Where to Bird: Salton Sea

by Jon Feenstra

The weekend of January 29th was the annual Pasadena Audubon Salton Sea trip led by Ron Cyger. We had a wonderful time with over 100 species. Unfortunately, not everyone got a chance to go on this trip and they really missed out. My recommendation – go anyway! Regardless of your ability, the Salton Sea is a guaranteed blast at any time of year. All you need is an Imperial County map (available at AAA), binoculars, a scope (recommended), and water (gallons if it’s summer).

When I go there on my own, I usually start at dawn at the Wister Unit off Rt. 111 north of Niland. I bird the nature trail for songbirds, then drive south along Davis Road periodically checking the marshy impoundments on both sides of the street. Several roads also access the Sea to the west and provide great lookouts into more marshland. From the end of Davis I like to stay as close to the sea as possible (depending on the available roads) and work my way to Obsidian Butte. Spots along the Sea are reliable for the summer specialties and loads of waterfowl in winter.

After that, a trip to the Finney/Ramer Lake complex is often rewarding. And, of course, don’t forget about the agricultural fields that cover the Imperial Valley. Many birds work these fields and you could easily bump into a flock of several hundred ibis or Long-billed Curlew. Obviously, I’ve left a lot out, but this is a good start for any time of year. The Salton Sea has so much to offer a birder it would take a week straight of dawn-til-dusk birding just to scratch the surface.

Bird Checklists of the United States: Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge