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

December 2012
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Algodones Dunes Wilderness Area
Filed under: California, Algodones Dunes
Posted by: Bob @ 3:59 pm

Hi all,

Mary photographing butterflies.

Kerry had to head home the night before, so on day three of our visit, Mary and I took a hike through the Algodones Dunes Wilderness Area. We drove about five miles northwest of Glamis on Ted Kipf Road and did a 4.5 mile hike through the pockets. The pockets had received exceptional rains during the August monsoons but no follow-up rains till just a few weeks before our walk. The pockets that received flashfloods from the Chocolate Mountains were quite lush. If we get some rain about once a month the pockets should be very nice this spring.

Queen Butterfly on Apricot Mallow.

Mary in the lush pockets.

Painted Lady Butterfly on Apricot Mallow.

On the dunes overlooking the pocket. Chocolate Mountains beyond to the north.

Advancing dunes.

Stories told on the sand.

Like a city park.

Do not touch!

Unknown military ordinance.

More pictures of our day in the dunes can be seen on my flickr photostream at the following link.

My New Years tradition for many years now is to go out on the New Years pelagic birding trip out of San Diego and that is where I will be when the sun rises on my 2013.

Still working on the pictures from my trip to Alaska and wanted to have them up here by new years but…….

Happy New Year all!!!!!!

See ya at the sea………….or on it if you are on the New Years boat!

My eBird report for this day:

Algodones Dunes 04, Imperial, US-CA
Dec 20, 2012 11:00 AM - 3:00 PM
Protocol: Traveling
4.0 mile(s)
Comments:     With Mary Muchowski. One unidentified thrasher species. First thought was Sage but bill was too long. Bird had bright orange eye, no white on face. Seen from side and back so unknown spotting on breast. Bill was too long for Sage. I beieve it was Bendire’s but can not rule out Curve-billed.
21 species

Gambel’s Quail  2
Mourning Dove  47
Northern Flicker  11
Say’s Phoebe  2
Loggerhead Shrike  3
Horned Lark  34
Cactus Wren  3
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Crissal Thrasher  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  8
Spotted Towhee  2     Both heard, one seen.
Chipping Sparrow  35
Brewer’s Sparrow  70
Vesper Sparrow  1
Black-throated Sparrow  7
Sage Sparrow  23
Song Sparrow  1
Lincoln’s Sparrow  1
White-crowned Sparrow  115
House Finch  25
Lesser Goldfinch  15

View this checklist online at

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (

(3) Black-tailed Jackrabbit

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Picacho Peak Adventure
Filed under: California
Posted by: Bob @ 9:01 pm

Hi all,

Picacho Peak
Picacho Peak from the west.

Day two of Mary and Kerry’s visit was spent exploring the deserts of eastern Imperial County. On the evening of December 18th, after the CBC, we camped out in the eastern deserts of Imperial County. We spent the night under the stars in Ninemile Wash a few miles north of Hwy 78 with a fine campfire and great Carne Asada for dinner. It was windy and raining lightly when we first got out there and just after sunset the sky quickly cleared and the wind settled down.

Next morning we drove Hwy 78 east to Ogilby Road and then we slipped into 4×4 country for the rest of the day. We went east on Hyduke Mine Road and up White Wash to the base of Picacho Peak where we did a three mile hike around the base of 1,930 foot Picacho Peak.  Then back to Hyduke and east to Picacho Road. North to Picacho Sate Park then west up Indian Pass back to Ogilby Road and home. Almost 50 miles of the day was off road and several parts of it were pretty extreme four-wheeling!

The full set of pictures can be viewed on my flickr Photostream at this link.

The full set of photos would be too much for the space here on our blog! Most of the pictures on the flickr site are also placed on the map there and all of them are captioned so you can see where they were taken and what you are looking at.


Bighorn Sheep skeleton.

Mary photographing the Bighorn Sheep skeleton.

The Sleeping Dragon near Picacho Peak.

Mary looks into a deep tenaja filled by the rains.

Kerry rock climbing.

The Smiling Frog.

Mary and Kerry at the Colorado River in Picacho State Park.

The hills have eyes!

Birds and critters seen on our trip!

Rock Wren
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Western Bluebird
American Coot
Great Egret

8 Burro

1 Kit Fox

Kerry headed for San Diego that evening. The next day Mary and I hiked 4.5 miles through the Algodones Dunes and found loads of sparrows! That story in my next post!

