Southwest Birders
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January 2013
« Dec   Feb »
Birding with Viviane and Dave
Filed under: California
Posted by: Bob @ 7:54 pm

Hi all,

Many more photos from this day can be see on my flickr page at this link.

I picked up Viviane and Dave at Brawley Inn at 6:30am and we hustled out to Dogwood Road, just north of Keystone Road, for a special event. The first “cloud” was crossing over Dogwood Road as we arrived and it just got crazier from there.

That low dark ”cloud” is all ducks! Holly Sugar in the distance. (Now Spreckles Sugar)

I first noticed this event about a week earlier. What looked like large flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds were actually ALL DUCKS!! There are well over 2,000 ducks in this picture alone and there were at least six or seven waves, some larger, that came over. They are moslty Northern Pintail with Northern Shoveler and American Wigeon mixed in. No doubt there are a few other species in there as well.

The ducks all start moving about 15 minutes before sunrise. 721 Sandhill Cranes came across going the opposite direction right at sunrise! Several thousands of Ring-billed Gull start to come up from the Keystone site and several thousands of White-faced Ibis come up from just SE of Harris and Dogwood at sunrise too. Mass quantities is an understatement! This event will probably unfold about the same every morning till about mid February.

If you would like to enjoy this spectacular event, you need to arrive at least 15 minutes before sunrise. Park WELL OFF the pavement, on the west side of Dogwood Road, 1/4 mile north of Keystone Road. (Dogwood Road is very busy.)

On the way back into Brawley we saw dirt clods moving across a barren field. Mountain Plover, aka Prairie Ghosts, are one of the most sought after species here in the Imperial Valley. Over 5,000, a significant portion of their 20,000 or so world poulation, spend the winter here.

Mountain Plover (L) and Killdeer (R)

Residential Brawley turned up quite a few surprises this day. Dave spotted a large raptor in the big eucalyptus trees a block north of Main Street so we went around to the corner of Hawthorne Park near North 2nd ST and E ST where we had fine views of this immature Cooper’s Hawk. There was also a signing Cactus Wren and a Verdin nearby.

Immature Cooper’s Hawk.

Every light standard at Meserve Park on K ST has a plastic Great Horned Owl on top of it and it just scares heck out of the Rock Pigeons…NOT.

Rock Pigeons have a strong fear of plastic Great Horned Owls….

Near South 3rd and J ST we had 26 White-winged Dove with many Eurasian Collared-Dove. WWDO nest here in the spring but typically all leave so they were considered extremely rare in the Imperial Valley in the winter. Ask any dove hunter who wonders why they all disappear one week before September first every year. For the past few winters it has become common to find one or two but 26!? Could be they are expanding their winter range and they are already year round residents in Borrego Springs.

Eurasian Collared-Dove and White-winged Dove.

Viviane and Dave exploring Brawley.

We then made our way up to the Salton Sea via Westmorland. This immature Red-tailed Hawk was most cooperative on Lack Road near the New River.

Immature Red-tailed Hawk.

The hawk flew a bit ahead of us and landed in the same tree with the Loggerhead Shrike pictured below. Loggerhead Shrike is known as the “Butcher Bird” because they will capture their prey, small birds, lizards and insects, and impale them on a mesquite thorn, notch in a limb or barbed wire fence and come back to finish their meal later!

Loggerhead Shrike.

At the west end of West Bowles Road we had lots of shorebirds and there were several Snowy Plover there. This Marbled Godwit was resting along the seawall at Lack and Lindsey Roads.

Marbled Godwit.

Six birds six species: (L) to (R) Long-billed Dowitcher, Willet, Black-necked Stilt, Western Sandpiper, American Coot and Semipalmated Plover at bottom.

The Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge (SBSSNWR) visitor center was especially birdy this day. Lots of Gambel’s Quail, Abert’s Towhee, Common Ground-Dove and White-crowned Sparrows. Large numbers of Snow Geese were in the adjacent field at the view tower with a few Ross’s Geese in the mix. This group tends to have a higher number of Snow Goose and the group that hangs out at Unit One on Vendel Road tends to have a higher number of Ross’s Goose. The Barn Owl was not in it’s typical palm tree roost but the refuge volunteers who keep the office open on winter weekends (THANK YOU VERY MUCH) pointed out a Great Horned Owl in another palm, much to the delight of numerous visitors that morning!

Snow Geese with one dark morph in lower right corner and (5) Ross’s Geese top left.

Garst Road north from Sinclair Road. The first half mile on the west side of the road is one of the best places in the valley for visiting birders to view Burrowing Owls. They are just far enough from the road that they do not flush and you can actually get better views of them by remaining IN your vehicle. My high count for that 1/2 mile stretch is 24!! I have never gone by that spot and not seen at least one bird.

