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

November 2012
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Leonids and Mudpots
Filed under: California
Posted by: Bob @ 4:20 pm

Hi all,

Friday night Nov 16th, I camped out on Obsidian Butte on the shore of the Salton Sea. Was hoping to see a great Leonid meteor shower. Bust. Saw maybe 20 all night long. Two were pretty nice and most of the others were so fast you were left wondering if you really saw that! The majority of them happened between three and five am. Temperature was nice but a breeze about midnight had me wraping up a bit. Most interesting event all night was the bird activity! White geese (Ross’ and Snow Geese) were moving around all night and it sounded like a good number of them might have sat down on the sea but I do not ever recall them sitting on the sea before. The geothermal plants are pretty loud so a lot of sounds were missed but when a flock of about 40 American White Pelicans came streaming over about 50 feet above from behind me it startled me pretty good! Lying flat on your back and suddenly there are these huge white ghosts over your head to go with the ghostly sound.

I set up my camera on a tripod and caught no meteors but did catch an aircrafts blinking red light trailing off to the north.

To fill the time waiting for meteors I began playing with the camera by running around in front of it with a little red LED headlamp. Writing my name in lights turned out pretty good! Yes, the image is flipped…still have to learn to write my name backwards!

Just before sunrise I drove out to the Morton Bay Mudpots near Mullet Island. I was able to get some pretty interesting videos of the mudpots and have posted them on YouTube. The following links will open my YouTube channel or my Google Maps page with directions for the mudpots in a new window.

Map page link.

Video page link.

I can not empasize enough that you need to stay on the proven track of the vehicles who have gone before you. Getting off even a little bit can take a big chunk of time out of your day…and your wallet!! The first picture below is where someone spent a good part of their day digging just by getting a little off the track. The second picture is the perfect example of no track at all…that vehicle has been burried to the axles there for over a week!!!

A little off the track will get you stuck.

No track at all will get you burried for good!

Old waterfowl hunting blind used while the Salton Sea still covered this area.

Would you drive here?


Small gryphon about two feet tall.

Larger gryphons that are no longer active.


Some areas you do not even walk in!

Critters live here too.

Tiny ones!

Double-crested Cormorants on Mullet Island

The Salton Sink has filled up and dried up countless times throughout history. It was a completely full freshwater lake some 400 or so years ago. The Colorado River delta has always diverted back and forth between the Gulf of California and the Salton Sink and it was on the verge of coming back to the Salton Sink when we gave it a convenient path and the flood of 1905 took advantage of it. Very soon after the population of Mullet fish in the Salton Sea were enough to have an operating fish cannery on this island and that is where the name Mullet Island comes from. The sea just as quickly became too saline to support freshwater Mullet or the cannery so it closed. A fellow named Captain Davis bought the buildings and made a restaurant and bar on the island and it was called Hell’s Kitchen. The foundations of those building are still standing on the right side of the island in the picture below. There is a postcard in the Postcard History Series book “THE SALTON SEA” by Karl Anderson. That postcard, pictured on page 67, shows these same mudpots, from this same vantage point, with the buildings still standing in the 1920’s!! The postcard on page 59 is a picture of Hell’s Kitchen in that book.

So these mudpots have been here for a long time and are not “new” volcanic activity.

Mullet Island

The freshwater of Morton Bay flows into the Salton Sea near Mullet Island and that channel is the reason you can drive no farther north along this portion of the Salton Sea. It also forms great shorebird habitat!

Morton Bay outflow

Great shorebird habitat. The Chocolate Mountains are about 15 miles to the north.

A smaller set of lone mudpots about 1/4 mile north of the main patch.

I spent several hours kicking around out there and then headed east into the agland in search of Mountain Plover. Found none though. There was a report of a Red-throated Loon, VERY rare to be in our area, on Young Reservoir south of Calipatria at Albright and Kershaw Roads so I made a stop there. Sure enough it was still there and I was able to get this documentation photo of it swimming with a Western Grebe.