See ya at the sea…………. and Happy New Year!!!!!

Salton Sea (south end) Christmas Bird Count
Filed under: California
Posted by: Bob @ 4:50 pm

Hi all,

My firend Mary came down from Northern California with her friend Kerry for a few days of birding and exploring. On Tuesday, December 18 we did the Salton Sea (south end) Christmas Bird Count (CBC).

This year marks the 113th annual Audubon CBC in North America. The Salton Sea (south end) CBC was first conducted in 1965 (count year 66) with a few years missing and then evey year since 1979. A 15 mile diameter circle is laid out for each count and participants fan out to count every bird seen or heard within the boundaries of that circle. Guy McCaskie was the compiler for many of those years and a young man by the name of Oscar Johnson is the current compiler. He mentioned that morning that we had a very fine turn out of counters for this years count. Not sure of the exact center of this circle but it is near the Sonny Bono Salton Sea NWR (SBSSNWR) headquarters at Sinclair and Gentry Roads. Have not seen the official count numbers for this year but the last number I saw was 154 species.

The portion of the circle that Mary, Kerry and I did, covers the area east and south from the intersection of Rueger and and Brandt Roads, to the outside of the circle. This takes in most of Ramer Lake, Young Reservoir and a portion of the New River.

A few notable birds, of the 77 species recorded in our portion, were Red-Shouldered Hawk, Mountain Plover and two Snow Geese. The Red-shouldered Hawk was seen inside the compound at Ramer Lake and the geese were on the lake.

This Peregrine Falcon gave us fine looks as it swooped past us twice.

Peregrine Falcon
Peregrine Falcon

A very exciting moment was when a Prairie Falcon came by harassing an immature Red-tailed Hawk. The Prairie Falcon kept diving at the hawk till it finally landed on the ground near Kershaw and Albright Roads and then proceeded to dive at it at least another 15-20 times!

Prairie Falcon
Prairie Falcon ready to swoop

I focused the camera on the Red-tailed Hawk, and with the help of the girls calling out the timing, and the fact the the hawk would duck just before the falcon arrived, I was able to get a few interesting photos of the confrontation!

Prairie Falcon and Red-tailed Hawk
Prairie Falcon and Red-tailed Hawk

Prairie Falcon and Red-tailed Hawk
Prairie Falcon and Red-tailed Hawk

The falcon continued to dive at the hawk when it took to the air and headed west!

Prairie Falcon and Red-tailed Hawk
Prairie Falcon and Red-tailed Hawk

Kershaw Road has a high wintering sparrow population and Young Reservoir was loaded with birds. A Mew Gull was seen among the 6,000 plus Ring-billed Gull on the reservoir about an hour after we were there.

We then moved across Hwy 111 to Jacobson Road. It is just at the start of the curve of Hwy 111, south of the Twin Rivers Rest Area. If you go west on Jacobson it immediatlely turns north and becomes Mellin Road. Following this north, along the edge of the agriculture and that portion of the Imperial Wildlife Area up to Rueger Road, is great habitat. We typically find Sage Sparrow and bluebirds along this stretch but not this year. We did however have over 300 Killdeer, hundreds of American Pipit, five Mountain Plover and several Burrowing Owl in the first field northwest of Mellin Road. The middle part of Mellin Road is great for Phainopepla, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher and Loggerhead Shrike. There is very dark morph Red-tailed Hawk in the area where Ruegger Road crosses the Alamo River and it has been wintering in that spot for four or five years now.

American Pipit
American Pipit

Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl

We birded the agriculture area over to the New River and Brandt Road and then made it back to the SBSSNWR headquarters at 1pm for the reading of the checklist which is always a lot of fun. The oohs and ahhs of what was seen and what still needs to be looked for are fun but the exciting part is when Oscar asks if anyting NOT on the list was seen! Far and away the best birds this year were two CAVE SWALLOWS seen and photographed Near Garst Road and the Alamo River by Adam Searcy and his group. Typically everyone would go out to see the rarities of the day but swallows on the move are not often refound.

Kerry had never seen the Salton Sea before so we headed off to Obsidian Butte under light showers, great light and several fine rainbows! Mary happens to be the compiller of the Chico CBC which they held a few days before she headed south to play in her beloved desert!

