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Memories of the Salton Sea, Vendel Road

Continuing the sharing of my favorite birding destinations near the Salton Sea …

White-faced Ibis - Plegadis chihiAfter visiting Poe Road, my next stop is usually at Unit #1 of the Salton Sea NWR. To access this area, one uses Vendel Road north from Bannister Road. Vendel Road is a dusty gravel road that ends 2.2 miles later at a parking area with an elevated lookout platform.

The first mile of Vendel Road crosses commercial agriculture fields regularly used for raising hay crops. Western Meadowlarks, American Kestrels and various sparrows and pipits can often be found in these fields. Drainage ditches parallel the drive in, where egrets and herons often hunt prey.

Crossing the boundary into the reserve, the birding possibilities increase. Burrowing Owls are sometimes found on the eastern side of the road. Here begins a row of Mesquite trees on the east side of the road that reaches 400 yards to the north. These trees can host a variety of bird-life ranging from raptors down to the smallest passerines.

A half mile further the road bends to the west by 45° and then back due north 170 yards later. The fields on either side of the road grow crops that are used as forage for hundreds of Sandhill Cranes and thousands of white geese (Snow and Ross) through the winter season. Bird-life through the summer months in these fields is quiet, but in winter it’s a different story. Besides the cranes and geese, curlews, ibis, blackbirds, pipits and sparrows frequently haunt these grounds.

The western fields north of the last bend northward are flooded in winter and can host shorebirds, waterfowl and cranes, but are dry through the summer season. Further north these fields transition to marshy wetlands that extend from the end of the road stretching out to the shores of the ‘sea’. Aside from a few trails that weave through these wetlands, these marshes are strictly for the birds. That’s a *good* thing!

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