Red-throated Loon, left and Western Grebe, right

Looking NE to the north end of the Algodones Dunes.

Savannah Sparrow near the East Highline Canal

Vesper Sparrow near the East Highline Canal

On the way home to Brawley I made a pass through the Alamo River Wetlands Shank Road site where there were about 50 American White Pelican and as many Double-crested Cormorants. Very few damsels and dragons still about this late in the season but there were still a few Roseate Skimmer, Familiar Bluet and Rambur’s Forktail.

A map and directions are at this link. Shank Road Wetlands

American White Pelicans at Shank Road Wetlands.

Familiar Bluet damslefly

Last stop before home in Brawley was Alamorio Store, on Hwy 78 at the Alamo River curve, a few miles east of Brawley. It is a small and popular country store beer bar which offers a fantastic rib-eye steak dinner special with all of the trimmings every Monday night at 6pm. Part of the deal is you have to grill your own steak! The grill is plenty LARGE enough though.

See ya at the sea………..

Imperial Valley–general area, Imperial, US-CA
Nov 17, 2012 6:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Protocol: Traveling
115.0 mile(s)
58 species (+2 other taxa)

Snow/Ross’s Goose  300
Mallard  20
Cinnamon Teal  4
Northern Shoveler  100
Green-winged Teal  50
Redhead  2
Red-throated Loon  1     Young Reservoir
Pied-billed Grebe  4
Eared Grebe  100
Western Grebe  15
Double-crested Cormorant  1000
American White Pelican  100
Great Blue Heron  20
Great Egret  50
Snowy Egret  10
Cattle Egret  1000
Black-crowned Night-Heron  6
White-faced Ibis  2000
Turkey Vulture  4
Northern Harrier  6
Cooper’s Hawk  1
Red-tailed Hawk  10
American Coot  500
Killdeer  30
Black-necked Stilt  10
American Avocet  5
Spotted Sandpiper  1
Greater Yellowlegs  2
Long-billed Curlew  2
Western Sandpiper  100
Least Sandpiper  100
Long-billed Dowitcher  50
Ring-billed Gull  1000
Herring Gull  5
Caspian Tern  8
Rock Pigeon  200
Eurasian Collared-Dove  45
Mourning Dove  50
Common Ground-Dove  2
Greater Roadrunner  1
Burrowing Owl  15
Anna’s Hummingbird  1
Belted Kingfisher  1
American Kestrel  25
Black Phoebe  15
Say’s Phoebe  10
Loggerhead Shrike  1
swallow sp.  10
Marsh Wren  2
European Starling  30
American Pipit  6
Yellow-rumped Warbler  100
Abert’s Towhee  2
Vesper Sparrow  3
Savannah Sparrow  75
Song Sparrow  1
White-crowned Sparrow  200
Red-winged Blackbird  3000
Western Meadowlark  30
Great-tailed Grackle  50

View this checklist online at

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (

Birding with Brits
Filed under: California
Posted by: Bob @ 3:00 pm

Hi all,

Enjoyed the weeklong festivities of Cattle Call in Brawley by attending the Chili Cook-off, Cowboy Poetry Night, Mariachi Festival and the Brawley Union High School (Class of 74!) Sophmore Class BBQ fundraiser….and had a greattime! After 15 years of fun at it, I have not worked the stripping chutes at the rodeo for several years now…was taking longer to recover each year!

So this year I headed out on rodeo Sunday for a fine day of birding, exploring and sharing our backyard with visiting Brits. Peter, who lives here in the states and is an honorary member of the Lucky Ladies Nature Club (by marriage), had his sister Trish and her husband John visiting from England.

My eBird list for the day is at the bottom of this page.

We met up in Westomorland and headed straight out to Unit One of the Sonny Bono Salton Sea NWR (SBSSNWR) on a perfect weather day.

Long-billed Dowitchers. Fish Creek Mountains to the west.