Kerry and Mary
Kerry and Mary on Obsidian Butte

Salton Sea
Salton Sea looking north from Obsidian Butte

Salton Sea
Salton Sea looking north from Obsidian Butte

Kerry and Mary
Kerry and Mary on Obsidian Butte

Salton Sea
Great Blue Heron on Obsidian Butte looking west at the Salton Sea

Salton Sea
Salton Sea looking north from Obsidian Butte

California Gull
California Gull

Double rainbow over the geothermal plants east of Obsidian Butte

We then beat it back into Brawley to gather supplies and camping gear then headed for the deserts of eastern Imperial County. The sun dropped beneath the dark clud cover as we were leaving town and the light was spectacular! This picture is looking east on Main Street of Brawley, from Western Avenue, as we topped off the gas tank at 7-11.

Main Street Brawley
Main Street Brawley

We headed east across the Algodones Dunes as the sun set. The tail end of the storm was moving that way with us and stormy weather in the desert is pefect weather in my book!

See ya at the sea……………

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Wellton & West Wetlands Birding
Filed under: General, Arizona
Posted by: Henry @ 8:21 am

Greetings Birders!

Al and I spent Saturday morning, Dec 22nd, birding the Gila Valley around Wellton, AZ.  It was beautiful weather and the birds were out in force.

Some of our more interesting birds were:
Merlin (Yuma)
Prairie Falcon (west of Wellton)
Sharp-shinned Hawk (west of Wellton)
Barn Owl (Green Acres RV Park, Wellton)
Ruddy Ground-Dove (Green Acres RV Park, Wellton)
Winter Wren (3.2 miles west of Wellton - found by Paul Lehman earlier this month)

Sharp-shinned Hawk, west of Wellton, 22 Dec 2012

If Inca Doves were a bit scarce in 2011, they’ve sure rebounded this year.  The Animal Farm was sporting a good fifty of them.  It was neat to see the Barn Owl staring down at us from the palm tree at Green Acres RV Park.

Barn Owl, Green Acres RV Park, 22 Dec 2012

Numbers of Yellow-rumped Warblers were also extremely high in many of the spots around the valley.

This morning (Christmas Eve) Al, Helga, and I spent a couple of hours at the Yuma West Wetlands and had the usual suspects (Gila & Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Verdins, 3 Crissal Thrashers, etc.).  Additionally we spotted a single Cedar Waxwing and the large wintering flock of American Robins.

Crissal Thrasher, West Wetlands, Yuma, 24 Dec 2012

Directions to Yuma and Imperial County birding sites are at:

Merry Christmas & Good Birding!

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Mittry Lake Christmas Bird Count
Filed under: California, Arizona
Posted by: Henry @ 5:50 pm

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, Dec 15, 2012, was a wet and chilly day, with scattered sunshine in the morning and winds in the afternoon. Not at all what we’re used to for our Christmas bird count!

Imperial NWR Sunrise, 15 Dec 12

This count was centered on Imperial Dam, and covered territory in both Yuma County, AZ and Imperial County, CA. Our most notable find was a Thick-billed Kingbird in the Pratt Restoration Area, at Betty’s Kitchen. This bird was found in late October by L.D. Smith, and had been seen only once since then.

Thick-billed Kingbird, Betty’s Kitchen, 15 Dec 12

We had a total of 117 species, with the following nice finds:
- Brown Pelican (CA)
- Barrow’s Goldeneye (2) (Senator Wash)
- White-tailed Kite (AZ)
- Bald Eagle (1 immature with a blue leg band from the Verde/Salt River northeast of Phoenix) (Imperial NWR)
- Black Rail (AZ)
- Herring Gull (2) (CA)
- Ash-throated Flycatcher (11)
- Thick-billed Kingbird (Betty’s Kitchen)
- Eastern Phoebe (Imperial NWR)
- Cassin’s Vireo (Betty’s Kitchen)
- Barn Swallow (3) (Imperial NWR)

Imperial NWR Sunrise, 15 Dec 12

Once the total results are tallied, I’ll post a link to the Audubon site.

Good birding!


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Yuma Christmas Bird Count
Filed under: California, Arizona
Posted by: Bob @ 4:55 pm

Hi all,

Henry will be putting up more details about birds seen and his pictures from the event as soon as he gets a chance. I am posting here a few of the pictures I had from my part of the day….while I have a chance!

