Thomas picked me up at the ungodly hour of 4:15 a.m. and we sped off to our first stop at Ramer Lake. Thousands of glimmering egrets, herons, cormorants, and ibis were milling about and flying off form their evening roost to the flooded fields in the Imperial Valley. At this spot Thomas also got photos of the first of his targets, a pair of Western Grebes. North of Finney Lake he snapped away at White-faced Ibis as it sloshed through a flooded alfalfa field, and on Ramer Lake itself he bagged a Clark’s Grebe. I found a Lesser Nighthawk perched on one of the big Athel Tamarisks in the parking area, and we both took several portrait shots.
From there it was off to the Sea. As we drove down to the end of Bowles Road Thomas picked out and photograhed his first Burrowing Owl–sitting at the end of an irrigation pipe. A beautiful array of birds awaited our arrival: California Gulls, Wilson’s Phalaropes, Long-billed Dowitchers, Marbled Godwits, American Avocets, Black-necked Stilts, and many more. Black, Gull-billed, and Caspian Terns were everywhere, and we managed some pretty good flight shots. Farther north along the Sea Levee were hordes of Brown and American White Pelicans, Double-crested Cormorants, and a steady supply of Yellow-footed Gulls. Thomas also tagged a Heermann’s Gull and a few Eared Grebes. The congregation of gulls, waders, and pelicans was truly impressive.
At the headquarters we scored with the roosting Barn Owl, and then along Schrimpf Road Thomas spotted a flying Wood Stork! A couple of Common Terns scattered in with the Caspian and Forster’s Terns were a nice find. A bit farther north we drove to the end of McDonald Road and Thomas locked onto a pair of Snowy Plovers, his final trophy for the day! It was heating up quickly, so we drove up to Niland for some sandwiches & drinks, and then headed back to Yuma. Five hours of target birding had turned up 75 species by 11:00 a.m.–a great introduction to the Imperial Valley for my Staten Island friend.