Mount Signal, (El Cerro Centinela, Wi’Shspa) on the Mexican border 32 miles due south.

Burrowing Owl

There were lots of shorebirds, gulls and pelicans along the shore of the Salton Sea as we headed north.

Herring Gull (Adult)

Herring Gull (Immature)

Four birds, four species! From left: Long-billed Dowithcer, Western Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plover and Least Sandpiper.

At the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) Managed Marsh on Hwy 111 at Hazard Road south of Niland we had plenty of the expected freshwater marsh birds and our second pair of White-tailed Kites for the day.

Eared Grebe (winter plumage)

Pied-billed Grebe (winter plumage)

After lunch at United Food Center in Niland, we headed off the beaten path to the Morton Bay Mudpots near Mullet Island. I keep emphasizing in my maps and posts that you should not get your vehicle off of the proven path of those who have gone before you. The vehicle buried to the axles (pictured below and still there over a week later) is the perfect example of an unproven path!

Maps and video of the mudpots may be viewed at the following links.



Stay on the proven track with your vehicle or…..buried to the axles!

Morton Bay Mudpots

How many creatures did you see coming out of the goop!?

Trish, Peter and John.

The foundations of the fish cannery and Captain Davis’ Hells Kitchen are still standing on Mullet Island. I have seen postcard pictures of these same mudpots, taken from this same viewpoint in the 1920’s and the buildings were still there and operating at that time!

Mullet Island

Red-winged Blackbirds.

Red-tailed Hawk having dinner.

Turkey Vulture hoping for leftovers.

See ya at the sea…………..

Imperial Valley–general area, Imperial, US-CA
Nov 11, 2012 6:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Protocol: Traveling
86.0 mile(s)
Comments:     With Pete, Trish and John. Met in Westmorland at 6am. Visited Unit One of the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge(SBSSNWR), Walker Road to Lack Road, across Obsidian Butte to SBSSNWR visitor center. United Food Center in Niland for lunch. Imperial Irrigation District (IID) Managed Marsh at Hwy 111 and Hazard. Pound Road to Davis to see the old Dry Ice plant and the mudpot gryphons at Davis and Schrimpf. Out to the Morton Bay mudpots. Sinclair to Brant into Calipatria, Ramer Lake then Mexican food for dinner at Christine’s in Brawley and back to Westmorland.
76 species

Snow Goose  2000
Ross’s Goose  3000
Cackling Goose  1     In flight with Ross’s geese at Unit One
Mallard  100
Northern Pintail  75
Green-winged Teal  100
Ruddy Duck  100
Gambel’s Quail  35
Pied-billed Grebe  40
Eared Grebe  100
Western Grebe  45
Clark’s Grebe  2     Morton Bay off of Garst Road
Double-crested Cormorant  100
American White Pelican  50
Brown Pelican  25
American Bittern  1     From view tower at Unit One SBSSNWR
Least Bittern  2     (1) calleing from view tower at Unito One SBSSNWR, (1) calling IID Mahaged Marsh at Hwy 111 and Hazard Road
Great Blue Heron  50
Great Egret  150     Most is several large flocks in fields that were apparent new arrivals
Snowy Egret  50
Cattle Egret  200
Black-crowned Night-Heron  3
White-faced Ibis  75
Turkey Vulture  5
Osprey  1     Seawall on Lack Road
White-tailed Kite  4     (2) at Unito One of SBSSNWR, (2) at IID Managed Marsh Hwy 111 and Hazard Road
Northern Harrier  15
Cooper’s Hawk  4
Red-tailed Hawk  20
Ferruginous Hawk  1     Walker Road west of Lack Road
Clapper Rail  2
Virginia Rail  4
Sora  1
American Coot  150
Sandhill Crane  100     Unit One of SBSSNWR
Black-bellied Plover  6
Semipalmated Plover  3     Seawall at Lack and Lindsey
Killdeer  20
Black-necked Stilt  20
American Avocet  5
Greater Yellowlegs  8
Lesser Yellowlegs  1
Marbled Godwit  15
Western Sandpiper  20
Least Sandpiper  50
Long-billed Dowitcher  500
Ring-billed Gull  500
Western Gull  1     Hatch year on seawall on Lack Road
Herring Gull  50
Caspian Tern  6
Rock Pigeon  100
Eurasian Collared-Dove  100
Mourning Dove  50
Common Ground-Dove  10
Greater Roadrunner  1
Barn Owl  1
Burrowing Owl  15
Belted Kingfisher  2
American Kestrel  40
Black Phoebe  15
Say’s Phoebe  3
Loggerhead Shrike  2
Tree Swallow  20
Marsh Wren  2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Common Yellowthroat  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler  200
Abert’s Towhee  12     Numerous on drive into Ramer Lake from Hwy 111
Vesper Sparrow  1
Savannah Sparrow  50
White-crowned Sparrow  100
Dark-eyed Junco  1
Red-winged Blackbird  5000
Western Meadowlark  25
Great-tailed Grackle  45
House Finch  10

