 113 species of birds for the day with a few “rare bird alerts” in the mix.

We started out in Brawley and had several of the sought after sothwest specialties like GILA WOODPECKER, and COMMON GROUND-DOVE.

A singing HOUSE WREN was at Carter and Fites west of Brawley as well as about 100 TURKEY VULTURE at roost. Some of them were taking flight while we were there.

Click on the thumbnails for a larger image!


We then made our way up toward the Salton Sea. This old trap wagon and truck are along Loveland Road and the sign stenciled on the side of the trap wagon “OUT OF SERVICE” is most appropriate!

I contacted Al Kalin to see if the Ferruginous Hawk had been seen and he said no but that he had seen two PARASITIC JAEGER on Poe Road that morning so off we went. They are a pelagic species meaning that they live out over the ocean and there are typically only a few seen on the Salton Sea in any given year and are most often young birds. We were able to find one of them and it was indeed a young bird. Jaegers earn a living by harassing other birds in mid air and forcing them to either give up their fish catch or cough up whatever fish they already ate and this bird was actively chasing CASPIAN TERNS. A real arial flight demonstration by all involved! They were too far out for any camera that I own.

As we neared the north end of Poe Road we found a “Harlan’s” RED-TAILED HAWK and this is probably the same bird that spent the winter in that area last year. Harlan’s is a subspecies of Red-tailed Hawk that is almost black with very dark tail that is almost white below and is not seen very often here in the Imperial Valley. The picture below is an extreme crop and quite blurry but you can get a fell for how different it is from our typical Red-tailed Hawks.

Many years ago there was a boat launch and marina at the north end of Poe Road but the Salton Sea rose up over it and is now receding so it is a very surrealistic location. The name somehow seems appropriate. If you visit there just be very mindfull to keep your vehicle in the same tracks as whoever went successfully before you and watch your step if you are on foot as the ground is not as dry as it looks. Here Jon is scoping for birds and the New River delta can be seen several miles across the bay.

At the west end of Bowles Road we found a continuing female RUFF that had been reported a few days earlier but it was still a great find by Jon who was not aware there was even one around!! It was way too far out to get pictures of though but they are very striking shorebirds with bright orange legs.

YELLOW-FOOTED GULL is the most sought after species of bird here at the Salton Sea because it occurs nowhere else in North America north of Mexico. They are post-breeding visitors meaning that a good number of them come up from Baja California after they breed and spend the late summer and early fall here. In a typical year there may be only one or two individuals that will stay all winter and today was one of those days when I thought we were not going to find that one or two. We were running out of places to look when we found this adult taking a nap on the barnacle beach on the northwest tip of Obsidian Butte! They look very similar to the Western Gulls that you see on the coast in San Diego except that they have bright yellow legs rather than bright pink legs. Western Gull are also rare on the Salton Sea.

After grabbing some fine homemade sandwiches at United Food Center in Niland (highly recommended and they have the coolest wine selection in the valley!) we headed back south. A huge flock of blackbirds were streaming out to the corner of Pound and Blair Roads to take a bath in a newly irrigated field. The huge mixed flock contained mostly RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD but there were numerous others in the mix. BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD, EUROPEAN STARLING, BREWER’S BLACKBIRD and YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD. One of the Yellow-headed Blackbirds is visible in this cropped thunbnail below. See if you can find it  in the larger image after you click on the thumbnail!!

All of the birds in the next picture are Red-winged Blackbirds and most of them are female or immature birds. The bird in front is an adult female.

We made a stop at Young Reservoir at Kershaw and Albright Roads south of Calipatria. Although it is not open to the public it is always worth stopping at the gate and scanning through the fence because it has a reputation for holding waterfowl that can sometimes be tough to find. On this day we had a small flocks of REDHEAD that we had not encountered throughout the day.

There is a small population of INCA DOVE that reside at the residences on Smith Road near the entrance to Finney Lake and it is a reliable spot when you have not seen them elsewhere for the day! Inca Dove are small like the Common Ground-Dove but they have a long thin tail, no spots on the wings and appear to be covered in fish scales.

Our last birding stop for the day was on Finney Lake where we got to hear and then see a LEAST BITTERN fly across the lake. The spectacular sunset just kept getting better my the minute! The birds in flight in the next picture are DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS.

Jon had to get an early start the next morning to meet Henry in Yuma for two more days of fun in Arizona on the Colorado River and near Phoenix so we picked up some great Mexican food to go from Nana Dora’s in Brawley where we went over our bird list and then I dropped him off at Brawley Inn to end our day of fun.

See ya at the sea……………

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Fun on the Plaza
Filed under: California
Posted by: Bob @ 11:35 am

Hi all,

Had a great morning on the plaza in downtown Brawley for the Brawley Public Library’s autumn book sale and local authors book signing event this past saturday. Picked up a few new books, met lots of friends new and old and even had some family there!

Brawley Plaza. No right turn for the snow cone line! BUHS band had worked up a thirst.

Brawley Plaza. Library book sale.

My nephew Eric is a staff photographer for Imperial Valley Press and it was good to chat with him for a bit too.

With my nephew Eric Miller

Of course I had to keep a list of birds seen from the plaza too! I was expecting to see a number of warblers as migration is comming on but did not see any till I was ready to leave and had a flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers. Here is the list.

Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Gila Woodpecker
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Brewers Blackbird
House Finch

Headed down Dogwood Road to El Centero afterwords and saw 204 Sandhill Crane near Dogwood and Carey Roads. Five American Kestrel were the most I have seen on that stretch all summer so it appears a number of them have newly arrived for the winter as well. The duck club northeast of Dogwood and Keystone Roads is now taking on water so we should start seeing the typical winter mass quantities of birds in that area soon. Have not peeked into the fish farms south of Keystone for some time but it appears they are all dry so birding along the Dogwood corridor through Mesquite Lake Basin has been rather slow so far this year.

See ya at the sea………..

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