Friday, April 22, 2005

22nd April - Rattlesnake!

An early start in the hope of finding Le Conte’s Thrasher north of Borrego Springs, but to no avail. A pair of Cactus Wrens put on a good show though along with more Black-throated Sparrows. At least 15 White-winged and 30 Mourning Doves were spread along the road among the citrus groves where we also saw 2 Greater Roadrunners and a Lark Sparrow.

Further north into Coyote Canyon there was a large flock of about 30 Brewer’s Sparrows moving noisily through the sparse vegetation but mostly remaining remarkably well hidden. Rock Wrens were found in the same area and a pair of House Finches involved a yellow-variant male. A family of Loggerhead Shrikes were remarkably tame and provided a good opportunity for photography. A Chipping Sparrow nearly provided a nutritious meal for them but made it away just in time.

On the way out of Borrego Springs a quick stop at Borrego Sink produced a Costa's Hummingbird, a species which proved reasonably common in the desert areas.

Another brief visit to Yaqui Well produced a couple more Brewer's Sparrows and the first of many White-crowned Sparrows.

We now left the desert to go to the Salton Sea, but if we thought we were leaving the heat behind we were wrong. This afternoon was the most uncomfortably hot time all trip.

At Vendel Road a large pool held 44 Black-necked Stints and 450 Dowitchers, probably Long-billed but the heat haze made it impossible to be certain. A small pool at the end held a Wilson's Snipe, the only one seen all trip.

Along this road and others in the area there were loads of Red-winged Blackbirds as well as the odd Western Meadowlark. Burrowing Owls were easy to see perched up beside the road.

What was intended to be a quick scout to Finney Lake so I knew where to go in the morning turned out to be a slightly longer visit. It was rewarding though with Gambel's Quail, Common Ground Dove and Abert's Towhee all lifers along with 3 Clark's Grebes and 2 Spotted Sandpipers.

Nearby Ramer Lake was just as exciting. While trying to get better looks at some Yellow-headed Blackbirds I nearly stepped on a Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake! I made a hasty retreat but perhaps needn't have done so as it seemed quite unconcerned. Still, I decided to photograph it from a distance to be safe!

An impressive heronry contained at least 125 Great White Egrets (or Great Egrets as the Americans call them) along with smaller numbers of Black-crowned Night Herons, Cattle Egrets, Double-crested Cormorants and Great Blue Herons. A couple of Green Herons were also seen in the area.

Common Moorhen is a scarce introduced species in California but somehow they seemed to look wilder here than they do in the UK. 3 of the 6 seen were here today. Other birds seen here included Osprey, Lesser Scaup and White-faced Ibis (250 seen in flight). The Song Sparrows here were of a different, redder form than the birds seen elsewhere.



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