The Yuma Christmas Bird Count was held on Saturday December 15. Yuma birder Arlene Dancer was waiting for me before sunrise at West Pond on McKinley Road off of Senator Wash Road. We walked that area in a heavy drizzle till sunrise hoping for Black Rail which we did not hear. We did have Clapper and Virginia Rail and Sora though. We then moved her vehicle to Phil Swing Park at Imperial Dam where we had a bright male Vermilion Flycatcher.

Next stop was the All American Canal Desilting Ponds which were loaded with waterfowl.

All American Canal Desilting Ponds
All American Canal Desilting Ponds

We then made our way over the small pass by Senator Mine and came out at the foot of Senator Wash Dam. We were fortunate to find two BARROW’S GOLDENEYE on Senator Wash Reservoir. I have seen them more often at this one location on the reservoir over the years than any other spot. It seems they prefer a little less open water and were in the small cove near the outlet station part way across the dam.

Barrow's Goldeneye
Barrow’s Goldeye

Three Burros were on the hillside at the end of the dam as the road drops down to Squaw Lake.


This male Great-tailed Grackle posed as a hood ornament on my Jeep before posing on this picnic table at Squaw Lake.

Great-tailed Grackle
Great-tailed Grackle

Time flies when you are having fun so we beat it back to Phil Swing Park to meet the rest of the birders for lunch at noon. Tales of rarities and the lack of some expected common species, seeing old friends again. Great stuff! Arlene and I then headed out again to bird the desert north of Senator Wash.

Senator Wash Reservoir
Senator Wash Reservoir

After running the desert washes where we found Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Verdin, Ash-throated Flycatcher and Gambel’s Quail we drove on up to Ferguson Lake so Arlene could see it for the first time. It is a truly great view from the top of the hill over the slot canyon in Ferguson Wash.

Ferguson Lake, Colorado River and Martinez Lake, Castle Dome and Kofa Mountains in distance.

Picacho Peak stood prominently to the west of us. I had two friends join me for a desert campout and a three mile hike around the base of it on Wednesday December 19th.

Picacho Peak
Picacho Peak

That was after the Salton Sea Christmas Bird Count on the 18th and before our little 4.5 mile hike through the Algodones Dunes Wilderness Area on the 20th so it has been a busy week and I have lots of stuff to post….. as soon as I get another chance!

See ya at the sea………………..

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Yuma & Imperial Counties
Filed under: General, California, Arizona
Posted by: Henry @ 6:09 pm

Greetings Birders!

Al, Lowell, and I spent Saturday, Dec 8th, birding around Yuma, AZ and Bard, CA, tallying 94 species by the time we quit at 4:00 p.m.  No rarities, but a fine day of birding!

We started out at the Yuma West Wetlands, getting the typical hummingbirds (Anna’s & Costa’s), woodpeckers (Gila, Ladder-backed, & Northern Flicker), phoebes, and Crissal Thrasher.  At Cocopah RV Park we were happy to note the return of the wintering Hooded Mergansers (11), a Caspian Tern, herds of Long-billed Curlews, and a couple of Vermilion Flycatchers.

Black Phoebe, Yuma West Wetlands, 8 Dec 12

At Morales Dam we had a fair number of shorebirds and an American White Pelican.

The winter season south of Yuma must be a terrifying time for gophers.  All during the summer they colonize the huge circular alfalfa fields south of County 9th Street and eat with abandon.  But come November dozens of Ferruginous and Red-tailed Hawks fly down for the winter and feast on gopher meat.  On Saturday morning we counted 37 beautiful Ferruginous Hawks (including 2 dark-phase individuals) and 32 Red-tailed Hawks.  And we had two Prairie Falcons to boot!

Ferruginous Hawks, South of Yuma, 8 Dec 2012

Watching a Loggerhead Shrike chase down a beetle south of town was also pretty darn interesting.  The beetle outmanuevered the shrike for the first two passes, but the bird perservered and then caught it–in its claws.

In Imperial County we first visited the Living Waters Ministry, where all was pretty quiest save for a couple of House Wrens and an adult Red-shouldered Hawk.  On Flood Road, about a mile away, we had a pair of adult Red-shouldered Hawks and a Black-throated Gray Warbler.

Senator Wash had good numbers of Eared and Western Grebes, Common Goldeneyes, and two Common Loons.  The Barrow’s was nowhere to be found.  The desilting ponds south of Imperial Dam had two Greater Scaup and two more American White Pelicans.

Directions to Yuma and Imperial County birding sites are at:

Ferruginous Hawk, South of Yuma, 8 Dec 2012

Good birding!

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