View this checklist online at

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (

Comments Off
San Diego County Birding
Filed under: California
Posted by: Henry @ 12:58 pm

Greetings Birders!

Spent most of the day in San Diego County, starting at La Jolla, then up San Eligo Lagoon, over to Scripps Ranch, down to the San Diego River flood control channel, east to Pine Valley, on to Jacumba, and ending up just before dark at Fig Lagoon in Imperial County.

At San Elijo were the usual California Gnatcatchers, which I added to my “year list” of photographed birds.  (Up to 362 so far this year.)  Perhaps the most noteworthy bird was a Fox Sparrow perched up on a bush.

Fox Sparrow

Pine Valley had a nice mix of mountain birds, but even better, between Pine Valley and the Golden Acorn Casino, maybe 5 miles west of Boulevard, a pair of Pinyon Jays flew across the road in front of my SUV. 

While in Jacumba I scanned for the California Thrasher I “always” find on the west side of town.  Nothing.  So I played a snippet of his song on my iPod.  Still nothing.  So I looked behind me and there was a big California Thrasher running accross the path not ten feet behind me.  Another classic moment in birding!

California Thrasher

Good birding!

San Diego & Imperial Counties, 20 Nov 12 (123 species)
Pacific Loon
Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Eared Grebe
Western Grebe
Black-vented Shearwater
American White Pelican
Brown Pelican
Brandt’s Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant
Least Bittern
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Cattle Egret
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night Heron
White-faced Ibis
Cackling Goose
American Wigeon
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Lesser Scaup
Surf Scoter
Ruddy Duck
White-tailed Kite
Northern Harrier
Cooper’s Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
California Quail
Common Moorhen
American Coot
Black-bellied Plover
Snowy Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
Greater Yellowlegs
Spotted Sandpiper
Long-billed Curlew
Marbled Godwit
Ruddy Turnstone
Least Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Turkey Vulture
Heerman’s Gull
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Western Gull
Royal Tern
Forster’s Tern
Common Murre
Rock Pigeon
Band-tailed Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Eurasian Collared Dove
Anna’s Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Acorn Woodpecker
Nuttall’s Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Say’s Phoebe
Vermilion Flycatcher
Loggerhead Shrike
Steller’s Jay
Western Scrub Jay
Pinyon Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Oak Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Marsh Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Western Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
California Thrasher
European Starling
Common Yellowthroat
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler
Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Abert’s Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Lark Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Tricolored Blackbird
Brewer’s Blackbird
Great-tailed Grackle
House Finch
Pine Siskin
Lesser Goldfinch
House Sparrow        

comments (0)
Pelican Days birding festival
Filed under: California
Posted by: Bob @ 6:52 pm

Hi all,

The Sea and Desert Interpretive Association has announced PELICAN DAYS, a new birding festival for the Salton Sea! The dates are January 18th, 19th and 20th. It will be held at the Salton Sea State Recreation Area on the north shore of the Salton Sea. This would be a great festival to take the kids and camp out on the shore of the Salton Sea. There will be several birding trips and activities at the State Park and there will also be birding by kayak on the sea. Tour transportation will be by carpool.

