Thursday, November 24, 2011

Salton Sea & the Desert

From sea to shining sea! Leaving the Pacific Ocean, we arrived 186 feet below sea level at the Salton Sea.  Our campsite at the Salton Sea Recreation Area overlooked the abundant bird life consisting of thousands of Am. White and Brown Pelicans, Gulls, Herons, Egrets, Grebes, and Cormorants.  Some of our favorite birds were the Black-necked Stilts, Am. Avocets, White-faced Ibis, Roseate Spoonbills and Wood Storks

This salt flat with the Red Hill in the background is part of the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge.  This barren landscape four years earlier was inundated with water and today is a stark contrast to the nearby lush refuge food plots and impoundments. We spent hours from the Red Hill vantage point watching thousands of overhead migrating Snow and Ross's Geese, Sandhill Cranes, and Cattle Egrets settle into the refuge.

On one of our early morning forays, we encountered this 'grounded' Western Grebe.  The bird strongly objected to the rescue attempt.  The bird no doubt mistook the heat waves on the blacktop highway for water and made a hard landing.  With it's rear 'mounted' legs it could not stand or run much less take flight, nor could it dodge the fast approaching trucks.  The episode ended well with it's safe release into a nearby wetlands.

A side trip took us to the Anza Borrego State Park, a desert badlands.  We hiked the three mile boulder strewn stream bed between steep canyon walls to Borrego Palm Canyon Oasis.  This water source, the life blood of the desert, provides homes and sustenance for California Palms, Desert Pup Fish, song birds, Desert Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Lions and Rattlesnakes.   We added White-winged Dove, Black-throated Sparrow, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Gambel's Quail and a low perched Long-eared Owl.  This takes our 'big year' bird list to 450 species.

We are thankful to our Creator on this Thanksgiving Day (and everyday) for His handiwork, His blessings and His unmerited favor.  May God richly bless you,    Ty & Ida

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Malibu Beach & LA

It was wonderful to get connected with our son Travis and his wife Tina in Los Angeles, thankfully our gracious hosts chauffered us around the bustling city.  This photo was taken on Venice pier with Malibu Beach and the Santa Monica mountains in the background.

We walked along the Venice canals, and Venice Beach Boardwalk, went to an Art exhibit, and went to Universal Studios City Walk, plus driving tours of Beverly Hills, Studio City, and Hollywood, sampling LA cuisine at some of their favorite dining spots.  Spent some time at the LaBrae Tar Pits (pictured with the Mammoths).

 We spent the better part of an afternoon exploring the large LA Zoo, we enjoyed the nice collection of animals and botanical garden throughout the grounds.  As much as we enjoyed this fast paced lifestyle, it was nice to retreat 20 miles north along the coast to Malibu Beach RV Park.  Here we enjoyed the roar of the waves which replaced the traffic noise, the many Hummingbirds that came to the abundant flowers on the hillside, daily visits by Black-hooded Parakeets, and breath-taking sunrises and sunsets.

We enjoyed our daily walks along the beach watching large pods of Common Dolphins and California Sea Lions leaping through the waves after fish.  Large concentrations of Western Grebes, flock of Whimbrels, plus Great Egrets spearing Fence Lizards.

We walked a half dozen times to the nearby Solstice Canyon Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area, rich with birds and wildlife.  The old live oak trees here have survived several fires that have destroyed all man-made dwellings.  This oasis with its year round running water is a magnet to birds as they migrate south.

We are heading east tomorrow, leaving the ocean shores for the desert.  Happy trails to all.
Ty & Ida

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Morro Rock to - Channel Islands National Park

We drove along Big Sur - gorgeous coastline of rock cliffs, sand dunes and beaches.  Spent the night under the most southern Redwoods next to a clear, babbling brook.  A walk at night yielded Western Screech, Spotted and Great Horned Owls.   On the road south we saw Ferruginous Hawk, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, large numbers  of raptors, coyote, elk and would you believe, even a herd of Zebra on the Hearst Castle Estate.

Pulled into Morro Dunes RV park next to this huge 578 foot monolith - pictured to the left, home to nesting Peregrine Falcons.  
 This photo to the right captures a small segment of the thousands of shorebirds that littered the 5 mile beach to the north of the rock.  If you look carefully you can find: Marbled Godwits, Long-billed Curlews, Whimbrels and 76 Snowy Plovers camouflaged in the background.

After a few days in Santa Barbara and Ventura, we boarded a catamaran for Santa Cruz Island, the largest of the 5 Channel Islands National Park chain.  On the 26 mile voyage, were dozens of Common Dolphins racing our boat, thousands of Western Grebes, and a new 'life bird' a Xantus's Murrelet.  Upon landing, we signed permits and were led by a Nature Conservancy naturalist into the closed property.  Our small group of 5 got to experience the endemic flora and fauna. Our number one goal was to see the Island Scrub Jay - found nowhere else in the world.  We found 6 of these dark blue colored, large birds.  Pictured below is the rich waters around Santa Cruz Island teaming with sea life, fishes, seal lions and birds.  Our best to all from sunny California.   Ty & Ida