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Salton Sea & Imperial Valley Field Trip: 10-11 Feb. 2018, 9am

December 14, 2017
Sandhill Cranes & Geese (L.Johnson 2/10)

Sandhill Cranes & Geese at vast distance on foggy morn, Sonny Bono Unit (L.Johnson 2/10)

The Salton Sea is one of the strangest places in the USA.  An ancient but ephemeral saline lake in the middle of the desert; so full of life that it is in imminent danger of dying; a place where you find birds found nowhere else in California and a few nowhere else in the U.S. It is also a crackerjack place for a birding weekend, with camping or motels, Chinese or Mexican food. This is a very good time of year, both for the climate and the ducks. See Burrowing Owls, Snow & Ross’ Geese, Abert’s Towhees, Sandhill Cranes, White Pelicans, ibises, raptors, shorebirds and waders galore.  Also possible are Zone-tailed Hawk, Yellow-footed Gull, Eurasian Collared, Inca, Common and Ruddy Ground-Doves, Gila Woodpecker, Vermillion Flycatcher, Crissal Thrasher. and Who Knows What Else.

Sunday morning birding will most likely be in the Brawley vicinity.

Previous Trips:  February 2015, February 2012   February 2010

We are publishing this well ahead of time so that people can plan ahead and make hotel reservations. Los Angeles Audubon will be there at the same time and motel rooms may run a bit short.

Brawley Motels If planning on staying overnight Friday or Saturday, you’d best make a reservation soon. The leaders are staying at either Best Western or Brawley Inn. We’ve stayed at the Brawley Inn many times & decided to sample the competition. The Motel 6 is fairly new.

Google List & Map of Brawley Motels
Best Western and Brawley Inn have hot breakfasts. Not sure about the other three.
Best Western      Brawley Inn     Desert Inn (Desert Motel)
Motel 6     Town House Inn & Suites (Brawley Motel)

Family guide:   Long car drive (allow 3 hours) but room to roam at the end of it. Usually under 1 mile walking, mostly along roadsides.

Map & directions to Wister Unit

Note:    No fee, but sign up ASAP with leader Chuck Almdale email: webinfo493 [AT] verizon [DOT] net. We already have sufficient people to warrant running the trip. But it’s a long drive to get there; if we don’t know you’re coming, we don’t wait for you. If you arrive early, there is plenty of birding right at the meeting place, with birds such as Gambel’s Quail, Phainopepla, Verdin, Abert’s Towhees, wintering warblers and the occasional Peregrine Falcon visible from the parking lot and roadside. If you have an FRS radio, please bring it along tuned to Channel 11, privacy channel 22. (Much of the birding occurs as drive/stop/drive, and we communicate car-to-car by radio. No radio, no communication.) Most people stay overnight at one of the motels in Brawley, but you can come for just Saturday.

Gambel's Quail & early Easter Bunny (C. Almdale)

Strange Bedfellows:  Gambel’s Quail & early Easter Bunny (C. Almdale)

Dress & Equipment: Dress in layers, bring a hat. If you have a scope, bring it. Waterfowl, raptors, doves, and field birds are often quite far away. Bring lunch, drinks, coffee and sunscreen. FRS radio tuned to channel 11, privacy channel 22.

Directions:   Meet at Davis Road (the Wister Unit Wildlife sign-in point) which may have been renamed to Wister Rd., 37 miles south of Mecca on Highway 111 and 4.8 miles north of Niland. Driving time from L.A. at the legal limit is about three hours. Car pooling is recommended and staying overnight on Saturday is a good idea. Camping is available, or you can motel it in Brawley or El Centro. This is not a reservation-only trip but you must call leader to sign up, confirm meeting time & place, and for motel information. We’d hate to find your bleached bones on our way back.
Meet at 9:00 a.m.
Leader: Chuck Almdale (818-894-2541)  webinfo493 [AT] verizon [DOT] net

OR, in the unlikely event of bad weather in the Imperial Valley:
Saturday, 10 February. To Be Announced – perhaps we’ll look for rarities currently present in the L.A. area.

[Chuck Almdale]


Dinosaur feathers and flight, with Luis Chiappe | Natural History Museum’s Curiosity Show

December 14, 2017

Birds are living dinosaurs, but there was a long evolutionary path from small dinosaurs into today’s birds. Dinosaur Institute Director Dr. Luis Chiappe tells us about how and when feathers and flight evolved, and even how we can tell from fossils the types of flight used by early birds.

This comes from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. If no film or link appears in this email, go to the blog to view it by clicking on the blog title above. If the film stops & starts in an annoying manner, press pause (lower left double bars ||) to let it buffer and get ahead of you.  [Chuck Almdale]

Praying Mantis Love is Waaay Weirder Than You Think | Deep Look Video

December 10, 2017

These pocket-sized predators are formidable hunters. But when it comes to hooking up, male mantises have good reason to fear commitment.