The two sided registration and information flyer is posted here in two pages. Clicking on each page will open the full sized version of that side of the registration page in a new window that should be printable at 8.5×11.

Peilican Days

Pelican Days

See ya at the sea……………………

1 comment
Salton Sea Mudpots
Filed under: California
Posted by: Bob @ 5:00 pm

Hi all,

The receding shoreline of the Salton Sea is exposing some very interesting and long submerged geothermal features. One of these newly exposed features off of Garst Road, north of Red Hill, between the Alamo River and Mullet Island is the spectacularly active mudpots.


Mudpots, mud volcanoes, mud domes, paint pots and several other names are given to these features. Double checked my BS meter here so with some research and a reasonable amount of assuredness…all of those descriptions are just fine! The more scientific term, I am using that term loosely here, is that the mudpots are fumaroles and the raised “volcanoes” are called “gryphons”. To quote from the book THE SALTON SEA by Karl Anderson,  ”They are formations created by geo-excreted liquids and gasses.” And spectacularly excreted they are!

The fumaroles are driven mostly by CO2 gas which is Carbon Dioxide. The same CO2 that goes into soda pop. It pushes up through the earth and hot geothermal brine but when it reaches the surface it is NOT boiling hot water. CO2 makes the bubbles, not heat. The pots, even some whithin a few feet of each other, can have sharply different temperatures. Some hot enough to scald you but most are just warm. There are other gasses being emitted as well so getting down and breathing straight out of one ot the tubes would probably be a bad idea. They have been here for a VERY long time and this is not ”new evidence” that a new volcano is going to blow up the west coast!


The two videos above were taken on Oct 29, 2012 while exploring the valley with Jennifer and Crissy. More videos are available on my YouTube channel by clicking on THIS LINK.

Below is a Google Map with directions….. BUT FIRST a few words about going there. You can walk out to them but it is about 2.25 miles one way. If you drive out you MUST have a high clearance vehicle at the very least. I have seen a Honda Accord out there a few times but he obviously understands off road driving better than most and has maybe a little less respect for his vehicle than most! All of that said, if you stick to the proven path of those who have successfully made it out before you AND it has not rained there for at least a week or more, you will do just fine so get out and explore our spectacular backyard!

View Morton Bay Mudpots in a larger map

If you click on the link to view it in a larger map, you will see a legend for the markings on the map. There are also gryphons and mudpots, represented by the blue markers, near the intersection of Davis and Schrimpf Road that are easily accessible but not as spectacular as those near Mullet Island.

The area north of the end of Garst Road where is crosses the Alamo River, I have always known as Morton Bay but I am not sure where the name comes from. One version I heard was because Morton Salt mined salt there. So I did a double check on my BS meter again and did some more research. There are some VERY intersting stories from that area that I will get into in later posts.

Salt was mined in that area but I found no connections to Morton Salt. Maybe it was just called Morton Bay in recent times because that is the name most people think of when they think salt! The company that did mine there was “Mullet Island Salt Works Mine (Mullet Island Development Company; Mullet Island Paint Company; Reeder Salt Company), was located 5.2 miles west of Niland”. The coordinates given on mining maps place it just on the north side on Mullet Island and that mine operated from 1940 to 1942. There were other mines, some more successfull and some not, farther north that started earlier and or ran longer and that is yet another fascinating story!

See ya at the sea…………………..

1 comment
Ruddy Ground-Dove north of Yuma
Filed under: Arizona
Posted by: Henry @ 10:04 pm

Hello Birders!

Paul Lehman found a Ruddy Ground-Dove at the Hidden Shores RV Resort Golf Course on Monday the 5th, so yesterday afternoon I headed out there as soon as I could to try and snap a few pics.  It took a while, but luck was with me, and I found the beautiful bird–a handsome male!

