On July 9th, 2020, I joined my buddies Ronnie Reed and Caleb Strand, and we left Phoenix at 2 A.M. to go explore the Salton Sea. Ronnie and Caleb have both been to the Salton Sea much more than I have, Ronnie for fishing and Caleb for birding. As Ronnie had been there before, this would be his first time for birding and he was pumped. Caleb was hoping to find a stint. My main goal was to see and photograph a Yellow-footed Gull up much closer than a mile away. The best thing about the Sea was that we would be seeing an incredible variety of waterbirds. Shorebirds, waterfowl, gulls, terns, and more thrive at the Sea. And for birders, it is a place where they can pull out something incredibly rare at any time of the year.
We got to the north end of the Salton Sea early, and walked for over two miles to a location where we could bird a massive stretch of shoreline. It was hot, nasty, and there were millions of obnoxious flies everywhere. On the flipside, the abundance of birds made up for the abundance of flies.
Gulls became Seagulls and Terns were Turbo-gulls (Ronnie's previous name for terns before he was a birder). We had a good time! It wasn't long before Caleb and Ronnie spotted two Yellow-footed Gulls along the shore. While they looked at an assortment of birds out on the waters, I went to make sure I obtained a few pictures and closer looks at my main target.
And then there was an assortment of other birds that were briefly forgotten by me due to my tunnel vision. That Yellow-footed Seagull. Terns were fun as we had Gull-billed, Forster's, Black, and Caspian, as were all of the waterbirds really. Our first stop yielded nearly 80 species and was close to four hours. The heat and flies would make things challenging as the day went on further.
|Brown Pelicans and Black Skimmers|
|Caspian, Forster's, and Black Terns on the sandbars|
|Caleb and Ronnie looking for a Bell' Vireo|
One of our other stops was further south along the Sea as we drove along a road called Lack Road. This was one that I really wanted to go to, because it is known to be very good for seeing Yellow-footed Gull up close. It wasn't long on our drive along Lack before we found a nice adult Yellow-footed Gull right along the road.
In comparison to my first Yellow-footed Gull a mile away through a scope back in 2010 at the Salton Sea, the birds on July 9th with Ronnie and Caleb were practically lifers. We had 8 of them in total at the first stop at the north side of the Sea (some were fairly close, others more distant), and this one was the 9th and it gave us what we were hoping for.
It made it's way over to us to join us for the snacks that we were having. Perhaps our snacks were considered healthy compared to the crappy snacks it was getting out at the Sea. Literally.
Yellow-footed Gulls are native to Mexico, and they can be seen at the Salton Sea in good numbers after they breed. They are a large gull, and are very similar to Western Gull. The Yellow-footed Gull does have a considerably larger bill, and of course, yellow legs rather than pink legs. It is a well-named bird! It eats fish, crustaceans, eggs of other birds, carrion, and more. Because of it's snack leaching behavior, we found out it also likes Flaming Hot Cheeto Fries and Cheez-its. It was great to see the target bird at such a close, epic range!
When snack time was up, a Black Skimmer joined a flock of peeps along the shore.
And a Gull-billed Tern flew by too.
Ronnie and I got a much closer view of the Black Skimmer!
On the way out of the Salton Sea, we had excellent looks at this Gull-billed Tern at someone's farm pond.
We had 85 species in total at the Salton Sea, not bad for a scorching day in July. Thanks Ronnie and Caleb for a good time. Thanks to the Yellow-footed Seagull too!