*Temperature range for today's outing: low 66; high 110
Today's birding trip with David to the Blythe area had many purposes. Primary among those was just to get out birding, as I haven't had much chance lately. Then there were the cuckoos, the shady forest birds known to be inhabiting the restoration sites in the Blythe area, representing potential ticks in La Paz and Riverside Counties. Not to mention, of course, that they are all-around cool birds. Finally, as always, there were migrants to track, and potential vagrants to find!
Today started where every good birding trip starts, 3:00 a.m.* The plan was roughly to work out way south through western sites, then back north through eastern sites. We started at Palo Verde Ecological Reserve (PVER), one of the Bureau of Reclamation's excellent riparian restoration sites. It is particularly interesting being located in California, since most restoration sites (as well as remaining riparian habitat) fall in Arizona. Along with Picacho State Recreation Area, PVER has some of the best landbird habitat along the California side of the lower Colorado River.
*I do not stand by this statement.
|Dawn at PVER. Tiny Bigfoot at the edge of the trees in the distance is a cuckoo researcher.|
|Today's INBU at PVER looked much like this one, but less thoughtful.|
Our next stop was at a most intriguing place, a Birding Site Without a Name in Imperial County, CA. This is one of the earliest restoration plots along the river, and its character is very different from its younger siblings. Dead and half-alive cottonwoods stand along the levee road adjacent to the river for the long stretch of this site, while healthier, bigger cottonwoods share the other side of the road with a mixture of Eucalyptus, Athel tamarisk, mesquite, and palo verde. The site is narrow but long, with farm fields on the other side. David and I birded this area once before, but approached from the farm field side and found it difficult and unsatisfying to bird. Today, we discovered the access from the Levee Rd near CVCA, and were excited to see this habitat was not only very nice for migrating birds, but also very easy to bird.
|"Palo Verde--Old Restoration Site"|
Now on to fall migration. La Paz County doesn't have a lot of shorebirding spots, but what it has is quality. No mediocre sewage treatment plants around here. The three main sites are the Parker Valley (pretty good), the Bill Williams Delta (great, as long as there are veg mats for the birds to loaf on), and Hart Mine Marsh (solid gold!). Once the day had gotten too hot for landbirding, we cranked up the AC and rode on to Hart Mine Marsh.
|Hart Mine Marsh, home to shorebirds, herons, rails and many other marsh fowl|
|Photo of a (different) bobcat by David Vander Pluym|
After this fine morning it was time to head home, but since the Parker Valley lies between Blythe and Lake Havasu City, there was still more birding to do. Several flooded fields in the area hosted gobs of Cattle Egrets and White-faced Ibis along with a few Long-billed Curlews and Marbled Godwits. We made a thorough check of the Twelvemile Slough Rookery, which includes nesting Cattle and Snowy Egrets and White-faced Ibis. None of these are common nesting birds in the LCRV, and this may be the only active nesting location for Cattle Egret and White-faced Ibis. All the more exciting to come here and count 950 Cattle Egret and 50 White-faced Ibis nests! The Cattle Egrets were particularly exciting, most nests holding two near-fledging chicks at varying stages of awkwardness.
|Cattle Egret awaiting its next meal|
|Each pair of white specks represents a Cattle Egret nest|
|Tropical Kingbird broods its chicks|
Finally, we had to make one last stop at the Bill Williams Delta, premier Arizona birding location for Just About Everything. Of course, it's not such a happening place in early July, but we did see two Black and three Caspian Terns and three Eared Grebes as well as the continuing Neotropic Cormorant. As I said earlier, it is a very attractive place to shorebirds when there are vast veg mats for the birds to loaf and gather on. Even before the summer bloom of these mats, though, we found shorebirds trying to use the available space: 40 Marbled Godwits were crammed onto a small spit of rocks jutting into the water, and the Caspian Terns were repeatedly trying to land among them (without success)!
Today was filled with some wild temperature extremes (44 degrees difference!), great birds, exciting migration, good food (burritos from Ruperto's in Parker), good company, and all you expect from a birding trip. When all is said and done, I just have to say it was good to get outside.