Ruddy Ground-Dove

Also roaming the golf course was a White-fronted Goose, a Snow Goose, 4 Vermilion Flycatchers, 3 Black Phoebes, 1 Say’s Phoebe, 6 Western Meadowlarks, a House Wren, Yellow-rumped Warblers, 4 Savannah Sparrows, a Lincoln’s Sparrow, a Dark-eyed Junco, dozens of White-crowned Sparrows, and a Golden-crowned Sparrow!  It turned out to be a great late afternoon visit.

Ruddy Ground-Dove

Look for more rarities listed on our new web page at:

Good Birding!



comments (0)
West Wetlands & Cocopah RV Resort
Filed under: Arizona
Posted by: Henry @ 8:21 pm

Greetings Birders!

Suzanne and I spent an hour at the West Wetlands this morning (Nov 3, 2012), and then I spent another hour at Cocopah RV Resort. Our best birds were a BLACK AND WHITE WARBLER and a small flock of PINE SISKINS at the Wetlands, and then my first Yuma County NEOTROPIC CORMORANT at the sewage pond in Cocopah RV Resort.

Neotropic Cormorant, Cocopah RV Resort

Also at Cocopah were multiple VERMILION FLYCATCHERS and a small flock of LONG-BILLED CURLEWS. Oddly, no ducks were visible on any of the ponds, although there were dozens of coots and COMMON GALLINULE.

Long-billed Curlew, Cocopah RV Resort

Great Blue Heron, Cocopah RV Resort

YELLOW-RUMPEDS and RUBY-CROWNED KINGLETS appeared by the score when pishing at any one location.
It was a beautiful morning to be out.

Good birding!

Henry Detwiler

Yuma West Wetlands & Cocopah RV Resort, 3 Nov 12
1 Neotropic Cormorant
2 Double-crested Cormorant
3 Great Blue Heron
4 Great Egret
5 Snowy Egret
6 Green Heron
7 Northern Harrier
8 Cooper’s Hawk
9 American Kestrel
10 Common Moorhen
11 American Coot
12 Long-billed Curlew
13 Turkey Vulture
14 Rock Pigeon
15 Mourning Dove
16 Common Ground-Dove
17 Eurasian Collared Dove
18 Anna’s Hummingbird
19 Costa’s Hummingbird
20 Belted Kingfisher
21 Gila Woodpecker
22 Ladder-backed Woodpecker
23 Northern Flicker
24 Black Phoebe
25 Say’s Phoebe
26 Vermilion Flycatcher
27 Loggerhead Shrike
28 Verdin
29 Cactus Wren
30 House Wren
31 Marsh Wren
32 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
33 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
34 Northern Mockingbird
35 Crissal Thrasher
36 European Starling
37 Common Yellowthroat
38 Yellow-rumped Warbler
39 Black-and-white Warbler
40 Orange-crowned Warbler
41 Abert’s Towhee
42 White-crowned Sparrow
43 Red-winged Blackbird
44 Great-tailed Grackle
45 House Finch
46 Pine Siskin
47 Lesser Goldfinch
48 House Sparrow


comments (0)
Salton Sea and Imperial Valley
Filed under: California
Posted by: Bob @ 2:45 pm

Hi all,

On Monday 29 October, I spent the day birding, exploring and photographing the Salton Sea and Imperial Valley with Jennifer and Crissy. Jennifer is a birder and Crissy is a photographer so we had a grand time doing both. We recorded 73 species of birds for the day and visited a wide variety of locations.

Our first destination at sunrise was the New River delta at the west end of Bowles Road. This has become one of the best shorebird locations on this end of the Salton Sea and typically there are mass quantities right at your feet. There was a Peregrine Falcon actively hunting when we arrived so most of the birds were bunched in tight groups and distant. The Pregrine and several Northern Harriers did a bit of arial combat a few times which was fun to see.