Burrowing Owl…s. Look closely!

This dark morph Red-tailed Hawk has been wintering just south of Calipatria for fiive or six years now.

Dark morph Red-tailed Hawk.

As we headed back to Brawley, we birded along the west side of the Alamo River, from Ruegger Road over to Hwy 111. This is part of the Imperial Wildlife Area that I cover for the Salton Sea Christmas Bird Count. We were able to find three Sage Sparrow that I could not turn up on the CBC! We also had Phainopepla and Black-tailed Gnatcatcher here.

Female Phainopepla.

Here is my eBird report for the day:

Imperial Valley–general area, Imperial, US-CA
Jan 13, 2013 6:30 AM - 3:00 PM
Protocol: Traveling
66.0 mile(s)
Comments:     Brawley Inn at 6:30am with Viviane and Dave. Dogwood and Keystone, residential Brawley, Westmorland, Lack Road, Wiley Reservoir, Bowles Road, seawall, Young Road Lack Road, across Obsidian, Sonny bono Salton Sea NWR visitor center (SBSSNWR VC) , Garst Road, Sinclair Road, English Road, Sperry and Eddins Roads, west side of Imperial Wildlife area Alamo River, Brawley.
82 species

Snow Goose  2000     SBSSNWR VC
Ross’s Goose  8     SBSSNWR VC
Canada Goose  11     Field SW of intersection Lack and Lindsey Roads.
American Wigeon  200
Northern Shoveler  500
Northern Pintail  10000     Dogwood and Keystone Roads. ~300 Northern Shoveler. ~200 American Widgeon. Forming “clouds” similar in appearance to large flights of Red-winged Blackbird. Birds appear to be feeding at night on waste grain on south side of grain warehouse at Carey Road and the railroads tracks. Just before sunrise they come up in huge waves and land in the duck club NE of Dogwood and Keystone Roads and the Sandhill Cranes come up from the duck club and move to the grain warehouse starting at sunrise.
Green-winged Teal  40     Bowles Road
Bufflehead  2     Seawall and Young Road with Ruddy Ducks.
Ruddy Duck  200
Gambel’s Quail  10
Eared Grebe  40
Western Grebe  10
Double-crested Cormorant  50
American White Pelican  50     Duck club NE Dogwood and Keystone.
Great Blue Heron  45
Great Egret  40
Snowy Egret  20
Cattle Egret  300
Black-crowned Night-Heron  1
White-faced Ibis  8000     Most roosting SE of Dogwood and Harris.
Turkey Vulture  1
Osprey  1
Northern Harrier  6
Cooper’s Hawk  1     Brawley
Red-tailed Hawk  10
Common Gallinule  1
American Coot  500
Sandhill Crane  721     500 roosted NE Dogwood and Keystone. 221 apparently roosted SE of McConnell and Keystone.
Black-bellied Plover  200
Snowy Plover  8     Bowles Road
Semipalmated Plover  5     Several location along seawall.
Killdeer  20
Mountain Plover  225     E side of Dogwood between Shartz and Carey.
Black-necked Stilt  20
American Avocet  20
Greater Yellowlegs  5
Willet  5
Long-billed Curlew  600
Marbled Godwit  15
Western Sandpiper  10
Least Sandpiper  20
Long-billed Dowitcher  50
Ring-billed Gull  10000
California Gull  20
Caspian Tern  1
Rock Pigeon  100
Eurasian Collared-Dove  50
White-winged Dove  26     South 3rd Street between I and J Streets, Brawley.
Mourning Dove  20
Common Ground-Dove  10
Greater Roadrunner  5
Great Horned Owl  1     SBSSNWR VC
Burrowing Owl  20
Anna’s Hummingbird  1
Belted Kingfisher  2
Northern Flicker  1
American Kestrel  40
Black Phoebe  10
Say’s Phoebe  20
Loggerhead Shrike  2
Common Raven  4     Between Brawley and Westmorland
Horned Lark  100
Verdin  5
Cactus Wren  3     Residential Brawley.
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher  1
Northern Mockingbird  4
European Starling  100
American Pipit  100
Phainopepla  1     Melin and Mac Fadden Roads.
Orange-crowned Warbler  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  40
Abert’s Towhee  5
Lark Sparrow  1     Bowles Road
Sage Sparrow  3     Mac Fadden Road.
Savannah Sparrow  20
White-crowned Sparrow  40
Red-winged Blackbird  500
Western Meadowlark  30
Brewer’s Blackbird  10
Great-tailed Grackle  50
House Finch  10
House Sparrow  15

View this checklist online at

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (

See ya at the sea……………………………

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