Sunday, February 27, 2011

SoCal (Feb 17) - Bell's Sage Sparrow, Large-billed Savannah Sparrow, gulls

Feb 17 - I set out of San Diego pre-dawn and headed west towards the Salton Sea. En route I stopped at an area of sagebrush in Pine Valley for "Bell's" Sage Sparrows. This location was very birdy with many common species seen. In my hour there I located one singing male "Bell's" Sage Sparrow and a roving flock of 3 or 4 more.












"Bell's" Sage Sparrows


sage habitat in Pine Valley, CA

After this successful stop I continued onto the Salton Sea for some gulling at Red Hill. While I didn't have any particular target gull species here, I couldn't in good conscience visit the Salton Sea without spending a few hours sorting through gulls. An interesting mix of gulls were present including an adult THAYER'S GULL and a couple first-cycle GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS. A few hybrid-type birds were also present, which I'll explore in a later post. I ran out of time just as I was really putting a dent in the flocks...one of these days I'll have to spend a full two or three days gulling the Sea.


adult Thayer's Gull

A quick visit to the nearby Sonny Bono NWR Headquarters turned up Snow & Ross's Geese, an alternate adult HEERMANN'S GULL (uncommon at the SS), Black-tailed Gnatcatchers, Abert's Towhee, and a surprise (at least to me) BELL'S VIREO.

From here I drove northwest to Johnson's Landing in Salton City for two target birds: "Large-billed" Savannah Sparrow and Pacific Golden-Plover. I found the sparrows soon after arriving at the jetties and studied them for a few minutes before looking closely for the plover. This PGPL had been wintering here and was supposed to be extremely reliable. After scouring the shoreline to the north and south of the jetties I started to get a bit nervous. I walked wayyy up and down the shore in both directions in search of the little bugger but was unable to locate it. After 3 hours of searching I finally ran out of light and retreated to the JL bar for a burger and beers.












"Large-billed" Savannah Sparrows

Now it was decision time. The weather was about to take a turn for the worse and I had to alter my plans.




moonrise and sunset at Johnson's Landing, Salton City, CA

- Nick

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