Bowles Road
Looking north from Bowles Road

Bowles Road
Looking west from Bowles Road at Great Blue Heron nests

We then made our way over to Unit One of the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge (SBSSNWR :-) on the north end of Vendel Road. Several thousand white geese (a mix of Snow and Ross’s Geese) have arrived and MANY more will be arriving daily. There were also a few Sandhill Cranes flying over as we arrived. While we were at the view towers a crop duster arrived at the fields a few miles to the southwest and the geese filled the sky.

From there we headed for the Salton Sea and the seawall at Lack and Lindsey Roads. This spot has been in the Rare Bird Alerts consistantly for years. We were in luck as an adult YELLOW-FOOTED GULL was feeding on barnicles right at the base of the seawall. 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 abundant in the late summer and early fall but by winter most have returned to their breeding grounds on the Gulf of California and there may only be one or two individuals on the Salton Sea in the winter. Yup, we were in for a day full of luck!

Yellow-footed Gull
Yellow-footed Gull

Brown Pelicans were gliding past. Western and Eared Grebes and Ruddy Ducks were on the sea. Semipalmated Plover, Least Sandpiper, Marbled Godwit, Greater Yellowlegs, Killdeer, Long-billed Dowitcher, Ring-billed Gull and American White Pelican were some of the other birds present. Rather strange how many folks thought it was the appropriate place to dispose of old tires while the Salton Sea was still lapping up against the seawall……

Brown Pelican

Lack and Lindsey on the seawall

Herring Gull and Great Blue Heron

We then followed the seawall onto Obsidian Butte where we had grand views of the Salton Sea.

American White Pelicans

Looking NW to the Santa Rosa’s and San Jacinto above Palm Springs

Looking north to the Chocolate Mountains

Looking NE to Rock Hill, Red Hill and the Chocolate Mountains

After a visit to the SBSSNWR visitor center at Gentry and Sinclair Roads we made our way to Niland for sandwiches at United Food Center which were great as always. Our trip veered off into the sureal from there as we headed east  for Slab City and Salvation Mountain. Do not recall the dates but I heard there is an event planned very soon for a large gathering to do some restoration work on Leonard Knight’s Salvation Mountain.

Salvation Mountain
Salvation Mountain

Lincoln’ized 1967 Corvair

Customized Dodge Van
Dodge Happy Van

The Guard Shack
Leaving Slab City “Reality Ahead”

We then headed west and went through the Imperial Irrigation Dsitricts Managed Marsh where we had several Forster’s Tern and a pair of White-tailed Kite above us and a Sora and Clapper Rail called out from the marsh. On westward we visited the old adobe dry ice plant at Davis and Pound Roads. They ran pipes down into the mudpots to collect C02. That is what gives the mudpots their “boil” not boiling water, and it is also what dry ice is made of! After they quite making ice it became a health spa and RV resort with bath houses for bathing in the mineral waters. You can see the individual spas. Over twenty years ago a sinkhole opened up and swallowed half of the main bath house pump room. I have always wondered how deep that hole is!?

Adobe Dry Ice Plant

Bath House

Bath House

Bath House Sinkhole

Westward again we ventured out onto the exposed floor of the Salton Sea to the newly exposed Morton Bay Mudpots. These bubbling, gurgling fumaroles and “gryphons” are VERY active to say the least and in a few spots are downright violent! We had a MERLIN and several SAGE SPARROW in the saltbush saltflats and California Tiger Beetles racing, and mating across the saltflats. Variegated Meadowhawk dragonflies enjoy the area as well.

California Tiger Beetles
California Tiger Beetle (Cicindela californica)

Variegated Meadowhawk
Variegated Meadowhawk (Sympetrum corruptum)

Morton Bay Mudpots
Morton Bay Mudpots and gryphons

Morton Bay Mudpots
Morton Bay Mudpots

Morton Bay Mudpots
Morton Bay Mudpots

I have created a map and will be posting much more detailed information about the Morton Bay Mudpots this week. A high clearance vehicle….. at the very minimum…. is required to get out there and precautions are required as getting off the beaten path can be life threatening to you or your vehicle! I have several videos of the mudpots up on my YouTube channel. New Salton Sea Mudpots 07 and 08 were taken on this day and they may be viewed by clicking on THIS LINK.

