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Yellow-footed Gulls, Salton Sea and Earthquakes

Osprey
Osprey

Whilst photographing this Osprey, a 3.8 earthquake in Brawley hit. I first thought someone had rear-ended my car. Checked my mirror, nope wasn’t that. Maybe a gust of wind? Looked at nearby trees, just a slight breeze. Finally concluded it must have been an earthquake. I shrugged it off and went back to photographing the Osprey…nevermind, he took off flying. Guess they aren’t ones for earthquakes either!

On the way home my wife called to tell me that everyone was talking about all the earthquakes in Brawley! I checked on my earthquake app and realized there was an earthquake swarm happening the entire day I was there. I only felt the 3.8 earthquake and must have been driving when the others struck. There were over 300+ earthquakes that day ranging from 5.5, 5.3, 5.0, 4.8 and below.

Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl

One of the many joys of visiting the Salton Sea, are the over abundance of Burrowing Owls…everywhere! Lots of juvenile birds this time of year as well.

I finally achieved my gull of photographing different cycle/year Yellow-footed Gulls. Each summer I visit the sea in hopes of getting better 1st, 2nd and 3rd cycle birds but usually only find close adult birds. Today I managed to get very close to a 1st cycle and 3rd cycle Yellow-footed Gull, along with the ubiquitous adult birds all around the southern end of the Salton Sea.

Yellow-footed Gull
Yellow-footed Gull

Yellow-footed Gull (3rd cycle)
Yellow-footed Gull (2nd cycle)

Yellow-footed Gull (1st cycle)
Yellow-footed Gull (1st cycle)

 

Posted by on August 26, 2012 in Photography Adventures

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Salton Sea – Aug 15

Salton Sea
Salton Sea

I spent a lovely Saturday at the Salton Sea with temperatures barely peaking over 100F. I had anticipated much warmer temperatures and was surprised to find it not only being cooler than your typical mid-August day but the pleasant aroma of decaying fish seemed to be missing as well.

Salton Sea
Salton Sea

I also noticed the water levels were a bit higher then usual contributing to less beach being exposed which significantly cut down the amount of flies that usually swarm your car whenever you roll down your window or open the door!

Salton Sea
Salton Sea

I began the day at Unit 1 located at the extreme SW corner of the sea. Along the dirt road to Unit 1 there were many Burrowing Owls catching some early morning sun including several juvenile Owls as well.

Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl (juvenile)

At the ponds, there were many of the usual suspects including American Avocet, Black-necked Stilts, Western Sandpipers, Long-billed Dowitcher and a good number of Stilt Sandpipers!

Stilt Sandpiper
Stilt Sandpiper

American Avocet
American Avocet

There were a lot of juvenile Black-necked Stilts around that didn’t seem to have learned to be weary of people yet!

Black-necked Stilt
Black-necked Stilt

Among the hundreds of Wilson’s Phalaropes I found a lone Red-necked Phalarope couple. The only two I saw all day at the Sea.

Red-necked Phalarope
Red-necked Phalarope

After leaving Unit 1 I headed north/north east along the coast toward Obsidian Butte. I spotted an Osprey feeding on a fish up in a tree and an adult Peregrine Falcon perched just a couple yards from it not seeming to mind the presence of the Osprey at all.

Osprey
Osprey

Continuing along the road, I spooked up a Wood Stork that was feeding in a ditch beside the road just South of Obsidian Butte. It flew off into the distance and just as I was losing hope it would come back it circled around and flew into a tree a little ways down the road.

Wood Stork
Wood Stork

Wood Stork
Wood Stork

See if you can spot the Wood Stork perched up in the trees in the photo below:

Salton Sea
Salton Sea

Later on in the afternoon, I met up with some friends at the Red Hill Marina. We started scoping the sandpiper/gull flocks along the old boat ramps. After not finding anything interesting, three peeps flew right by us and landed just a few yards away in the water below. I quickly exclaimed it’s a Semipalmated Sandpiper and not just one, there’s three of them!

Semipalmated Sandpiper
Semipalmated Sandpiper

Semipalmated Sandpiper
Semipalmated Sandpiper

A quick stop at the north-end of Garst Road didn’t yield much although we did find at least two Large-billed Savannah Sparrows. They were being ultra secretive so I wasn’t able to get any photos of them. Instead I took a picture of the car!

Salton Sea
Salton Sea

We decided to head back toward Unit 1 to double check all the areas I covered earlier in the day. We first stopped at the Wood Stork location and found him feeding along the ditch. He quickly spooked and flew back into the same trees I photographed him earlier in.

We continued South to the intersection of Lack/Lindsey Rd. to again scan the Gull and Tern flocks there. Just as we were about to leave I spotted a Common Tern sitting on an old piece of rusted pipe laying in the water.

Common Tern
Common Tern

Not much more that day. Although at the extreme West end of Young Rd. we found a group of about 19 Brant feeding along a irrigation drainage stream. There were also a couple of young birds in the group.

Brant
Brant

There were also lots of White-faced Ibis and Cattle Egrets feeding along all the agricultural fields that surround the southern end of the Salton Sea.

White-faced Ibis
White-faced Ibis

Click the image below to see the GPS track logs of where I traveled:

 

Posted by on August 18, 2009 in Photography Adventures

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Salton Sea

It’s hard to put into words the essence of the Salton Sea during the middle of summer. Aside from the sweltering 115F heat and high humidity near the shoreline, the smell is pretty much next to unbearable. Dead fish line the landscape as Turkey Vultures circle overhead just waiting for something (or someone) to die. I’ve been to the Salton Sea many times in the summer but one thing I completely forgot about were the billions of tiny gnats. The second I rolled down the window to photograph something I was completely swarmed by them — covering everything from my lens to the interior of the car, refusing to fly even when I tried brushing them away. Good thing it was a rental car – I turned it in my SUV this morning with a couple hundred gnats still lining the interior!


Salton Sea Sunrise
Salton Sea Sunrise

Dried Sea Bed
Dried Sea Bed

Blood Red Pond
Blood Red Pond

Abandoned Town
Abandoned Town

So enough of the prefacing and on with the photos! I tallied two new photo birds – Yellow-footed Gull and Black Tern. I also got much better photos of Burrowing Owl, Wilson’s Phalarope, White-faced Ibis and a fairly cooperative Osprey that allowed me to get within 25′ of him as he perched on a branch looking for fish.


Yellow-footed Gull
Yellow-footed Gull

Black Tern
Black Tern

Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl

Wilson's Phalarope
Wilson’s Phalarope

Black-necked Stilt (juvenal)
Black-necked Stilt (juvenal)

Osprey
Osprey

White-faced Ibis
White-faced Ibis

 

Posted by on August 18, 2008 in Photography Adventures

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