This is another installment of the PBS Deep Look series. If no film or link appears in this email, go to the blog to view it by clicking on the blog title above. If the film stops & starts in an annoying manner, press pause (lower left double bars ||) to let it buffer and get ahead of you.  [Chuck Almdale]

Malibu Lagoon Loses Water

December 7, 2017

Malibu Lagoon drained, view from north (G Murayama 12-02-17)

Water runs downhill. No news there. Water comes down Malibu Creek and gathers in the lagoon. When the water gets high enough, it breaks through the beach. The water was very high on our last field trip (11/26/17), and we expected to see it break through the beach soon.

Most of the channel water drained away (G Murayama 12-02-17)

Still it’s surprising to see it happen so quickly. Once it started, it kept going.

Channel near the “Bird Hide” is drained (G Murayama 12-02-17)

Grace Murayama and Larry Loeher, on one of their frequent jaunts to census Snowy Plovers at Malibu Lagoon and Zuma Beach, took these photos a few days ago (12/2/17). Apparently, a high tide washed over the beach, raising the lagoon level. Water began flowing back into the ocean, and as the tide dropped, velocity of the outflow increased, carving a deep trench through the beach.

Great Blue Heron finds a hapless fish (G Murayama 12-02-17)

This was a boon to the fish eaters, like the Great Blue Heron above. The lagoon is full of “Jumping” Mullet, but this fish looks more like a Sculpin. Grace reported that fish were churning in the outflow.

Beach breach in the distance (G Murayama 12-02-17)

The islands got much larger and the previously buried snag was now almost high and dry.

Most of the beach is wet. Gulls like the mud. (L. Loeher 12-02-17)

The beach got a lot wider and the gulls had a lot more mud to stand on. While the mud is wet, predators like Coyotes may be reluctant to walk on it.

Looking towards the northwest; Pepperdine University on the Hill
(G Murayama 12-02-17)

Most of the brush edging the lagoon and growing on the sand was unchanged. When the ground is relatively open and flat, Western Meadowlarks can find something to interest them. Even dried pieces of kelp wrack.

A Western Meadowlark explores the brushy beach (L. Loeher 12-02-17)

The water is faster and deeper than it looks, and the banks are higher and less solid than one might wish. This fellow almost fell in.

Looking north the breach banks are steeper and higher than they seem.
(G Murayama 12-02-17)

Looking south towards the ocean, you can see the breach emptying onto the rocks exposed at low tide.

Surfrider beach breaches near Adamson House (L. Loeher 12-02-17)

Everyone like seaweed wrack. Snowy Plovers, Western Meadowlarks, Marbled Godwits. If you can’t find food in it, you can just lie down on it.

Marbled Godwit is wracked out (G Murayama 12-02-17)

It doesn’t look like the lifeguards will be able to drive past the breach for some time.

Lagoon flowing through the beach breach (L. Loeher 12-02-17)

The Heermann’s Gulls seemed quite happy to rest on the exposed rocks.

Many thanks to Larry Loeher and Grace Murayama for their photos.   [Chuck Almdale]

Heermann’s Gull group. Not all gulls are white. (G Murayama 12-02-17)

Christmas Bird Count: Saturday, December 16, 2017

December 7, 2017

Strange to say, but our coastal Audubon chapter runs a Christmas Count in the desert, with the circle center at Butterbredt Peak north of Mojave. For those not familiar with a CBC (Christmas Bird Count) the deal is we spend the day counting every bird we see inside a circle 15 miles across. The area any one person or group of people might cover depends on how many people we get to come. The compiler makes a list of all sightings and sends it to the Big Bird Computer at Cornell University, which makes this a ……

Citizen Science event. The data gathered on Christmas Counts (over 2,300 of them) is available for use by researchers in, for instance, bird populations and climate change. This is your chance to contribute to the advancement of science.

You’ll need to dress warmly, pack a lunch and snacks and be ready to spend all daylight time (it gets dark around 4:30 p.m.) in the Butterbredt count circle as we do our part to count all the birds that were too macho to fly south for the winter.

On previous trips we’ve seen: Mountain & California Quail, Western Screech-Owl & Great Horned Owl, Ladder-backed & Nuttall’s Woodpeckers, Loggerhead Shrike, Steller’s, Western Scrub- & Pinyon Jays, Rock Wren, California & LeConte’s Thrashers, Black-throated, Sagebrush & Golden-crowned Sparrows and Pine Siskins.

Family guide: long car ride, cold weather; gotta love the birds.

[Directions] Contact coordinator Chuck Bragg (cgbjr67 at for exact instructions (the count circle instructions are different from our regular field trips to Butterbredt). We’ll be happy to arrange carpools if we get enough drivers.

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