Morton Bay Mudpots
Morton Bay Mudpots

Although it did not seem to take so long our day was running out of daylight so we headed back south for Westmorland. We made a little detour to visit a Burrowing Owl (large dark potato on two sticks) who was too dark to photograph in the morning and was now bathed in the soft light of sunset. Jennifer and I happily went over our bird list for the day while Crissy happily enjoyed getting photographs of the owl and the sunset.

Burrowing Owl

See ya at the sea…………………..

eBird report for the day

Imperial Valley–general area, Imperial, US-CA
Oct 29, 2012 6:09 AM - 6:09 PM
Protocol: Traveling
104.0 mile(s)
Comments:     Submitted from  BirdLog for Android v1.6
With Jennifer and Crissy. Westmorland, west end of Bowles Road, Sonny Bono Salton Sea NWR (SBSSNWR) Unit One on Vendel Road, Lack Road to Obsidian Butte, SBSSNWR HQ, Niland and United Food Center, Salvation Mountain and “The Range”, Imperial Irrigation District (IID) Managed Marsh, Adobe Dry Ice and Spa at Davis and Pound Roads, Morton Bay Mud Pots.
79 species

Snow Goose  500     Unit One SBSSNWR
Ross’s Goose  20     Unit One SBSSNWR
Northern Shoveler  3000
Green-winged Teal  30
Ruddy Duck  100
Gambel’s Quail  2
Pied-billed Grebe  10
Eared Grebe  50
Western Grebe  20
Double-crested Cormorant  3000
American White Pelican  100
Brown Pelican  100
Least Bittern  1
Great Blue Heron  60
Great Egret  100
Snowy Egret  30
Cattle Egret  12
Green Heron  1
Black-crowned Night-Heron  3
White-faced Ibis  3000
White-tailed Kite  2
Northern Harrier  20
Sharp-shinned Hawk  1
Cooper’s Hawk  3
Red-tailed Hawk  20
Clapper Rail  1     IID Managed Marsh
Sora  1     IID Managed Marsh
Common Gallinule  6
American Coot  1000
Sandhill Crane  15     Unit One SBSSNWR
Black-bellied Plover  50
Semipalmated Plover  2
Killdeer  20
Black-necked Stilt  20
American Avocet  100
Spotted Sandpiper  1
Greater Yellowlegs  10
Willet  12
Long-billed Curlew  1
Marbled Godwit  50
Western Sandpiper  50
Least Sandpiper  100
Stilt Sandpiper  25     west end Bowles Road
Long-billed Dowitcher  50
Laughing Gull  2
Ring-billed Gull  1000
Yellow-footed Gull  1     Lack and Lindsey Roads
California Gull  20
Herring Gull  20
Caspian Tern  10
Forster’s Tern  10
Rock Pigeon  20
Eurasian Collared-Dove  20
Mourning Dove  50
Common Ground-Dove  5
Barn Owl  1     SBSSNWR HQ
Burrowing Owl  4
Belted Kingfisher  2
American Kestrel  40
Merlin  1     Moerton Bay
Peregrine Falcon  2     West end of Bowles Road and Pound Road east of Davis Road
Black Phoebe  15
Say’s Phoebe  5
Loggerhead Shrike  3
Barn Swallow  8
Marsh Wren  2
Northern Mockingbird  1
Orange-crowned Warbler  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  100
Abert’s Towhee  4
Sage Sparrow  2     Morton Bay near mud pots
Savannah Sparrow  30
White-crowned Sparrow  10
Red-winged Blackbird  500
Western Meadowlark  30
Brewer’s Blackbird  30
Great-tailed Grackle  100
House Finch  4
House Sparrow  5

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (

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