Memories of the Salton Sea, Southeastern Shoreline

For the sake of simplicity, the area I often refer to as “Lack and Lindsey” includes the shoreline and adjacent fields from the New River Delta north to Obsidian Butte.

Ring-Billed Gull - Larus delawarensisIf I travel to the Salton Sea and have only enough time for *one* stop, I will choose the southeastern shore near the intersection of Lack and Lindsey Roads. Elevated gravel roads run along the shoreline and provide excellent views of the bird-life working water’s edges. The elevated road zig-zags south almost to the New River delta. Because of the steepness of the rip-rap that supports the roadway, the dropping sea level is not as evident along this shore as much as beaches like the one at Poe Road. Edge waters still lap the rocks in places, but the exposed mudflats between the water and rocks is expanding.

At Lack and Lindsey there is a marsh that used to have visible expanses of open water. In the past I’ve met some nice birds there such as stilts, avocets and storks. Cattails have grown dense in recent years and have clogged the nice views I enjoyed in the past. There is a sandy beach between the marsh and the shore that runs north as far as the eye can see. This shoreline often hosts large flocks of loafing gulls, shorebirds, herons, egrets, cormorants and pelicans.

The beach at the south end of this roadway is also sandy. This beach turns away from the road and extends over a mile and a half to the New River delta. Loafing flocks of birds at times will haunt this beach. I’ve never hiked out to this area. I’ve found observing birds from inside my vehicle causes less disturbance. I’m not sure how secure the surface is there. It is no picnic to get tangle up on soft Salton Sea mud.

As is common in agricultural areas, all roads in this region follow a north-south or east-west direction, meeting at right angles. My favorite places to linger along this roadway are the points where the western path turns to the south at the water’s edge. Flights of gulls, shorebirds, cormorants, terns and pelicans often wheel past these points and provide close views as they fly by. It’s a good practice to keeping one’s head on a swivel to track shorebird flights as they approach. It’s best not to let tunnel vision prevent the opportunity to track a passing flight of dowitchers, godwits, willets, sandpipers or other flocks. With a light breeze from the west, sometimes airborne herons, gulls or pelicans will pass by, heading into the wind. If I let myself get caught up with these subjects, I might miss a fast moving flock of shorebirds flying low over the water’s surface. (Head-on-a-swivel!)

The winds prevail from the west in this region. When they blow hard, as they will sometimes, the resulting strong wave action can churn up sediment in shallow near-shore waters. Such times are not much fun to birdwatch, let alone attempt photography. When the winds are calm, the water can get glassy, and can provide lovely reflections on subjects near the surface. Some of my favorite images have been captured during such conditions here.

There are some shallow freshwater ponds on the eastern side of the road. These can provide meetings with shorebirds, waterfowl and passerines through the changing seasons, and so should not be overlooked. The adjacent agricultural-fields can produce late afternoon meetings with aerial and terrestrial feeders. I’ve met Lesser Nighthawks and Gull-Billed Terns in flight as they worked over these grounds. Burrowing Owls may be found in these areas too. As is true for the entire Imperial Valley, when being flooded for irrigation, these fields can attract large flocks of White-Faced Ibis and Cattle Egrets, accompanied by curlews, shorebirds and gulls.

I enjoy evening sunsets from these shores. When winds are calm, the colors reflecting from the crimson skies can fill the eye with beauty. I sometimes camp on these boundary roads hoping to witness a glorious sky as the sun falls behind the mountains to the west. Unless storms draw a curtain over the skies, only a windy late afternoon can diminish the potential for a rosy end-of-the-day panoramic spectacle.

Click map markers to reveal further information